Thursday, December 14, 2006

Boeing 727

Boeing 727

The Boeing 727 is a mid-size, single-aisle (narrow-body) commercial jet airliner. It first took to the skies in 1963 and was, for a very long time, the most popular jet-liner in the world. 1,831 727s were delivered. In August 2006 a total of 127 Boeing 727-100 aircraft and 493 Boeing 727-200 aircraft remain in airline service.[1]
Boeing 727
Delta Air Lines 727-200
Type Airliner
Manufacturer Boeing Airplane Company
Maiden flight 1963-02-09
Introduced 1964-02-01 with Eastern Air Lines
Primary user FedEx (101)
Produced 1963-1984
Number built 1,832


The 727 design arose as a compromise between United Airlines, American Airlines, and Eastern Air Lines over the configuration of a jet airliner to service smaller cities which often had shorter runways and correspondingly smaller passenger demand. United Airlines wanted a four-engined aircraft for its flights to high-altitude airports, especially its hub at Stapleton International Airport at Denver, Colorado. American wanted a twin-engined aircraft for efficiency reasons. Eastern wanted a third engine for its overwater flights to the Caribbean. Eventually, the three airlines agreed on a trijet, and thus the 727 was born. The 727 featured high lift devices on its wing, thus being one of the first jets to be able to operate from airports offering modest runway lengths. Later models of the 727 were stretched to accommodate more passengers and they ended up replacing earlier jet airliners, such as its sibling the 707, on domestic routes. [1]

Since the 727 proved to be a reliable and versatile airliner that came to form the core of many start-up airlines' fleets, it is sometimes described as the "DC-3 of the Jet Age."

At the turn of the 21st century, the 727 was still a vital part of some major American airline fleets. But the 727 had a reputation for high noise and most airlines were already switching to twinjets, aircraft with only two engines. Twinjets tend to be much more efficient than planes with three (like the 727) or four jets. Also, the 727 was one of the last airliners in service to have a three-person crew, including a flight engineer, a crewmember whose job is performed by computerized systems on newer planes.

Faced with higher fuel costs, lower sales due to the post-9/11 economic climate, and the extra expense of maintaining older planes, most major airlines began phasing 727s out of their fleet. Delta Air Lines, the last major U.S. carrier to do so, retired its last 727 in 2003. However, the 727 is still flying for smaller start-up airlines, cargo airlines, and charter airlines, and it is also becoming increasingly popular as a private means of transportation. The official replacement for the Boeing 727 in Boeing's lineup was the Boeing 757. However, the smallest 757 variant, the 757-200, is significantly larger than the Boeing 727-200, so many airlines replaced their 727s with either the Boeing 737-800 or the Airbus A320, both of which are more similar in size to the 727-200.

The 727 proved very successful with airlines worldwide partly because of its capability to take off and land on smaller runways while still flying medium range routes. This effectively allowed airlines to attract passengers from cities with large populations but smaller airports to worldwide tourist destinations. One of the features that gave the 727 its ability to land on shorter runways was its unique wing design. Through flap extension and leading edge slat deployment, the 727 could almost double its wing surface area, allowing it to fly with great stability at very slow speeds. The 727 also had nosegear brakes fitted in the beginning to further decrease braking distance upon landing. These were however removed later as they proved to provide little gain in braking over added weight and higher maintenance costs.

The 727 was designed to be used at smaller, regional airports, so independence from ground facilities was an important requirement. This gave rise one of the 727's most distinctive features: the built-in airstair that drops from the rear underbelly of the fuselage. Another innovation was the inclusion of an APU (auxiliary power unit), which allowed electrical and air-conditioning systems to run independent of a ground-based power supply. Additionally, the 727 is equipped with a retractable tail skid which is designed to protect the aircraft in the event of an over-rotation on takeoff.

DHL Boeing 727-200F freighter at San Diego
DHL Boeing 727-200F freighter at San Diego

However, the 727 is also one of the loudest commercial jetliners, so most models in the United States must be fitted with hush kits to reduce engine noise. The 727's JT8D jet engines use older low-bypass turbofan technology while more modern airliners utilize the more efficient and less noisy high-bypass turbofan design instead.

Post-production winglets have also been installed on many 727s as a means of noise reduction as part of so called "Quiet Wing" Kits and for added fuel economy. Kelowna Flightcraft's maintenance division in Canada is noted for having installed Winglets on Donald Trump's private 727-100.

Despite the exterior noise, the 727 has a relatively quiet passenger cabin due to the placement of the engines at the rear of the aircraft.

Interior close-up photo of the pilot and co-pilot area of a flight simulator for a Boeing 727 at the Pan Am International Flight Academy
Interior close-up photo of the pilot and co-pilot area of a flight simulator for a Boeing 727 at the Pan Am International Flight Academy

In addition to domestic flights of medium range, the 727 proved extremely popular with international passenger airlines. The range of flights it could cover (and the additional safety built in with its third engine) meant that the 727 would prove efficient for short to medium range international flights in areas around the world.

The 727 also has proved popular with cargo airlines and charter airlines. FedEx began the cargo airline revolution in 1975 utilizing 727s, though they have begun phasing them out in favor of the Boeing 757. Many cargo airlines worldwide now employ the 727 as a workhorse. The USPS uses the type to fly mail from city to city every day. Charter airlines Sun Country, Champion Air, and Ryan International Airlines all were started with 727 aircraft.

Other companies use the 727 as a way to transport passengers to their resorts or cruise ships. Such was the example of Carnival Cruise Lines, which used both the 727 and 737 to fly both regular flights and flights to transport their passengers to cities that harbored their ships. Carnival used the jets on their airline division, Carnival Air Lines.

Major airlines that have flown the jet include AeroSur, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aerolíneas Internacionales, Air Canada, Air France, Air Malta, ANA, Alitalia, American, ATA Airlines, Australian Airlines, Avianca, Aviacsa, China Airlines, Copa, Delta Air Lines, Dominicana, Eastern Air Lines, FedEx, First Air, Iberia, Japan Airlines, JAT, Korean Air, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, Lufthansa, Mexicana, Northeast Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Olympic Airways, Pan Am, People Express, Philippine Airlines, Sabena, Singapore Airlines, Transbrasil, United Airlines, US Airways, Varig, VASP, Viasa, Western Airlines and, among charter airlines, Carnival Air Lines, Tame and Hapag-Lloyd.

In August 2006 a total of 620 Boeing 727 aircraft (all variants) remain in airline service. Major operators include: FedEx Express (104), United Parcel Service (33), Libyan Arab Airlines (10), Astar Air Cargo (29), Capital Cargo International Airlines (13), Cargojet Airways (14), Champion Air (16), Custom Air Transport (17), Kelowna Flightcraft (16), Kitty Hawk Aircargo (28), Transafrik (11), Hewa Bora Airways (11) and Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (12). Some 104 other airlines also operate smaller numbers of the type.[1]

In addition, the 727 has seen sporadic government use, having flown for the Belgian, Yugoslavian and New Zealand air forces, among the small group of government agencies that have used it. The United States military used the 727 as a military transport. It is designated as the C-22. The 727 that carried New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger was known as Spud One.


Air Canada Boeing 727-200; retired in 1992.
Air Canada Boeing 727-200; retired in 1992.

There are two variants of the 727 and launched on two separate occasions. The 727-100 was launched in 1960 with introduction into service in February 1964. The 727-200 was launched in 1965 with introduction into service in December 1967.


The first production model.


Is the Convertible version. The seats can be removed and cargo placed on the main deck.


QC stands for Quick Change. This is similar to the Convertible version, however design changes allowed much faster transformation time.


QF stands for Quiet Freighter. United Parcel Service cargo conversion, re-engined with Stage III-compliant Rolls-Royce Tay turbofans.


Stretched version of the 727-100. The -200 is 20 feet longer (153 feet, 2 inches) than the -100 (133 feet, 2 inches). Simply, a ten foot "plug" was added in front of the wings and another ten foot "plug" was added behind them. The wing span and height remain the same on both the -100 and -200 (108 feet and 34 feet, respectively.)

Advanced 727-200

MTOW and range increased. Also, Cabin improvements

Advanced 727-200F

All freight version of the 727-200.


Measurement 727-100 727-200
Length 40.6 m or 133 ft 2 in 46.7 m or 153 ft 2 in
Span 32.9 m or 108 ft
Height 10.3 m or 34 ft
Zero Fuel Weight
Maximum take-off weight 76,818 kg (169,000 lb) 95,227 kg (209,500 lb)
Cruising speed .81 Mach
Maximum speed .86 Mach
Range fully loaded

Max. fuel capacity 31,000 liters 8,186 USG 37,020 liters or 9,806 USG
Engines (example) 3
Cockpit crew Three Three
Max Seating capacity 149 189

727 Sales

Image:B727 Orders Deliveries.jpg


1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977 1976 1975 1974 1973 1972
1 11 38 68 98 125 133 113 50 88 92 119
1971 1970 1969 1968 1967 1966 1965 1964 1963 1962 1961 1960
26 48 64 66 125 149 187 83 20 10 37 80


1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977 1976 1975 1974 1973
8 11 26 94 131 136 118 67 61 91 91 92
1972 1971 1970 1969 1968 1967 1966 1965 1964 1963 1962 1961
41 33 55 114 160 155 135 111 95 6 0 0


  • Hull-loss Accidents: 86 - with a total of 3851 fatalities.
  • Other occurrences: 15 - with a total of 256 fatalities.
  • Hijackings: 180 - with a total of 90 fatalities.
  • In 1971, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 727-193 crashed into a mountain while on approach to Juneau, Alaska, after receiving misleading navigational information. All seven crew members and 104 passengers were killed.
  • In 1973, On February 21, a Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 Boeing 727-224 flying over the Sinai Desert was shot by Israeli air forces that suspected it of being an enemy military plane. Among 113 people on board 108 died.
  • In 1978, a Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727 crashed after colliding with a Cessna 172 aircraft in San Diego, killing 144 people.
  • In 1980, a Dan-Air Boeing 727-64 crashed in Tenerife. All on board were killed when the aircraft hit terrain while circling.
  • In 1983, an Iberia Boeing 727 collided with a Douglas DC-9 of Aviaco as the two airliners taxied down the runway at Barajas International Airport, Madrid, causing the deaths of most passengers on both airliners.
  • In 1985, an Iberia Boeing 727 crashed after getting entangled with a television antenna while landing in Bilbao, killing 148 people.
  • In 1996, 143 people were killed when an ADC Boeing 727 went down near Ejirin, losing control after taking evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision.


  • The 727's sales record for the most jets bought in history was broken in the early 1990s by its sister, the Boeing 737.
  • On May 25, 2003, a 727 registration number N844AA, formerly used by American Airlines was reported stolen from Luanda's international airport in Angola. Most intelligence agencies believe the missing plane to be in the hands of terrorists or drug dealers. The mechanic who was on the plane, Ben Charles Padilla, has never been heard from again.
  • The Boeing 727, according to Airliner World magazine, was the first jet able to land at La Paz, Bolivia's international airport. That airport's height — 13,000 feet above sea level — made it impossible for earlier jetliners to land there.
  • "D. B. Cooper", the hijacker, parachuted from the back of a 727 as it was flying over the Pacific Northwest. He chose the 727 specifically because the airstair in its tail facilitated his jump. Jumping from a side door would likely have been fatal. Boeing subsequently modified the design with the "Cooper Vane" so that the airstair couldn't be lowered in flight.
  • Zero-Gravity Corporation uses a retrofitted Boeing 727 to give paying customers brief weightlessness, similar to NASA's Vomit Comet and Russia's Il-76K, used to train Astronauts and Cosmonauts, respectively.
  • In the early 1960s, Eastern Air Lines and other airlines began calling their 727s "Whisperjets", allegedly because a passenger seated forward in First Class, in theory, could only hear the rear-mounted turbofan jet engines as a whisper in the background. This feature also permitted passengers to whisper to each other. Before Boeing built 727s, hearing someone whispering aboard a jet plane was not possible. (See Eastern Air Lines 727 History)
  • Similar planes: The Russian Tupolev Tu-154 is a similar looking jet airliner often confused with the 727. It can be told apart by its different shaped nose section, large wing sweep, larger wing fences (aerodynamic devices on the wings), and a pointy section on the vertical stabilizer. Also, the Tu-154 has six wheels on their landing gear, rather than two wheels on the 727 landing gear. The British Hawker-Siddeley Trident was also similar, being a tri-jet, T-tail design, and was in fact developed before the 727, in the late 1950s. The Trident is no longer in service although the Tu-154 still operates.
  • In 1972, during an attempted coup d'état, jets from the Royal Moroccan Air Force fired upon the Boeing 727 of King Hassan II of Morocco while he was traveling to Rabat. After the aircraft survived the attack, the king awarded the plane a medal of honor.
  • For many years, the 727-200 had the most heavily loaded tires of any production aircraft, with a maximum rated load of 45,240 lb (20,520 kg) per main landing gear tire when the aircraft is fully loaded. Due to complaints about damage to airport pavement caused by the 727, subsequent heavy transport airplanes such as the Boeing 747 were designed with multiple sets of main gear tires to reduce the weight resting on each tire. The maximum tire load of the 727 was only recently exceeded by heavier variants of the Boeing 777.


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John Terry said...
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