A pilot once took up a Boeing 707 passenger jet & did a double barrel roll in the sky – See it here

Photo by Joe Parke

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The 707 prototype did a crazy maneuver in 1955

tex johnson pilotBefore the now-iconic Boeing 707 made its debut with Pan-Am airlines in 1958, truly ushering in the jet age, there was the Boeing 367-80.

Known simply as the “Dash 80,” this was the prototype for what would become the 707. Largely known as a manufacturer of military aircraft through the mid-1950s, Boeing never had much success in the commercial transport sector.

The Dash 80 was designed as a proof of concept aircraft for both military and possible commercial applications — the last airliner Boeing tried to sell (the 377 Stratocruiser) had cost the company a $15 million net loss until they sold it to the Air Force as the KC-97 Stratotanker.

See that time a pilot took up Boeing 707 jet & did a double barrel roll in the sky

On August 6th, 1955, Boeing chairman Bill Allen had invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to Seattle’s 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races, where the Dash 80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover.

However, perhaps sensing that something a little more, shall we say, dramatic, would help sell the plane to prospective buyers, legendary Boeing test pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnston had a little trick up his sleeve.

As he passed over the lake, in front of Allen and all the visiting dignitaries, Johnston took the Dash 80 through two barrel rolls. See it here:

YouTube video

The upshot

Well, despite getting called on the carpet the next day by Allen, Johnston must have been on to something — the production version of the Dash 80, the 707, went on to sell over 1,000 planes during the next 21 years.

And the roll went on to become so legendary that in 1994, on the maiden flight of the new 777, then-Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman was told explicitly by then-Boeing President Phil Condit: “No rolls.”

Here’s the skyliner that’ll bring the jet age to you (1958)

Pictured [below] is the first jetliner off an American production line . . . the superb Boeing 707.

Its initial flight, made last December 20, followed more than three and a half years of test-flying by the famous 707 prototype.

After airline crew training and route familiarization, sleek, swept-wing Boeings will, early next year, begin carrying you across continents and seas, at twice the speed of conventional airliners. When you board the 707 — or its shorter-range sister ship, the 720 — you’ll enjoy an exhilarating new experience.

MORE: See what United Airlines flights in the ’50s were supposed to be like

For jet-age flight is incomparably smoother than any you’ve known before, and so swift you’ll cruise coast to coast in just over four hours, or span the ocean from New York to Europe in slightly over six!

You’ll relax in a spacious cabin, luxuriously free of engine and propeller vibration. You will, moreover, be flying in the most thoroughly flight-tested aircraft ever to enter commercial service.

Boeing 707 jet plane 1958

Boeing 707 and 720 jetliners – 1958

In Boeing 707 and 720 jetliners, you’ll fly far above the weather . . . so quiet, so secure, so vibration-free, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re traveling 600 miles an hour.

Above is the superb 707 — by Boeing, builder of the first pressurized airliner …19 years ago. Since then Boeing has built more pressurized, multi-engine aircraft than any other company in the world.

Boeing 707 and 720 jetliners - 1958

ALSO SEE: Pretty, thin, young and single? Check out these sexist stewardess job requirements of the ’50s & ’60s

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Comments on this story

4 Responses

  1. That’s so cool but as long as a passenger jet won’t fly upside down if I am in the plane because I’ll get dizzy.

  2. Great little bit of history! Done properly, the barrel roll is a positive G maneuver, so just like regular flying. The issues start when you do it incorrectly…

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