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Mon Jul 15, 2019, 06:00 AM

65 Years Ago Today; US enters the commercial Jet Age with 1st flight of Boeing "Dash 80"


The Dash 80 overflying the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, with Mt. Rainier in the background

The Boeing 367-80, known simply as the Dash 80, is an American quadjet prototype aircraft built by Boeing to demonstrate the advantages of jet propulsion for commercial aviation. It served as base for the design of the KC-135 tanker and the 707 airliner.

The Dash 80 first flew in 1954, less than two years from project launch. Its US$16 million cost (equivalent to $149 million today) was an enormous risk for Boeing, which at the time had no committed customers. Only one example was built, which has been preserved and is currently on public display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Design and development
By the late 1940s two developments encouraged Boeing to begin considering building a passenger jet. The first was the maiden flight in 1947 of the B-47 Stratojet. The second was the maiden flight in 1949 of the world's first jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet. Boeing President Bill Allen led a company delegation to the UK in summer 1950, where they saw the Comet fly at the Farnborough Airshow, and also visited the de Havilland factory at Hatfield, Hertfordshire where the Comets were being built. Boeing felt it had mastered the swept wing and podded engines which it saw as key technologies that would enable it to improve on the Comet.

The Boeing 367-80 during its roll-out in May 1954

In 1950 Boeing tentatively produced a specification for a jet airliner dubbed the Model 473-60C. The airlines were unconvinced because they had no experience with jet transports and were enjoying success with piston engined aircraft such as the Douglas DC-4, DC-6, Boeing Stratocruiser and Lockheed Constellation.

Boeing was experienced at selling to the military but had not enjoyed the same success with civil airliners. This market was dominated by Douglas which was adept at meeting the needs of airlines by refining and developing its range of propeller-driven aircraft, and in 1950 was marketing the forthcoming DC-7. Boeing decided the only way to overcome the airlines' suspicion of the jet and of itself was to show them a completed aircraft.

The Boeing 367-80 at Boeing Field in Washington

As the first of a new generation of passenger jets, Boeing wanted the aircraft's model number to emphasize the difference from its previous propeller-driven aircraft which bore 300-series numbers. The 400-, 500- and 600-series were already used by missiles and other products, so Boeing decided that the jets would bear 700-series numbers, and the first would be the 707. Boeing had studied developments of its existing Model 367 (the KC-97 Stratofreighter) incorporating swept wings and podded engines; and chose to build the 367-80, which retained little of the KC-97 except the upper fuselage diameter (and the possibility of building some of the fuselage with existing tooling). Although the design was announced publicly as the Model 707, the prototype was referred to within Boeing simply as the Dash 80 or "-80".

The Dash 80 fuselage was wide enough at 132 inches (3,352.8 mm) for five-abreast seating; two on one side of the aisle and three on the other. The fuselage diameter for the production KC-135 was widened to 144 inches (3,657.6 mm) and Boeing originally hoped to build the 707 fuselage with that width. By the time the Boeing company committed to production, the decision had been made to design the production model 707 as a six-abreast design, with a larger 148-inch-diameter (3,759.2 mm) fuselage, after C. R. Smith, CEO of American Airlines, told Boeing he wouldn't buy the 707 unless it was an inch wider than the then-proposed Douglas DC-8 passenger jet. This decision did not unduly delay introduction of the production model since the -80 had been largely hand-built, using little production tooling.

Operational history
By early 1952 the designs were complete and in April the Boeing board approved the program. Construction of the Dash 80 started in November in a walled-off section of Boeing's Renton plant. As a proof of concept prototype there was no certification and no production line and most of the parts were custom built. The aircraft was not fitted with an airline cabin; a plywood lining housed the instrumentation for the flight test program.

The Dash 80 rolled out of the factory on May 15, 1954, two years after the project was approved and 18 months after construction had started. During a series of taxi trials the port landing gear collapsed on May 22; the damage was quickly repaired and the first flight was on July 15, 1954.

Following flights revealed a propensity to "Dutch roll" - an alternating yawing and rolling motion. Boeing already had experience with this on the B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress and had developed a yaw damper system on the B-47 that could be adapted to the Dash 80. Other problems were found with the engines and brakes, the latter once failing completely on landing causing the aircraft to overshoot the runway.

Boeing used the Dash 80 on demonstration flights for airline executives and other industry figures. These focused attention on the question of what the cabin of a passenger jet should look like. In a departure from its usual practice Boeing hired industrial design firm Walter Dorwin Teague to create a cabin as radical as the aircraft itself.

Prior to demonstration for passenger airlines, the Dash 80 was fitted with Boeing's Flying Boom for aerial refueling which served as a prototype for the KC-135 Stratotanker and its later derivatives.

The barrel roll
As part of the Dash 80's demonstration program, Bill Allen invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) to the Seattle's 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on August 6, 1955. The Dash 80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin "Tex" Johnston instead performed two barrel rolls to show off the jet airliner.

The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, to which Johnston replied that he was simply "selling airplanes" and asserted that doing so was completely safe.

Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777 on June 12, 1994, his last instructions from then-Boeing President Phil Condit were "No rolls."


Boeing 367-80 at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Final flight
After 2,350 hours and 1,691 flights the aircraft was withdrawn from use in 1969 and placed in storage. On May 26, 1972 Boeing donated the 367-80 to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which had designated it one of the 12 most significant aircraft of all time. For the next 18 years the aircraft was stored at a "desert boneyard" now called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona before being retrieved by Boeing in 1990 for restoration. The Dash 80's final flight was to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. on August 27, 2003. Repainted to its original yellow and brown Boeing livery, it was put on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, located adjacent to Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.


...back when Boeing did things right.

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Reply 65 Years Ago Today; US enters the commercial Jet Age with 1st flight of Boeing "Dash 80" (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jul 15 OP
Sherman A1 Jul 15 #1
Dennis Donovan Jul 15 #2
King of the sheep Jul 15 #3
mahatmakanejeeves Jul 15 #4

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Mon Jul 15, 2019, 06:16 AM

1. A great airplane

And you are correct in your thoughts at the end of the article.

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Response to Sherman A1 (Reply #1)

Mon Jul 15, 2019, 06:20 AM

2. Breaks my heart that Boeing stayed so far from its roots...

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Mon Jul 15, 2019, 07:21 AM

3. The more things change...

There are similarities to the current situation. Due to certain design decisions made the aircraft had a tendency to Dutch Roll. Boeing overcame this without changing the design to eliminate the problem. This meant that if the correction system failed or was turned off the aircraft could crash:

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Mon Jul 15, 2019, 12:00 PM

4. Thanks for the thread. For some reason, Mt. Rainier became cropped from the picture.

Here's the full picture, with Mt. Rainier in the distance:

Dash 80 air to air photo, showing the aircraft passing over the Olympic Peninsula with Lake Cushman, Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier in the background. By Joe Parke

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