Boeing, like all others, had an advantage – they knew the structural problems of the de Havilland Comet. Nevertheless, you mustn’t forget that Boeing also built military aircraft. Like the Russians with the Tu-104, Boeing also used their experience from the B-47 Stratojet to build the new 367-80.

Boeing 367-80

Boeing 367-80

Do A Barrel Roll

August 6th, 1955 was a huge day for Boeing. In Seafair, an event held in Seattle, William Allen invited AIA and IATA members to show them the new jet.

This was crucial for the future success of the 707. If those 2 associations approve it, then there was nothing to stop the new Boeing jet from entering commercial service. As the company already secured orders for the KC 135 Stratotankers, it was crucial to do so for the 707 as well.

And one man made sure that the members of AIA and IATA would approve it. While doing a casual fly over, test pilot Alvin Johnston performed two barrel rolls. It might not have been the smartest decision to do so, the pilot later said he was just "selling airplanes".  While you cannot certainly say that the barrel roll sold the aircraft to customers, but it definitely made an impact.

Boeing 367-80 NASA Picture

Boeing 367-80 NASA Picture

Cultural Impact

While the Comet was the first commercial jet that started service, people wanted to forget about it. As quickly as possible. So when Boeing, a well-known manufacturer in the United States, kicked the door open with it‘s 707, it instantly became a hit. Not only commercially for Boeing, but notably, it became an American cultural icon.

Even so much so, that Frank Sinatra bought his own 707. His “Come Fly With Me” album cover showed an aircraft, albeit a Lockheed Constellation. However, whenever someone heard the “Come Fly With Me” song, they imagined a Boeing 707 in front of their eyes. What is even crazier, that Jantzen, a swimwear company, used the Boeing 707 to advertise their newest swimwear collection in 1957.

Jantzen 707 collection

Jantzen 707 collection

Pan American Airways released a short-movie about the new jet and called it "The Wonderful Jet World of Pan-American."

Boeing 707 – a commercial success

It became a cultural icon for a good reason – airlines also loved it. In total, Boeing built 856 Seven O’ Seven jets. Airlines bought 725, while Air Force units used the rest of the 707s.

Pan American Airways introduced the Boeing 707 on October 17th, 1958. Pan Am held a christening event, which the current president of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, attended.  A special inaugural flight from Baltimore to Paris followed. Friends of Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan Am, occupied the seats onboard the flight. 9 days later, on October 26th, Pan Am started passenger operations from New York to Paris, with a fuel stop in Newfoundland.

The jet was not popular only inside the American market. Qantas started flying the 707 in 1959 and was the first international airline to do so. Many more followed Qantas and bought their first jets. El Al, BOAC, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Aer Lingus and Lufthansa were amongst the long list of 707 customers.

As I mentioned above, the Air Force used the 707s in various military specifications. Even today, 61 years after its launch, the Boeing 707 military units use it as a transport or a reconnaissance aircraft.