Historic Jetliner Makes Final Flight
A prototype of the nation's first commercially successful jet airliner completed its final voyage this week, landing near the Smithsonian Institution's new aircraft museum at Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia.
Retired from service in 1972, the plane underwent a meticulous restoration at Boeing Co.'s plant in Seattle, Washington. The company donated the aircraft to the Smithsonian for display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The plane arrived Wednesday at Dulles.
The Boeing 367-80, a prototype that would become known as the Dash-80, revolutionized commercial air travel in the 1950s when a fully developed version called the 707 took to the skies.
Boeing's plane grabbed a pivotal share of commercial air travel at a time when the world's first jetliner, the British-made de Havilland Comet, had been grounded for failures in flight.
The 707's transcontinental service from New York to San Francisco, California, took five hours, compared with the eight-hour flight time of its propeller-driven predecessor, the Douglas DC-7, according to the National Air and Space Museum.
The Boeing's operating cost was nearly 25 percent less than its piston-engine counterpart, the museum said. This efficiency, along with the plane's larger seating capacity, made it much more affordable for Americans to travel by air.
As larger, faster and even more cost-effective planes came to market, production of the Boeing 707 ended in 1991.
The Smithsonian's new facility is much larger than the popular Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington. The building, when the displays are completed, will feature more than 200 aircraft and 135 spacecraft.
The aviation hall of fame will include the atomic-bomb carrying B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, an SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, an Air France Concorde and NASA's space shuttle Enterprise.
The museum officially opens to the public December 15, timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first sustained, powered flight, made by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
August 28, 2003