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First Flight of the Boeing 367-80 (Dash 80)

By Robert Moorhouse

[Editor's Note: The Dash-80 (Boeing 367-80) was the prototype for both the commercial 707 and the military KC-135. Robert Moorhouse, formerly of Boeing, was kind enough to share his first-hand story of the famous flight of the Dash 80. Thank you, Robert!]

The Inauguration of the Commercial Jet Aviation Age

August 7, 1955 – Seattle - The day of the Gold Cup Race for the unlimited hydroplanes on Lake Washington. Boeing had been advertising all week long that they would present to Seattle and the World a showing of the company’s (and America’s) new four-engine jet airliner, the 367-80. This was to take place between the second and third heats of the Gold Cup.

Several of us were perched on the roof of a friend’s house about a block up from the lake where we had a good view of the race course which was in front of us – the floating bridge was to our left.

At the advertised time between 2nd and 3rd heats, we were all looking up. “Where the heck is Tex?” (Tex Johnston, chief test pilot for Boeing.) All of a sudden the guy sitting next to me, exclaimed, “Holy Cow,” and was looking down and to his left. Coming over the floating bridge, not much over sailboat-mast height, was a 4-engine yellow and brown jet airliner traveling almost 500 miles per hour going right down the race course. Just as it got in front of us, the port wing started dipping. “Oh my God, he’s lost it!” we were all thinking. Not so – a perfect slow roll by a four-engine jet airliner going almost 500 mph on the deck – what a sight!

“And, for those who missed it.” As Tex years later stated in a speech at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, he pulled almost straight up and did it again.

   
 

The beloved Dash-80 is seen here over Southwestern Washington.

 
   

Image courtesty of Boeing

   
 

Bill Allen, President of the Boeing Company was on his yacht next to the race course along with presidents of most of the world’s airlines whom he had invited to witness his new product. Bill didn’t know Tex was going to pull this stunt. According to the captain of Bill’s boat, Bill was popping his nitro pills as fast as he could get them down. (Probably a little exaggeration.)

As Tex told me: The next morning Bill called an emergency Board Meeting of the Boeing Company. Tex was “invited” and was late as usual.

“Why’d you do it?” Bill asked Tex. “To sell your airplane, why’d you think?” responds Tex. “You didn’t have to destroy it!” says Bill.

“I didn’t – in a one-G roll, the airplane doesn’t know if it is right-side-up, upside-down or sideways – it’s as if it is going straight and level.” (Let it be known that Tex was a damn good pilot and could easily do a 1-G roll.) “OK,” responds Bill, “You know that; now we know that; just don’t do it again.”

The orders started coming in rapid fashion. Bill was now happy that his gamble had paid off. The 367-80 - her wing numbers were November 707, and that’s where Boeing got the idea for the model number: Boeing 707, the first of the seven hundred series.

(For the record, Tex was the first to fly the Bell X-1 supersonic, not the Air Force major. Tex was working for Bell at the time, and had the job of checking out the X-1 before handing it over to the Air Force. However, the Air Force wanted the credit so Tex’s feat was never mentioned.)

Boeing 'Dash 80' 367-80 (707 Prototype) at a Glance
Engines4 Pratt & Whitney J-57/JT-3
Cruising Speed575
Range3000
Span130
Length128
Weight190,000 (gross weight)
Built1
Final ProductionN/A
Mesurements from Boeing 'Jet Transport Prototype Mechanical Systems' 1994.

 

Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about the Boeing 'Dash 80' 367-80 (707 Prototype)? Were you a member of the flight crew on one? Have you any interesting stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)


 

FLYING FACTS

Almost 50 years from the date it rolled out, Dash 80 takes off for the final time for its new home: the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum

Image courtesy of Boeing

Model: 'Dash 80' 367-80 (707 Prototype)

Manufacturer: Boeing

Country: US

First Flight: May 14, 1955

First Passenger Flight: N/A (prototype) - see 707

Launch Customer: N/A


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