The Boeing 727 is a mid-size, narrow-body, three-engine, T-tailed commercial jet airliner. The first Boeing 727 flew in 1963 and for over a decade it was the most produced commercial jet airliner in the world. When production ended in 1984, a total of 1,831 aircraft had been produced. The 727's sales record for the most jet airliners ever sold was broken in the early 1990s by its younger stablemate, the Boeing 737.
The 727 was produced following the success of the Boeing 707 quad-jet airliner. Designed for short-haul routes, the 727 became a mainstay of airlines' domestic route networks. A stretched variant, the 727-200, debuted in 1967. In August 2008, there were a total of 81 Boeing 727-100 aircraft and 419 727-200 aircraft in airline service.
Design and development
The 727 design arose as a compromise between United Airlines, American Airlines, and Eastern Air Lines requirements over the configuration of a jet airliner to service smaller cities which often had shorter runways and correspondingly smaller passenger demand. United Airlines wanted a four-engined aircraft for its flights to high-altitude airports, especially its hub at Stapleton International Airport at Denver, Colorado. American, which was operating the four-engined Boeing 707 and 720, wanted a twin-engined aircraft for efficiency reasons. Eastern wanted a third engine for its overwater flights to the Caribbean, since at that time twin-engined commercial flights were limited by regulations to routes with 60-minute maximum flying time to an airport (see ETOPS/LROPS). Eventually, the airlines agreed on a trijet, and thus the 727 was born. The third JT8D engine, which is located at the very rear of the fuselage (called engine 2), is supplied with air from an inlet at the front of the vertical fin through an S-shaped duct to the engine's inlet. The 727 featured high-lift devices on its wing, thus being one of the first jets able to operate from relatively short runways. Later models of the 727 were stretched to accommodate more passengers, and they ended up replacing earlier jet airliners, such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, on domestic routes.
The 727 proved to be such a reliable and versatile airliner that it came to form the core of many start-up airlines' fleets. The 727 was successful with airlines worldwide partly because of its capability to use smaller runways while still flying medium range routes. This effectively allowed airlines to attract passengers from cities with large populations but smaller airports to worldwide tourist destinations. One of the features that gave the 727 its ability to land on shorter runways was its unique wing design. Due to the absence of wing-mounted engines, leading-edge lift enhancement equipment (Krueger, or hinged, flaps on the inner portion of the leading edge, and extendable leading edge slats on the remainder of the leading edge), and trailing-edge lift enhancement equipment (triple-slotted, aft-moving flaps) could be used on the entire wing. The combination of these high-lift devices produced a maximum wing lift coefficient of 3.6 (based on the flap-retracted wing area). Thus the 727 could fly with great stability at very low speeds compared to other early jets. The 727 also initially had nosegear brakes fitted to further decrease braking distance upon landing. However, these were soon removed from service, as they provided little useful reduction in braking distances, while adding weight and increasing maintenance requirements.
The 727 was designed to be used at smaller, regional airports, so independence from ground facilities was an important requirement. This gave rise to one of the 727's most distinctive features: the built-in airstair that opens from the rear underbelly of the fuselage. D. B. Cooper, a hijacker, parachuted from the back of a 727 as it was flying over the Pacific Northwest. Boeing subsequently modified the design with the Cooper vane so that the airstair could not be lowered in flight. Another innovation was the inclusion of an APU (auxiliary power unit), which allowed electrical and air-conditioning systems to run independent of a ground-based power supply, without having to start one of the main engines. The 727 can also back itself up, thus not requiring the push tractor needed for most other jet airliners to leave an airport gate. The 727 is equipped with a retractable tail skid which is designed to protect the aircraft in the event of an over-rotation on takeoff. The 727's fuselage has an outer diameter of 148 inches (3.8 m). This allows six-abreast seating (three per side) and a single central access walkway when 18 inches (46 cm) wide coach-class seats are installed.
The 727 is one of the noisiest commercial jetliners, categorized as Stage 2 by the U.S. Noise Control Act of 1972, which mandated the gradual introduction of quieter Stage 3 aircraft. The 727's JT8D jet engines use older low-bypass turbofan technology while Stage 3 aircraft utilize the more efficient and quieter high-bypass turbofan design. When the Stage 3 requirement was being proposed, Boeing engineers analyzed the possibility of incorporating quieter engines on the 727. They determined that the JT8D-200 engine could be used on the two side-mounted pylons, but the structural work required to fit the larger-diameter engine (49.2 inches (125 cm) fan diameter in the JT8D-200 compared to 39.9 inches (101 cm) in the JT8D-7) into the fuselage structure at the number two engine location would be too great to be justifiable.
At the turn of the 21st century, the 727 was still in service with a few airline fleets. However, due to changes by the U.S. FAA and the ICAO in over-water flight requirements, most major airlines had already begun to switch to twin-engine aircraft, which are more fuel-efficient and quieter than the three-engine 727. Also, the 727 was one of the last airliners in service to have a three-person flight crew, including a flight engineer, a crew member whose tasks are have been largely automated on newer airliners.
Current regulations require that a 727 that is to be utilized in commercial service must be retrofitted with a hush kit to reduce engine noise to Stage 3 levels. One such hushkit is offered by FedEx,, and has been purchased by over 60 customers. After-market winglets, referred to as "Quiet Wing" kits, have been installed on many 727s to reduce noise at lower speeds, as well as to reduce fuel consumption. Kelowna Flightcraft's maintenance division in Canada has installed winglets on Donald Trump's private 727-100.
In addition to domestic flights of medium range, the 727 was popular with international passenger airlines. The range of flights it could cover (and the additional safety added by the third engine) meant that the 727 proved efficient for short to medium range international flights in areas around the world. Prior to its introduction, four-engined jets or propeller-driven airliners were required for transoceanic service.
The 727 also proved popular with cargo airlines and charter airlines. FedEx Express introduced 727s in 1978. 727s were the backbone of its fleet until recently, but FedEx is now phasing them out in favor of the Boeing 757. Many cargo airlines worldwide now employ the 727 as a workhorse, since as it is being phased out of U.S. domestic service due to noise regulations, it becomes available to overseas users in areas where such noise regulations have not yet been instituted. Charter airlines Sun Country, Champion Air, and Ryan International Airlines were all started with 727 aircraft.
Yet another situation where the 727 has proven to be popular is in situations where the airline services airports with gravel, or otherwise lightly improved runways. The Canadian airline First Air, for example, uses a 727-200C to service the communities of Resolute Bay and Arctic Bay in Nunavut, both of which have gravel runways. The high mounted engines greatly reduces the risk of foreign object damage.
Other companies use the 727 as a way to transport passengers to their resorts or cruise ships. Such was the example of Carnival Cruise Lines, which used both the 727 and 737 to fly both regular flights and flights to transport their passengers to cities that harbored their ships. Carnival used the jets on its airline division, Carnival Air Lines.
Faced with higher fuel costs (although all major United States airlines phased them out immediately prior to the oil price increases since 2003), lower passenger volumes due to the post-9/11 economic climate, increasing restrictions on airport noise, and the extra expenses of maintaining older planes and paying flight engineers' salaries, most major airlines have phased 727s out of their fleets. Delta Air Lines, the last major U.S. carrier to do so, retired its last 727 in March, 2003. However, the 727 is still flying for smaller start-up airlines, cargo airlines, and charter airlines, and it is also sometimes used as a private means of transportation. The official replacement for the 727 in Boeing's lineup was the Boeing 757. However, the smallest 757 variant, the 757-200, is significantly larger than the 727-200, so many airlines replaced their 727s with either the 737-800 or EADS' Airbus A320, both of which are closer in size to the 727-200.
There are two variants of the 727. The 727-100 was launched in 1960 and placed into service in February 1964. The 727-200 was launched in 1965 and placed into service in December 1967.
The first production model.
Convertible passenger cargo version. Additional freight door and strengthened floor and floor beams. Three alternate fits:
QC stands for Quick Change. This is similar to the Convertible version with a roller-bearing floor for palletised galley and seating and/or cargo to allow much faster changeover time (30 minutes).
Stretched version of the 727-100. The -200 is 20 feet (6.1 m) longer (153 feet, 2 inches, 46.7 m) than the -100 (133 feet, 2 inches, 40.6 m). A ten foot (3 m) fuselage section ("plug") was added in front of the wings and another ten foot fuselage section was added behind them. The wing span and height remain the same on both the -100 and -200 (108 feet (33 m) and 34 feet (10 m), respectively). The gross weight was increased from 169,000 to 209,500 pounds (77,000 to 95,000 kg).
The dorsal intake of the number 2 engine was also redesigned to be round in shape, as opposed to oval as it was on the 100 series.
MTOW and range increased. Also, Cabin improvements
All freight version of the 727-200.
Speed increased by 50 mph (80 km/h), due to replacement of the two side engines with the JT8D-217, which are also found on many MD-80s, and addition of hush kits to the center engine. These aftermarket modifications were performed by companies independent of Boeing, such as Valsan and Dee Howard.
Major airlines that have flown the jet include Aerocontinente, AeroGal, AeroSur, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aerolíneas Internacionales, Aeroperu, Air Algerie, Air Canada, Air France, Air Jamaica, Air Panama, Allegheny Airlines, ANA, Air Vanuatu, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, American, ATA Airlines, Ansett Australia, ASTAR, Avensa, Avianca, Aviacsa, Aviateca, Braniff International, Chanchangi Airlines, Nigeria, China Airlines, Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia, Copa, CP Air, Dan-Air Services, Delta Air Lines, Dominicana, Eastern Air Lines, Emirates Airline, FedEx Express, First Air, Hughes Airwest, Iberia, Iran Air, Iraqi Airways, Japan Airlines, JAT, Kiwi International Air Lines, Korean Air, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, Lufthansa, Mexicana, MGM Grand,MIAT Mongolian Airlines, LACSA, LaNica Nicaraguan Airlines, Northeast Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Olympic Airways, Pacific Southwest Airlines, Paramountjet, Pan Am, People Express, Philippine Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, Pride Air, Republic Airlines (1979-1986), Royal Air Maroc, Sabena,Sabre Airways, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sterling, TAA,TAME,TAP Portugal Transbrasil, Trans Australia Airlines (later Qantas Domestic), Tunisair, TWA, United Airlines,UPS, US Airways, Varig, VASP, Viasa, and Western Airlines. Also the 727 has been operated by charter airlines such as Carnival Air Lines and Hapag-Lloyd.
In August 2008, a total of 500 Boeing 727 aircraft (all variants) were in airline service with FedEx Express (86), Astar Air Cargo (25), Champion Air (16), Kitty Hawk Aircargo (16), Capital Cargo International Airlines (13), Cargojet Airways (12), Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter (13), Libyan Arab Airlines (10), Transmile Air Services (5) and other operators with fewer aircraft.
Government Agencies and Military Operators
In addition, the 727 has seen sporadic government use, having flown for the Belgian, Yugoslavian, Mexican, New Zealand and Panama air forces, among the small group of government agencies that have used it. The United States military used the 727 as a military transport, designated as the C-22. The 727 that carried New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger was known as Spud One. The New Zealand Air Force 727s have since been replaced by 757s.
Accidents and incidents
As of 2007, a total of 282 incidents involving 727s had occurred, including 106 hull-loss accidents resulting in a total of 3,703 fatalities. The 727 has also been in 178 hijackings involving 256 fatalities.
Notable accidents and incidents
Sources: Boeing 727 Specifications, Boeing 727 Airport report
Orders and deliveries
Published - July 2009
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