20 years after the introduction of jet powered fighters and bombers for military applications the
"Jet Age" started showing up in aircraft designs drafts for civilian and commercial use. By the mid 1950's airliners wanted to be able to carry more passengers for longer distances than what turbo props aircraft such as the Bristol Britannia 300x series, Lockheed L1649 Starliner and the Lockheed L188 Electra could transport.
The first commercial airliner De Havilland Comet 1 entered service on May 2nd, 1952. But after a series of crashes and in flight breakups do to metal fatigue around the sharp edges of the square windows on the Comet 1 jet liners up take was slowed down.
Boeing introduced its first jet liner in 1957 launching the 707-100s with Pan Am. And later offering versions of the 707 fuselage in shortened and extended cabins for intercontinental and trans-atlantic flights.
The success of jet airliners on long-haul flights was soon followed by air carries wanting the same speed, passenger numbers and reliability of jets in short haul domestic flights. United Airlines, American Airlines and Eastern Air Lines came to Boeing asking for a medium short haul jet aircraft that could land at smaller regional airports with less than 5000 feet of runway.
In 1963 Boeing revealed its medium range jetliner the Boeing 727 outfitted with three P&W JT8D engines mounted to the tail of the aircraft. The Tri-engine Tail configuration made it possible for flights into and out of high altitude airports such as United Hub at Denver, Colorado; Overwater crossing to the Caribbean for Easter Air routes and was more fuel efficient that running 4 jet engines.
The first Boeing 727 N7001U rolled out of its Renton Assembly building on November 27, 1962 and had its maiden flight on February 9th, 1963. Unlike most new aircraft designs N7001U was not relinquished to a prototype aircraft life of battered test flights and then to be chopped up. After she passed flight tests and FAA certification United Airlines purchased her for $4.4 million dollars on October 6th, 1964. Her last passenger flight for United was on January 13, 1991 from
San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA. Over her 27 years of flying service she flew 64,495 hours, made 48,60 landings and flew an estimated 3,000,000 passengers and generated more than $300 million dollars in revenues for United Airlines.
From 1963 to 1984 1,832 Boeing 727's were manufactured. Boeing initially had a break even point of 250 orders but airliners world wide kept placing new orders throughout the 727-xxx versions.
Amongst the design improvements of the 727 was the placement of the 3 engines to the rear of the aircraft. Without any engine pods under the wings the entire wing surface area could be mounted with tripple-slotted flap system and leading edge spoilers providing superior take off and landing performance at smaller regional airports with less than 5000' of runway. With the engines mounted high off the ground the 727 was also able to land on unimproved gravel runways since the chance of engine blade debris damage was minimized.
The Boeing 727 was popular for regional air service because it was equipped with its own retractable stairs located at the rear of the aircraft, its own auxiliary power unit (APU) to provide electrical power to the cockpit, cabin area, air conditioning and air start for the main engines with out the need for terminal walkway or extra ground crew.
Currently N7001U is housed at the Museum of Flight Restoration facility in Everett, WA. Volunteers are working to restore it to flying condition with the intent to ferry fly it to Boeing Field in Seattle where it will be on display under a newly covered air park at the Museum of Flight.