1st American jet passenger airliner flies, July 15, 1954
The Boeing 367-80 or Dash 80, was a prototype, which was developed into the 707 airliner that would go on to revolutionize commercial air travel.
In the 1950s Boeing began looking into creating a jet-powered military transport and tanker aircraft to go alongside their US Air Force jet bombers. The company decided to invest $16 million of its own money to build a prototype without any buyers lined up.
The prototype was named the 367 after the Model 367, or C-97 Stratofreighter, so it could be developed in secret and disguised as an improved version of the straight-wing, propeller-powered model.
The design used the dimensions of the C-97's large cabin and the 35-degree swept wing design of the B-47 and B-52, but had stiffer wings set at an increased upward horizontal angle. The wings were mounted low on the fuselage and had high-speed and low-speed ailerons for flight-control as well as an advanced flap and spoiler system. Four Pratt & Whitney JT3 turbojet engines were mounted on struts beneath the wings. Each engine produced 10,000 pounds of thrust.
It flew 100 mph faster than the first commercial jetliner, the British de Havilland Comet, and was significantly larger, with a maximum range over 3500 miles. The Dash 80 established the classic configuration for jetliners to come.
The impressive debut convinced the Air Force to invest and the prototype became the KC-135, the first jet aerial tanker.
To convince the airline industry to invest in jet transport, the Dash 80 took part in the Gold Cup hydroplane races in Seattle in August 1955. Test pilot Alvin "Tex" Johnston showed off its strength and performance when he barrel-rolled the airliner in front of thousands of spectators.
The Dash 80 also set new speed records each time it flew. On March 11, 1957, it flew nonstop on a press demonstration flight from Seattle to Baltimore in 3 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 612 mph.
After Boeing worked with Pan American Airway to widen the design to fit six seats per row, it had its first commercial customer. Pan American put the 707 jet airliner to work in October 1958. A flight from New York to San Francisco became 40% faster and 25% cheaper in a jet-engine airliner.
The Boeing 367-80 went on to test many advanced experimental systems for jet transports until its retirement in 1972. It took its final flight on August 27, 2003 when it flew to Virginia to take its place at the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
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Editor's note: This article was originally posted on July 15, 2013 and edited on July 15, 2016.