Yesterday marked the 56th Anniversary of the plane that became known as the 707 and propelled commercial aviation into the jet age. On July 15, 1954 the Boeing 367-80, nicknamed the Dash-80, made its first test flight from Renton Field in Seattle.
The 707 was not the first commercial jet aircraft: that honor goes to the de Havilland Comet. But safety and mechanical issues with the British-made Comet limited its success and allowed competitors like the 707 and DC-8 to quickly pull ahead. The 707's success spelled the end of the propellor era in commercial aviation, with the Lockheed Constellation and DC-6 no longer able to compete with the new jet aircraft.
After an impressive demonstration of the Dash 8 in 1955 for airline executives (that included an unscheduled barrel roll), orders began to quickly amass. Pan Am was the launch customer and took delivery of its first 707 in 1957.
56 years later, the 707 can still be seen at many airports around the world. While Iranian Airlines, the last commercial operator of the 707, recently pulled the aircraft from their scheduled service, governments around the world continue to use the 707 for executive and military uses.
I lament never flying on the 707, but you can see the Boeing 367-80--the aircraft that started it all--on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just down the road from IAD in Chantilly, Virginia.
We've come a long way over the last 56 years. For more history on the 367-80/707, click here.
photo courtesy: wired.com