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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Business & Industry

They’re celebrating at Boeing this week. The big aircraft manufacturer swaps ownership papers on the first 787 with All Nippon Airways (ANA) today, and watches it lift off from Everett’s Paine Field Tuesday (Sep 27).  From there, the 787 flies to Tokyo and into passenger service with its first customer.  The flight is the culmination of the Dreamliner project begun back in 2005 and the first delivery of a new Boeing commercial jetliner in 16 years.

Since Boeing unveiled the world’s first commercial jet in the late 1950s, it’s 700 series has been the leader in passenger air travel.  The 707 began the passenger jet age, the 747 opened the era of jumbo jets, and the 777 was a marvel of computer design from start to finish.  But it is the small workhorse 737 (shown here lifting up into the cloudy Northwest skies) that tops them all — outselling the next best-selling Boeing jet by almost four to one.

In advance of the first Boeing 787 flight under customer control, we list the milestone flight dates for the entire 700 series.

FIRST FLIGHTS OF BOEING COMMERCIAL JET AIRLINERS

Aircraft First Flight In Service First Airline
707 1957 Dec 21 1958 Oct 26 Pan Am
727 1963 Feb 9 1964 Feb 1 Eastern
737 1967 Apr 9 1968 Feb 10 Luftansa
747 1969 Feb 9 1970 Jan 21 Pan Am
757 1982 Feb 19 1983 Jan 1 Eastern
767 1981 Sep 26 1982 Sep 8 United
777 1994 Jun 12 1995 Jun 7 United
787 2009 Dec 15  2011 Oct 26 ANA

SOURCES:  I relied on The Story of the Boeing Company: Revised and Updated Edition by Bill Yenne for most of the dates shown here, although I also consulted Legend & Legacy: The Story of Boeing and Its People by Robert J. Serling, Billion Dollar Battle: The Story Behind the “Impossible” 727 Project by Harold Mansfield, and 747: Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet by Joe Sutter among others. The first flight date for the 787 was from recent news reports. My notes from earlier sources (now forgotten, unfortunately) listed 1957 Dec 20 for the 707’s first flight and 1970 Jan 22 for the 747’s in service date, so I treat those as squishy until confirmed.  There were no conflicts regarding the airlines involved, although United was a close second in 1964, debuting the 727 the same month as Eastern.

PHOTO © Steve Campion

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