Jet Age in Commercial Aviation

In Aviation, the Jet Age defines a period in the annals of history where aircraft were powered by turbine engines. Moreover, it was a new concept of jet engines in the commercial aviation market. The change was no less than radical. People were overwhelmed by the wonders of the turbojet aircraft. De-Havilland Comet was the first commercial turbojet aircraft. It was formally inducted into service on 9 January 1951. The aircraft was manufactured by the De-Havilland Aircraft Company. The British were excited and proud!

Comet Failed to Continue!

However, this exuberance and pride did not last long since the Comet faced multiple crashes due to a design discrepancy in its airframe. Despite repeated efforts, Comet could not continue its mark. Boeing; already in the making of a commercial jet exploited the market situation.

De-Havilland Comet – The Commercial Jet
Read More: Can a Boeing 707 survive in 2021?

Boeing 707 made the Headway!

The first commercial jet launched by the Boeing Company was the 707. It was the first of the 700 series. The later series followed with 720, 727, 737 and 757 variants. Boeing 707 was officially launched in October, 1958 – just ten months after its maiden flight. The move was a Success!

The iconic Boeing 707 Commercial Jet

Comfort and Time

The aircraft had five seats abreast or a 3 x 2 seating configuration with a single aisle. Moreover, the level of luxury and comfort in terms of seat width and inflight services were way better than the earlier passenger aircraft. Reduced time along with luxury and comfort increased traction among the passengers. One of the prime reason for Boeing 707’s popularity among the customers around the globe.

The 3 x2 seating configuration of the Boeing 707

First Operator of the Boeing 707

The famous PAN AM Airlines from United States of America was the first to induct the Boeing 707 to its fleet. With quad engines configuration, the turbo jet aircraft was faster than its predecessors. Thus, travelling time between destinations also got reduced.

PAN AM was the first official operator of the Boeing 707

First Commercial Flight of Boeing 707

The first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 took place between New York and Paris. Moreover, it was also the first transatlantic flight of a commercial jet. It was a night time flight. The excitement could be felt in the air. For this special flight, President Boeing; Juan Trippe was also present. In addition, the U.S. Army band also performed at the tarmac to commemorate this unique moment of success for Boeing.

Special Arrangements were made for the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707

The Success Story

Boeing (US) vs De-Havilland (UK)

Boeing was well behind airplane makers in the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. These countries had already started operating passenger jets unlike USA. The England’s de Havilland DH 106 Comet first flew in 1952, but unfortunately, it became a victim of its inherent structural design that caused three of them to crash over a period of just two years.

Boeing (US) vs Tupolev (Russia)

Russia’s Tupolev Tu-104 Camel had a seating capacity of 50 passengers. As soon as the Comets were grounded, it became the world’s only commercial jetliner but remained restricted to the Eastern Europe. It continued to maintain supremacy between 1956 and 1958. Unlike the Boeing 707, the Tu-104 lacked both capacity and range. Boeing’s third position in the market provided an opportunity to learn lessons from its competitors’ mistakes.

Russian Tupolev-104 commercial passenger jet

Increased Customization

One of the major reason for the success of Boeing 707 was its intense customization for the customers. As a result, Boeing built 1,010 707s for the commercial airlines between 1958 and 1978. In addition, 800 aircraft were also manufactured for the military variant until 1991, Within USA, Mcdonnell Douglas was the only competition for Boeing, but nevertheless very strong one. According to some media’s speculation, Boeing spent $135m on the 707 programme which in reality was more than the net worth of Boeing at the time.

Broader Perspective

On a wider perspective, Boeing 707 was not particularly profitable due to its increased customization. There were always some variations as the company always used to bend over backwards to please the customers. Somehow, the aircraft’s dominance of intercontinental flight brought profitability to the future airliners.

Airlines made Boeing 707- “ICONIC”

Yet again, in the absence of a strong competitor, the airlines had little chances of survival without a good commercial jet. Boeing 707 was the only solution to the problem! Several reasons justify that choice. The redesigned Comet was too small and unprofitable as it had almost its credibility in the eyes of the customers. In addition,there were also no successor models unlike Boeing. Similarly, Tupolev was only in use by the countries of the Soviet block.

Final Word

From the performance point of view, Boeing 707 stands way too far from the present commercial jets. Even its successor variants fared better than it but that’s completely understandable and conforms to the growth phenomena. The important thing to understand here is the fact that it was the best available choice at that time. It offered the best it could and remained in service for twenty years. It will always remain as an iconic commercial jet of the aviation history.

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