Category From props to jets

State of the Industry: Rebuilding Fleets, Markets and the Boeing 377

Although surplus military transports served to boost postwar capacity, airline managers envisioned even greater growth and ordered newer, modern aircraft to meet demand and improve performance. While new DC-6s began entering the market, Lockheed upgraded its Constellation, boosting weight and range in the form of the 749 and 749A variants. These types found work in transatlantic service and to Hawaii from the West Coast.

Meanwhile, the Boeing Company utilized its mili­tary B-29 design to bring about a civil version, the Model 377 Stratocruiser, combining the bomber’s wings and an enlarged fuselage that featured sleeping berths, dressing rooms, and a lower-deck passenger compart­ment used as a lounge. Power came from four 3,500-hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Double Wasp turbocharged engines, by far the largest and most complicated civilian reciprocal powerplants of the time. These engines gave the 377 a service ceiling of 35,000 feet and a range of more than 4,000 miles. At 25,000 feet it could cruise at between 300 and 340 mph.

The “Strat” was first utilized on Hawaiian routes by Northwest, Pan American, and United; Pan Am also introduced the type on transatlantic flights. Within the continental United States, the larger-capacity airliners were pressed into service on medium – and long-haul routes. Curiously, all three types had transcontinental nonstop capability but, as we will learn, coast-to-coast nonstops were still several years away.

State of the Industry in 1954

By 1954, air travel had permeated the awareness of the general public. No longer only for the rich, travel­ing aboard a modern airliner was now a concept embraced by more and more of the U. S. and interna­tional populace. America’s favorite pilot, Arthur Godfrey, loved to talk about the safety and reliability of modern airliners on his TV shows, and it seemed as if every ad for a new car featured a giant silver Constellation flying gracefully overhead. When com­pared to today’s statistics, however, the percentage of people in the United States who had actually experi­enced flying aboard a commercial airliner in 1954 seems staggeringly low—only three percent, with the notice­able majority of these travelers being businessmen.

Be that as it may, people could now board a DC-7 or Super Constellation and travel across the United States in pressurized comfort at speeds of 300 mph and altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet. For regional or local service, the new and improved Convair 340 would probably be the aircraft of choice. Airlines even struc­tured their routing to combine the best of both worlds; you could fly coast-to-coast in the DC-7 and then con­nect to your final destination in the Convair. Businessmen flying on regional airlines could now leave
on their sales calls or attend that big meeting across the state in the morning, and be home easily in time for din­ner that evening.

Vacation travel abroad, although becoming more prevalent by air, was still considered something done more suitably by steamship than by airplane. This was understandable considering the number of elegant new ships taking to the oceans in 1954. The magnificent S. S. United States was breaking transatlantic speed records nearly every time she sailed, while the smaller S. S. Independence and Constitution were equally majestic. Cunard’s glorious Art Deco twins, the HMS Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth handily proved the adage “Getting there is half the fun!” The brand-new (and ill- fated) Italian Andrea Doria and her sister ship Cristoforo Colombo looked like floating art museums on the inside. Passengers didn’t mind spending the bet­ter part of a week getting to Europe from the East Coast (or to Ffawaii and Asia from the West Coast) by ship because of the sumptuous level of service.

Подпись: Supplemental carrier Transocean Air Lines flew DC-4s to the four corners of the world, both in cargo and passenger configurations, from its Oakland, California, base. TALOA was an acronym for Transocean Air Lines followed by the two-letter Oakland airport code. This operation was the spawning ground for the Ernie Gann story that led to the epic Warner Brothers motion picture, The High and the Mighty. (William T. Larkins)
When the modern propeller-driven airliner is entered into the equation of vacation travel in 1954, we see the factors of pure speed versus luxurious service being prevalent. European cities were 10 or 12 hours away from New York by airplane rather than five or six days by ship; getting there quickly was the clear priority.

Still, this time period represented the heyday of modern ocean liners, and nothing from commercial aviation could stop it. What would be required to greatly impact oceanic travel was a radical new powerplant that could propel commercial airliners to almost the speed of sound, much like Great Britain had attempted with its pioneering Comet, but with much greater range and larger passenger capacity. Although military aircraft were reaping the benefits of this new powerplant, the reality of 600-mph airliners was still many years away.

The radical new powerplant necessary to take com­mercial aviation to the next level and eradicate the com­petition for long-range travel from ocean liners was called, quite simply, the modern turbojet engine.

Tupolev Tu-104

In a new postwar era of escalating political, social, and technological competition, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was not about to be upstaged by its Western rivals when it came to the development of a jet-powered airliner. Adapting a military design for commercial passenger use had been a common theme since the first stodgy biplane transports of the 1920s, and Tupolev’s new swept-wing, twinjet Tu-16 Badger medium bomber provided the perfect airframe from which to develop Russia’s first jet airliner. This new transport would measure 121 feet long with a wingspan of 115 feet and would carry 50 passengers over routes of up to 1,800 miles. Its name would be the Tu-104.

Tupolev Tu-104

The result of a post-World War II design study to re-establish France’s proud aircraft industry the Caravelle was the world’s first jet aircraft to have its engines mounted on the rear fuselage, beginning the trend that has been adopted by numerous commercial aircraft and business jets alike. The Caravelle made its inaugural flight from Toulouse, France, in April 1955. (Mike Machat Collection)



Подпись: FL V THE FINESTПодпись: TWA Flight Schedule from July 1, 1955, seems to suggest that you could book your ticket for a TWA flight on either a Constellation from Los Angeles to New York, or a Moonliner from Los Angeles to the Moon and back! This clever marketing ploy actually established TWA as the official airline of Disneyland, which had just opened that same week. (Craig Kodera Collection)Tupolev Tu-104CC nphis is Captain Collins speaking,” says the JL reassuring baritone voice over the ship’s Public Address system. Our stewardess stands at the passenger door clad in the customary uniform of her airline, albeit a bit more futuristic. Everything bespeaks a typical passenger flight. Are we sitting onboard another TWA Constellation flight to New York? Hardly. We are comfortably seated in the passenger cabin of the Star of Polaris at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in the fall of 1955, and this “spacecraft” is about to take us on a simulated flight to the moon!

Not just another ride at an amusement park, the TWA Moonliner in Tomorrowland acted as symbol and substance of the unlimited future world in twentieth-century America. There was absolutely no reason to believe we couldn’t some­day have revenue flights into space, just as we could most certainly count on robotically con­trolled houses and atomic flying cars in the not – to-distant years to come. Walt Disney, ever the visionary and (thankfully) the optimist, always knew to ask “why not?”

Designed by Disney Imagineer John Hench working under the tutelage of rocket scientists Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley, the 76-foot – tall “Rocket to the Moon,” as it was officially known, was actually a one-third-scale model of the real spacecraft envisioned by its creators. The rocket was clad in aluminum sheeting, just like the real thing, although it was structurally like a boiler with its steel skeleton. Early in the planning pro­cess as part of Disney’s sense of dynamic market­ing, Ralph Damon, president of TWA, was brought into the mix so that the red stripes of Trans World Airlines would be seen flying over the park. A nice touch of believability for Disney, the advertising for the airline was beyond effec­tive. After all, TWA at that time was the official air carrier of Disneyland. As an added bonus, Disney struck another deal, this time with StromBecKer Models to recreate plastic kits of several items from park rides, most notably, the Moonliner. You could purchase one of these kits only a few yards from the real thing, in what was known as Hobbyland, and the new concept of “cross marketing” was born.

Inside the attraction itself, pas­sengers with their mock boarding passes proceeded to a terminal boarding area clad with TWA sig­nage and staging. Here they viewed a TWA “agent” explaining the workings of their rocket and the trip into space using a cutaway model, plus animated films on the space­port viewing screens. All reference to dates was the year 1986. Inside the passenger compartment now, two more gigantic viewing screens, one above and one below, showed all aspects of our flight. The ever­present voice of Captain Collins, as he narrated our progress and pro­vided scientific knowledge and per­spective, reassured us that all this spaceflight business was purely rou­tine and that we would return safely to our launching port unscathed. Passengers on the ride enjoyed the earliest use of air jackhammers and moving seats to heighten the effects and impart realism to the movement and motion of the rocket. This truly was a realistic look at spaceflight, as far as thinking in 1955 went.

Подпись:Подпись: Tupolev Tu-104Coincident with this attraction, the Disney television program seen on Sunday nights featured a three – part series inspired by a multipart serial in Collier’s magazine, using live actors and plenty of animation. Titled “Man In Space,” one episode borrowed portions of the presenta­tion from the Rocket to the Moon ride at the park. In short, every­where one looked in the mid-1950s, space exploration was an integral part of our adventure through life. This tugged at the more sobering reality of flying a prop-driven air­liner to span the country, which therefore became preparatory to understanding why the future must include commercial jet transports. In the meantime, however, flying to the moon on TWA was just about the most “futuramic” thing a regular person could do.

Powered by two Mikulin AM-3 turbojets produc­ing 17,640 pounds of thrust each, the prototype Tu-104 took to the Russian skies for the first time on June 17, 1955. Because so much of Soviet development was shrouded in secrecy behind what the world called “The Iron Curtain,” the Tu-104’s first appearance at London’s Heathrow Airport in March 1956 literally caught the world off guard. While this surprise happen­stance was indeed a benchmark in heralding Russia’s presence as a world power, the Soviets upped the ante one year later by placing Sputnik, the world’s first man­made satellite, into orbit around the Earth. This single event radically changed the balance of technological power and launched the Space Race that eventually landed men on the moon and produced today’s International Space Station. (See sidebar “The Fabulous Fifties: Fly Me to the Moon,” page 71.)

By 1959, Aeroflot, Russia’s national airline, had inaugurated Tu-104 service from Moscow to a host of European cities such as London, Paris, Brussels, Prague, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. In the mother country, Aeroflot’s Tu-104s (and improved 70-passenger Tu-104As) were plying routes between Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev in the west, and cities as far east as

Vladivostok. International Tu-104 destinations included Cairo, Delhi, Peking, and Pyongyang, although all of the longer-range flights included inter­mediate stops.

With its cruising speed of 495 mph and passenger capacity of half the later four-engined jetliners, the hefty 160,000-pound Tu-104 will have to be judged by historians as a vital step in the development of the jet airliner rather than a groundbreaking revolutionary design that set the bar for today’s impressive jet fleets. However, those same historians would also have to note that the Tupolev Tu-104 was, in reality, the world’s first jet airliner to conduct sustained-revenue passenger operations after the loss of the de Havilland Comet Is in 1954.

Having entered service in September 1956 and fly­ing continuously until its retirement in 1981, the Tu-104 established an enviable record for safety and reliability for nearly a quarter-century. (This mark is even more impressive considering the severity of the Soviet winter environment.) In final judgment, the sleek twinjet with the distinctive glass bombardier nose section will always be remembered as the aircraft that put Soviet commercial jet operations on the world map.

Tupolev Tu-104

A commercial adaptation of the Soviet Air Force Tupolev Tu-16 Badger bomber, the Tu-104 was the Soviet Union’s first jet airliner, and entered into commercial service before either of America’s first two jetliners, the 707 and DC-8, had even flown. (Mike Machat Collection)



By Mike Machat


or some reason you can tell quite a lot about an airplane just from the way it rides while taxiing on the ground. The loping and almost floating sensation of the great Douglas propliners was decidedly differ­ent than the stiffer ground ride of the Constellation with its tall, slim nose gear for instance. But all that gave way to a more “riding-on-rails” sure-footedness when the new jets entered service. Taxiing along in the Sud Caravelle felt like the best of both worlds, as the ground-handling attributes of the low-slung jet­liner were enhanced by its rugged four-wheel-bogey main landing gear. The airplane feels well planted on the ground; much the way a wide-track luxury sedan feels at speed on a freeway or autobahn.

With its low wing and ample flap area, the Caravelle s takeoff is nothing less than regal. The air­plane’s large semi-swept wing has an “iron leading edge” (meaning no lift-enhancing leading-edge flaps or slats), yet the Caravelle handles beautifully at approach speeds and all the way down to the runway. Slotted sailplane-like spoilers also give the pilot pre­cise control for the airplane’s rate of descent without appreciably adding to or depleting its airspeed. The

Caravelle was always a favorite with its pilots, from the original “steam-powered” models, as they were affectionately called, to the more advanced version flown by United Air Lines. Passengers benefited from this new jet experience as well, with a significantly quieter cabin, thanks to the aircraft’s rear-mounted engines, and of course, those huge triangular-shaped windows placed strategically at every seat row.


Passengers board a Finnair Caravelle on a regional flight from an outlying smaller city to Helsinki, Finland. (Mike Machat)

WELCOME ABOARD THE CARAVELLEWith the original Caravelle cockpit and nose section having been literally grafted onto the fuselage from Britain’s de Havilland Comet, French engineers at Sud-Est realized that a modernization was required as the aircraft became more advanced in the early 1960s.

With United’s order for the Vl-R model, a new enlarged wind – shield and improved instrument panel lay­out was designed,

and here are the results. Cockpit visibility was nearly doubled, and cockpit ergonomics were enhanced greatly as well. Pilots the world over loved to fly the airplane. (Mike Machat)

The "Might Have Beens&quot

The sky was the limit for dreaming about giant new air­liners, with impressive experimental prototypes designed at the end of World War II. A double-decker six-engine goliath from Convair; a four-engine military transport conversion from Douglas; a sleek 450-mph whippet of an airplane from Republic, and a mammoth eight-engine “Queen of the Skies” from Great Britain all shared one thing in common: They never flew as an airliner!

Republic XR-12 Rainbow

The sleek and exotic Republic XR-12 was an air­plane well ahead of its time in 1946. Still the fastest four – engine piston-powered airplane ever flown, the XR-12 was envisioned as a long-range, high-altitude photore­connaissance aircraft capable of taking high-definition aerial photographs day or night, and developing those images onboard the aircraft while in flight. With a top speed of more than 460 mph, the XR-12 also offered unheard-of performance for the world’s leading airlines with a 44-passenger commercial version named the RC-2 Rainbow, an airplane that promised near-jet-like performance and a 4,000-mile range. Unfortunately, that promise went unfulfilled due to the cancellation of the XR-12’s military mission coupled with declining postwar airline economics.

Often mistaken for a more modern turboprop, the XR-12 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Twin Wasps —the same engines as Boeing’s venerable Stratocruiser. However, with its more streamlined aerodynamics and lighter overall gross weight, the XR-12 enjoyed an almost – 100-mph speed advantage. Although two military prototypes actually flew, the airliner version never got off the drawing boards despite being ordered by both American Airlines and Pan American World Airways. The cold realities of postwar economics rendered the Rainbow as being too costly at $1.25 million each, when surplus C-54s were suddenly flooding the market and being sold for $100,000 apiece. It was sadly ironic that Republic’s only activity in the airliner game was in winning a con­tract from American to refurbish and outfit its newly purchased surplus C-54s!

Although neither exists today, the two prototypes built by Republic exceeded all design specifications. The right airplane at the wrong time, the XR-12 became another of aviation’s mysterious dead ends, and a graphic example of a successful —and in this case unparalleled—aircraft not making it into series pro­duction. (Even its name was a clever play on words signaling the end of war’s storm clouds brought about with the help of the company’s Thunderbolt fighters.) Considered as Republic Chief Engineer Alexander Kartveli’s ultimate masterpiece, the Rainbow was one of the most elegant and graceful looking airplanes ever built. But for world economics and timing, it could have been a legend!

The "Might Have Beens&quot

Looking like a much more modern airplane than one designed in 1944, the magnificent Republic XR-12 long- range photo-recon prototype was in a class by itself. The RC-2 commercial version would have offered air­lines near-jet-like performance with its ability to fly 450 mph at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet. The XR-12 achieved a top speed of 471 mph—the highest speed ever attained by a multi-engine piston-powered aircraft in level flight. (Mike Machat Collection)

The "Might Have Beens&quot



The "Might Have Beens&quot

American Airlines, along with Pan American, placed provisional orders for the RC-2 Rainbow. This period advertise­ment gave airline passengers a glimpse into the future. (Craig Kodera Collection)

The "Might Have Beens&quot

Nicely showing the size and shape comparison of the Rainbow with its contemporaries, this chart gives a good snap­shot of the airliners of the time. From top to bottom: Lockheed Constellation, Douglas DC-6, Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, and Republic RC-2 Rainbow. (Digital artwork by Tony R. Landis)


Jetliners on the Distant Horizon: USAF Enters the Turbine Age

In the 1930s, there existed a dichotomy within the aeronautical engineering world that had a profound effect on future aircraft in the United States and Britain: Civilian airplanes, especially air racers (and those were mostly built by entrepreneurs in small out buildings or garages), were more aerodynamically advanced, mean­
ing faster and more maneuverable, than our frontline fighter aircraft in the military services! This differential had an enormous effect on aircraft design during the World War II era, as shapes and capabilities were forced to advance in large increments. It took several years to match and then eclipse the German design geniuses.

By the end of the war and the late 1940s, momen­tum was clearly accelerating aviation technology at a near-quantum pace. Aircraft were advancing and eclips­ing concurrent design studies by the day, not the decade. Given the notion that the United States had sur­vived the war without destruction to any of its infras­tructure, the country was leaping ahead in manufacturing and development of cutting-edge air­craft designs. In an ironic twist, the Cold War was now advancing the state of the art in aviation to favor the military airplanes rather than the civilian types. The dichotomy of the 1930s had reversed itself.

By 1954, the United States Air Force was flying large, heavy aircraft like the Boeing B-47 Stratojet at routine speeds of nearly 600 mph and altitudes exceed­ing 40,000 feet. Their range was spectacular as well, especially in the developing B-52 Stratofortress. The globe was rapidly beginning to shrink. However, the

Jetliners on the Distant Horizon: USAF Enters the Turbine Age

Boeing’s revolutionary B-47 Stratojet set the standard for Jet Age design when it first flew in 1947. Powered by six General Electric J47 turbojets and capable of being refueled in flight, the B-47 projected American aerial might dur­ing the early years of the Cold War. The big jet also gave Boeing a tremendous advantage in structural engineering and manufacturing prowess that would lead to the development of a new company-funded four-engine jet trans­port. (National Archives via Dennis R. Jenkins)


Jetliners on the Distant Horizon: USAF Enters the Turbine Age

Preparing for the Jets

By this point, in the mid-1950s, excitement and anticipation for the coming jets was rising to a fever pitch. The mass media was awash in colorful ads tout­ing the new generation of jet airliners about to take to the skies. You couldn’t pick up a copy of Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, LIFE, Look, or Collier’s without seeing myriad ads from Boeing, Douglas, and Convair extolling the exciting virtues of commercial jet travel. Images usually included swept-wing shapes with white contrails against a dark blue sky, and maybe even a full moon thrown in for dramatic effect. A smooth ride, quietness, and above all, speed, were always the featured highlights of these ads with lots of young kids shown gazing wide-eyed at tall, handsome airline cap­tains and their new jets.

From an operational standpoint, however, airline and airport managers were grappling with the unknown. Although both Los Angeles and New York had plans for big jetports on the drawing board in 1955 for LAX and Idlewild, both facilities were still years away from having 10,000-foot-long runways, modern roomy terminals with fully enclosed jet bridges, and acres of bright new concrete ramp space. Airline plan­ners were trying to cope with how they could best inte­grate the monstrous smoke-spewing jets among tightly grouped DC-6s, -7s, Connies, and Convairs parked next to a terminal building like so many cattle waiting in a stockyard. The jets’ larger wingspans and exhaust blasts alone were cause for concern, and soon, contin­gency plans were formulated to park and service the jet­liners at the very end of boarding concourses, safely away from the prop aircraft, if for nothing else, ease of operations.

Yes, the promise of swift five-hour coast-to-coast flights and luxury travel in the stratosphere was certainly enticing to the traveling public and aircraft enthusiasts alike. However, the cold prickly reality of how to incor­porate these fire-breathing machines with their passenger loads of twice the norm into existing airport infrastruc­ture was daunting. In studying the specific problems the new jets would represent, it was quite evident that a

There’s nothing like it in the sky! This magnificent Lockheed Starliner, the largest and longest-range transport of them all, flies high above the weather, can even reach and ride

the swift winds of the jet stream. With exclusive synchrophased (anti-vibration) propellers,


with engines placed far out on the wings, the Jetstream offers you the quietest

coast-to-coast and trans-Atlantic trip in history. Welcome aboard!

RESERVE NOW! Non-stop between New York and California, non-stop from New York to London/Paris. See your nearby travel agent, your local TWA ticket office or write TWA

at 380 Madison Avenue, New York 17, New York. Jetstream is a service mark owned exclusively by TWA.


Preparing for the Jets

Preparing for the Jets

Preparing for the Jets

As anticipation for the next generation of transports continued to build with the traveling public in the mid-1950s, just using the word "jet" somehow seemed to bring the new air age closer. Enter the Jetstream Constellation in 1957, better known as Lockheed’s Model 1649A Starliner. Los Angeles illustration icon Ren Wicks worked for Howard Hughes painting everything from movie posters to airline ads. For this 1649 image, Hughes specifically asked him to exaggerate the aircraft’s wingspan and distance of the engines outboard from the fuselage. Here is the result! (Mike Machat Collection)

Preparing for the Jets

new paradigm in airport design and aircraft operations would be required to cope with the pending onslaught of new commercial jetliners. Until that happened, how­ever, jets and props would have to be operated in a “best of both worlds” environment. To paraphrase the famous line from Dickens, “It was the best of times” for the final generation of propliners, and “the worst of times” real­izing the jets were coming, and not being quite ready to cope with the expected changes.



t happened every Monday through Friday at pre­cisely 5:00 PM at United’s new terminals at both Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s Idlewild Airport: Marching in single file to board the rear stairs of the sleek French twinjet SE 210 Caravelle VI-R was a conga line of nattily dressed businessmen carrying leather briefcases and wearing gray flannel suits with white button-down shirts and skinny black ties. It was the beginning of the hip 1960s and the dawning Kennedy era of America’s greatness, and what better way to show the world what this country was all about than having airline service for men only!

Yes, as unique and politically incorrect as that may seem today, United’s famous “Men Only” ser­vice was perceived as a special perk for successful businessmen heading off to, or returning home from, important business meetings in a time before women CEOs, astronauts, and race car drivers, as well as video conferencing. In another seemingly astonish­ing move, cigars were not only permitted on those flights, but were provided to passengers by the stew­ardesses themselves —the only two women aboard the aircraft. With its four-abreast seating and large triangular windows, the 64-seat jetliner was an instant hit with passengers, and United’s New York Executive and Chicago Executive men-only flights


Historic photo of an actual United Caravelle at Idlewild Airport in 1962 awaiting its passenger mani­fest that will be comprised of "men only." The 5:00 pm departure headed for Chicago, while a similar flight left Chicago at the same time destined for New York, and carrying men only. In tribute to their home­land, the elegant-looking aircraft were named for cities in France, the one pictured here is Ville de Lille. (Mike Machat)

were an instant success with business clientele. United’s men-only flights continued until January 1970 when the newly formed National Organization for Women (NOW) took legal action, and filed suit to officially end the service.

Effectively filling the void in aircraft size at the beginning of the commercial Jet Age, the Caravelle offered short – to medium-range service on routes more suited to the aging propliners remaining in operation, as larger four-engined jets began to com­mand the trunk lines. American Airlines, United’s chief competitor, maintained Douglas DC-6B and Lockheed Electra turboprop operations to smaller cities on its route map (the new “CVL” code began to appear on United’s timetables in the column showing aircraft type). Perfectly suited to stage lengths from 800 to 1,200 miles, United’s pure-jet Caravelles soon became a familiar sight in the skies over the eastern half of the United States.

In retrospect, history now regards United’s Caravelles with somewhat mixed results after that fleet carried more than 10 million passengers over more than 117 million miles from July 1961 to October 1970. Although passengers favored the diminutive jetliner, the same could not be said for United’s maintenance staff, which had to deal with the aircraft’s cantankerous Rolls-Royce Avon 532R engines surrounded by an all-Pratt & Whitney – powered fleet. From both an operational and training standpoint, having mixed engine types, cockpit logic, and cabin layouts within the same airline always added complexity and cost, but in the Caravelle’s case, the trade-off was that United was able to beat its competition on short – and medium-range routes with pure-jet service until the advent of the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-9 in the mid-1960s.

United announced its groundbreaking $60 mil­lion order for 20 Caravelle VI-Rs in February 1960 as the first foreign-built jet transport ever adopted by a U. S. airline. Ironically, they entered service on July 14, 1961—Bastille Day in France. As so often hap­pens in aviation, history repeated itself; in November 1993 United once again broke ranks and selected the Airbus A320 as its mainstay medium-range jetliner, opening the door to more North American Airbus customers in following years. Once again, an advanced twin-engined jetliner flown by two pilots and built in Toulouse, France, was proudly plying American skies.


s good as the new jetliners were for transporting passengers on worldwide routes at 600 mph, these first-generation aircraft gulped copious amounts of fuel and produced noise levels that were almost painful at close range. A further improvement to the turbine pow – erplant ensues with the development of the “fanjet” engine, which not only helps solve the fuel and noise issues, but generates even more thrust than before.

Commercial Jetliners Reach Maturity with True Intercontinental Travel

The path to full intercontinental jet travel was paved with many small steps. A dream of airline pas­sengers and airline managers alike, round-the-world passenger jet service indeed originated from humble beginnings. Remember Britain’s pioneering Comet 1?

That airplane’s first intercontinental route for BOAC in 1952 spanned from London to Johannesburg, connect­ing northern Europe with Southern Africa. As impres­sive as that might have seemed at the time, with the Comet’s modest 1,500-mile range, the trip had to be made in six legs with stops to refuel along the way. By 1954, BOAC’s jet routes extended eastbound all the way to Tokyo, but again that trip had to be flown in 10 segments with the longest single leg from Rome, Italy, to Beirut, Lebanon.

When improved models of the Comet entered air­line service in 1958, the airplane’s range had been extended to as much as 3,225 miles, allowing BOAC to “steal a march” and beat Pan American to the punch with the world’s first transatlantic jet service in October of that year. Still, the airplane had to stop and refuel in Gander, Newfoundland, on westbound flights if winds

aloft were less than optimal. Other foreign carriers used several different long-range Comet 4 models to fly on stage lengths as long as Mexico City to Chicago (Mexicana), Bombay to Bangkok (United Arab Airlines), and Paris to Beirut (Kuwait Airways).

With the first Boeing 707-120 and DC-8-30 mod­els, ranges of up to 3,000 and 3,500 statute miles were made possible, respectively. Although a significant improvement over the earlier prototype models they superseded, these gas-guzzling first-generation jets were still restricted to routes where alternate refueling stops were available. Nonstop flights from Europe to the U. S. West Coast or from Tokyo to Honolulu were still only a fantasy in the minds of airline planners every­where. For now, commercial jet aviation had arrived, and flying aboard a jet airliner was as futuristic as it got, but there was one more step to be taken to advance the art and science of jet-powered commercial air travel to its highest level —the truly intercontinental jetliner.

First to answer that need was Boeing with a new, larger, and more powerful version of its 707 simply called the Intercontinental. Formally known as the 300 series, this new queen of the skies not only made the aforementioned long-range routes possible, but carried higher passenger loads as well. When airline planners factored in the ever-important seat-mile costs (the cost of moving one passenger seat over a distance of one mile), the numbers were quite favorable and airlines


Passenger’s-eye view of the forward fan sections of engines three and four on an American Airlines Boeing 720B Astrojet. (Jon Proctor)

were able to pass those cost savings along to their pas­sengers. This factor then drove up demand, and long- range air travel was suddenly becoming more affordable for the casual traveler or family going on vacation.

Boeing 707 Intercontinental service was inaugu­rated by Pan Am in July 1959, and within one year, many if not most of the world’s foreign airlines were introducing either the 707-320 or improved DC-8-30 and -40 series into long-range service. While Pan Am could now fly anywhere on its Pacific routes, rival U. S. flag carrier TWA employed its 707-320 series both domestically and across international routes. European carriers such as Lufthansa employed their Rolls- Royce-powered 707-420 Intercontinentals on routes from Germany to the United States, South America, and the Far East.

These new long-range versions of the first-generation jets proved to be the answer to many international air­lines’ prayers, but they still operated close to their design limitations as far as engine power and inflight performance were concerned. The longer-range aircraft also consumed copious amounts of fuel as they plied the world’s air routes. Would airframe and power – plant technology and innovation result in even better versions of these new airplanes? The answer to that question came only one year later.

Commercial Avation’s Transition to the Jet Age 1952-1962

Подпись: This is the exact scale model of the so-called DC-7 to have been used by Pan American World Airways in its postwar transatlantic operations. With a wingspan greater than the height of a 16-story building, the new airplane would have been seven times the size of a DC-3. The new Clipper was to have carried 108 passengers and a crew of 10 at speeds of more than 300 mph, offering lower seat-mile costs than ever before. (Craig Kodera Collection)

Original Douglas DC-7 (C-74 for the Air Force)

During the war years, Pan American World Airways was preparing for the day when hostilities would end and it could reclaim its vaunted position as leader of the world’s international air lines. One of the first of its new “Super Clipper” aircraft ideas sprang from the Douglas C-74 Globemaster cargo aircraft being designed as part of the logistics and supply net­work for the U. S. Army Air Force.

The Globemaster was a large airplane, which suited Pan Am’s style of service quite elegantly. It would carry 108 passengers plus a crew of 13, and could fly nonstop from New York to points in South America, its intended routing. The cabin was to be divided into two sections, one accommodating 36 passengers, and the other 72. An onboard fully powered galley for hot meals was on the list, as were the typically grand dress­ing rooms and toilets expected on a Pan Am Clipper.

Pan American announced an order for what was to be known as the Douglas DC-7 on October 23, 1944: a commitment for 26 aircraft at a cost of $40 million. This was a staggering amount of money and airplanes in the mid-1940s, but as was typical of the airline and Juan Trippe who ran it, nothing was ever done in a small way at Pan Am.

Unfortunately, although the C-74 was built in one short production run and contributed years of great service with the Air Force, the “DC-7” never made it
into the Pan American fleet owing to the fact that the airline reevaluated its service level requirements. Gigantic and spacious luxury just wasn’t profitable in the postwar climate, and the airline began its landplane service with the Douglas DC-4 and Lockheed Constellation instead.


You can look forward to “red carpet* service when you travel on one of United’s deluxe DC-7s like "‘the Hollywood*’ or “the Continental. It’s in keeping with the luxury you enjoy every mile of the way on the nation’s newest, fastest and most comfortable airliners!

On United’s DC-7s you relax in deep, richly upholstered seats •.. you’re served beverages, and delicious, full-course meals prepared by United’s famous chefs… there are games, magazines, music… other service “extras” in the famous Mainliner® manner.

Cruising at 365 m. p.h. in the smooth upper air, you enjoy the added comfort of improved soundproofing, automatic pressurization, and air conditioning that keeps the cabin ever-fresh.

Also — your luggage gets “white glove treatment.” It’s stowed in a special compartment (exclusive with United) adjoining the main cabin for extra-fa^t deliverv upon arrival.


lor the iinest service in air transportation, ily United’s great Mainliner fleet. For reservations, call or write United or an Author­ized Travel Agent.







Ш Мяв I me limr—ti 89 C/ftes






Серг. 1954, United Air lines


Enjoy Red Carpet service on United Air Lines’ DC-7s...nation’s fastest airliners, nonstop coast to coast!

Enjoy Red Carpet service on United Air Lines’ DC-7s...nation’s fastest airliners, nonstop coast to coast!

Representing the peak of modern American illustration were the famed, colorful airline ads of the 1950s. Painted by such commercial illustration legends as Joe Henninger and Ren Wicks, these glorious vistas often showed pas­sengers boarding a sleek, giant, modern airliner with the ever-present red carpet and stanchions standing at the ready. Here we see the typical ad showing a bird’s-eye view of a United DC-7 deplaning its happy passengers on an equally typical beautiful sunny day. Note the bevy of press photographers taking pictures of the Hollywood movie stars who were sure to be aboard. (Mike Machat Collection)

best speeds production commercial aircraft of the time could muster were in the 300-mph-plus range. This was a more-than-200-mph differential between military and civilian airplane types! (Of course, had the Republic Rainbow actually been consummated, speeds would have been half this.) And if one includes the fighter air­craft in the inventory or in flight test in 1954, the once – elusive speed of sound was being easily exceeded on a daily basis, and advanced experimental aircraft were now attaining more than twice that speed.

As tantalizing as these now-shattered limitations were, reality within the airline boardrooms dictated an attitude that was something entirely different. The pre­vailing thinking was that jet propulsion was too much of everything: too radical, too dangerous, too undepend­able, too fuel consumptive, and too expensive. “Best to leave all this risk taking to those jet jockeys in the mili­tary, and if you want to know why we think this way, just look across the pond at Britain’s travails with their Comet,” said the airline mavens. Flying in the strato­sphere and utilizing kerosene blasting out of a pipe was just too dangerous for commercial applications. The air­lines had just spent a decade and a half, and lots of adver­tising dollars, convincing people that airline flying was safe and dependable. No risks for us, thank you, said the airline bosses. Boeing, however, had other ideas.

What transpired when the prototype XB-47 was pulled out into the Seattle sunshine for the first time in late 1947 was nothing less than the standing of the avi­ation world on its proverbial head. This included the airline business as well, for every aspect of engineering that Boeing pioneered with its revolutionary Stratojet (which begat the even larger B-52) was transferred to its Model 367-80 prototype jet transport and the 707 jet­liner. As a matter of fact, all basic high-Mach-number transports from the B-47 onward have been shaped to include the basic tenets developed in Seattle all those many years ago. That single airplane was absolutely transformational in nature.

In 1950, William Allen, Boeing’s president, and his Chief Engineer for Preliminary Design, Maynard Pennell, visited the Farnborough Airshow in England to view the de Havilland Comet for the first time. After the fly-by in the afternoon, Allen asked Pennell what he thought of the English jetliner. “Its a very good air­plane,” Pennell responded. “Do you think we could build one as good?” asked Allen. “Better,” said Pennell. “Much better.” And they did.

From the point in May 1954 when the Dash 80 was rolled out at Renton, Washington, until the first jetliner revenue flight in late 1958, airline trepidation would slowly but inexorably start crumbling, bit by bit, just

Enjoy Red Carpet service on United Air Lines’ DC-7s...nation’s fastest airliners, nonstop coast to coast!

President William Allen and the Boeing board of directors literally bet the company with a decision in 1952 to launch the 707 jet transport. Employees and the media gathered at the company’s Renton, Washington, plant to witness the prototype Model 367-80 rollout on May 15, 1954. (Boeing/Jon Proctor Collection)


like a sand castle in the surf, until finally, outright enthusiasm was the order of the day in those staid boardrooms. But you can’t run an airline operation without passengers. What did the folks at home think about all of this?

The postwar period, especially in the United States, was filled with one breakthrough or broken record after another. Pilots were already flying in jets or rocket-powered airplanes. Space travel was on everybody’s mind, the Air Force and Navy leading the way in both instances. Cars that flew, houses that were smart enough to clean themselves and cook for us — everything futuristic was now within our grasp.

Of course we should be flying coast-to-coast in jet­liners! Of course we should link the continents by over­flying great bodies of water at high speeds and altitudes with the reliability and simplicity that the turbine engine promised. Even linking city centers via jet-powered heli­copters was just around the corner. It seemed everything we could imagine, we could do. The age of optimism had coupled with the age of speed, and air travelers couldn’t wait to experience the jetliner. The airlines were begin­ning to lay the foundation to indulge these yearnings, and the world was ready to enjoy The Next Great Thing: the Jet Age.

In the meantime, however, passengers would have to be content with wide seats and lovely meals in airlin­ers, which were taking 9 or 10 hours to cross the coun­try, and with a stop or two at that. What a study in contrast between those futuristic articles we read in LIFE, POST, or Collier’s, and the realities of commer­cial aviation at the time.