|1978 Boeing 727-200
N724YS (sn 21474) wearing the official logo of the San Jose Sharks NHL team on the tail.
Photo taken Sep. 2010 @ Penticton Airport, BC - Canada (YYF / CYYF)
|Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler
The Boeing 727 is an American 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.
|Boeing 727-200 C-GAAR
Photo taken 1989
Toronto Lester B. Pearson Intl Airport, Ontario Canada (YYZ / CYYZ)
|Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler
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 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 design 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 nose gear 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 auxiliary power unit (APU), 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.
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.
From September 1, 2010, 727 jetliners (including those with a hush kit) will be banned from some Australian airports due to noise.
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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.
According to the Boeing Jetliner Databook, the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, also known as 'Con Air', currently uses four 727 aircraft to transport persons in legal custody between prisons, detaining centers, courthouses, and other places where they must be transported.
At the turn of the 21st century, the 727 was 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 have been largely automated on newer airliners.
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 from scheduled service March 2003. Northwest Airlines retired its last 727 from charter service in June 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 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 was known as the 727-100. The first 727-100 flew on February 9, 1963 and FAA type approval was awarded on December 24 of that year. The first delivery to United Airlines was made prior to this on October 29, to allow pilot training to commence. The first 727 passenger service was flown by Eastern Air Lines on February 1, 1964, between Miami, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A total of 571 727-100s were delivered (407 -100s, 53 -100Cs, and 111 -100QCs). One 727-100 was completed and retained by Boeing, bringing total production to 572.
Convertible passenger cargo version. Additional freight door and strengthened floor and floor beams. Three alternate fits:
- 94 mixed-class passengers
- 52 mixed class passengers and four cargo pallets (22,700 lb, 10,297 kg)
- Eight cargo pallets (38,000 lb, 17,237 kg)
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).
QF stands for Quiet Freighter. A cargo conversion for United Parcel Service, re-engined with Stage III-compliant Rolls-Royce Tay turbofans.
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 original 727-200 was the same weight as the 727-100; however, as the aircraft evolved, a series of higher weights and more powerful engines were introduced along with other improvements, and from line number 881, 727-200s are dubbed -200 Advanced. The aircraft gross weight eventually increased from 169,000 to 209,500 pounds (77,000 to 95,000 kg) for the latest versions. The dorsal intake of the number two engine was also redesigned to be round in shape, rather than oval as it was on the 100 series.
The first 727-200 flew on July 27, 1967 and received FAA certification on November 30, 1967. The first delivery was made on 14 December 1967 to Northwest Airlines. A total of 310 727-200s were delivered before giving way to the 727-200Adv of 1972.
Convertible passenger cargo version. Only 2 built.
- 727-200 Advanced
MTOW and range increased. Also, cabin improvements
- 727-200F Advanced
A freighter version of the 727-200 Advanced became available in 1981 designated the Series 200F Advanced powered by the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-17A engines and featured a strengthened fuselage structure, an 11 ft 2 inch by 7 ft 2 inch forward main deck freight door and a windowless cabin. This was the last production variant of the 727 to be developed by Boeing and 15 aircraft were built, all for Federal Express. The last 727 aircraft to be completed by Boeing was the Series 200F Advanced for Federal Express.
- Super 27
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, along with the addition of hush kits to the center engine and winglets to the wings to increase fuel efficiency. These aftermarket modifications were performed by companies independent of Boeing, such as Valsan and Dee Howard.
As of August 2010, 398 Boeing 727 aircraft (all variants) were in commercial airline service. Most airlines have small numbers but the following operated ten or more aircraft:
- FedEx Express (75)
- Astar Air Cargo (26)
- Capital Cargo International Airlines (14)
- Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter (13)
- Cargojet Airways (12)
- AeroSur (10)
Government, military and other 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.
Angolan Air Force
Military of Benin
Military of Cameroon
Colombian Air Force
Ecuadorian Air Force
Mexican Air Force
Federal Preventive Police
Nigerian Air Force
Former government and military operators
Belgian Air Force (Two operated from 1975) (Replaced by two Airbus A310)
Imperial Iranian Air Force
- New Zealand
Royal New Zealand Air Force purchased three ex-United Airlines aircraft in 1981, with two operated by No. 40 Squadron RNZAF and the third placed into storage and later broken up. The 727 that carried New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger was known as Spud One. The 727s have since been replaced by two 757s.
Panamanian Air Force until 1989
Qatar Amiri Flight
Military of Tajikistan
SFR Yugoslav Air Force
Accidents and incidents
As of 2010, a total of 325 incidents involving 727s had occurred, including 110 hull-loss accidents resulting in a total of 3,704 fatalities. The 727 has also been in 178 hijackings involving 345 fatalities.
On August 16, 1965, United Airlines Flight 389, a new Boeing 727-100, crashed into Lake Michigan 30 miles east northeast of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The crew were told to descend and maintain 6,000 feet, which was the last radio communication with the flight. The NTSB was not able to determine why the airliner continued its descent into the water.
On November 8, 1965, American Airlines Flight 383, a Boeing 727-100, crashed on approach to the Greater Cincinnati Airport with 62 people on board. Only three passengers and one flight attendant survived. The investigation determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the crew to properly monitor the altimeters during a visual approach into deteriorating visibility conditions.
On November 11, 1965, United Airlines Flight 227, a Boeing 727-100, departed New York-LaGuardia for a flight to San Francisco via Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Flight 227 crashed on landing at Salt Lake International Airport, causing the deaths of 43 of the 91 people on board.
On July 19, 1967, Piedmont Airlines Flight 22 collided with a twin-engine Cessna 310 shortly after departing from Asheville Regional Airport in Asheville, North Carolina. All 82 passengers and crew on the 727 and one person on board the Cessna were killed.
On February 16, 1968, Civil Air Transport Flight 010 crashed on approach to Taipei. The accident killed 21 of 63 passengers and crew and one person on the ground.
On 5 January 1969, Ariana Afghan Airlines Flight 701 crashed short of the runway near London Gatwick Airport killing 48 passengers and crew and 2 people on the ground.
In 1971, Alaska Airlines Flight 1866, a Boeing 727-100, crashed into a mountain while on approach to Juneau, Alaska. The cause included the crew's receiving misleading navigational information. All seven crew members and 104 passengers were killed.
In 1971, Northwest Airlines Flight 305 was hijacked by passenger D. B. Cooper while en route from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. After receiving a payment of $200,000 and four parachutes when he was in Seattle, he told the pilots to fly to Mexico, and jumped out of the aircraft from the aft airstairs over Washington or Oregon. Cooper's fate is unknown.
In 1972, during an attempted coup d'état, jets from the Royal Moroccan Air Force fired upon the Boeing 727 of King Hassan II of Morocco while he was traveling to Rabat. After the aircraft survived the attack, the king awarded the plane a medal of honor.
On February 21, 1973, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114, a Boeing 727-200 flying over the Sinai Desert was fired upon by Israeli air forces that suspected it of being an enemy military plane. Of 113 people on board, 108 died.
On December 1, 1974, TWA Flight 514, a Boeing 727-200 (registration N54328), crashed on Mount Weather while flying from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio, to Washington Dulles International Airport in turbulent weather. All 85 passengers and 7 crew members aboard were killed.
On December 1, 1974, a 727 on Northwest Airlines Flight 6231, also known as the Harriman State Park plane crash, crashed on the same day as TWA Flight 514.
In 1975, Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 crashed on approach for John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing 112 people. The cause was determined to be a microburst.
On November 19, 1977, TAP Portugal Flight 425 overran the runway at Madeira Airport and plunged over a steep bank, bursting into flames and killing 131 of the 164 people on board.
On September 25, 1978, Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182, a Boeing 727, crashed after colliding with a Cessna 172 aircraft in San Diego, killing 144 people.
On March 14, 1979, Royal Jordanian Airlines Flight 600, a Boeing 727, crashed at Doha Airport in Qatar after a approach into thunderstorm. The disaster killed 45 people out of 64 passengers on board.
On January 21, 1980, an Iran Air 727 crashed near Tehran, Iran, killing all 128 on board.
On April 25, 1980, Dan-Air Flight 1008, a Boeing 727-100 crashed in Tenerife. All on board were killed when the aircraft hit terrain while circling.
In 1982, VASP Flight 168, a Boeing 727-200A, a scheduled passenger flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Fortaleza crashed into a hillside on final approach to Fortaleza, killing all 137 people on board.
On January 1, 1985, Eastern Air Lines Flight 980, a Boeing 727, crashed into Mount Illimani at an altitude of 19,600 feet. All 29 crew and passengers on board were killed. The flight, flight number 980, was flying from Silvio Pettirossi International Airport and destined for El Alto International Airport.
On February 19, 1985, Iberia Airlines Flight 610, a Boeing 727, crashed after striking a television antenna while landing in Bilbao, killing 148 people. Flight 610 originated from Madrid-Barajas Airport.
On March 31, 1986, a Mexicana 727 with 167 people on board (eight crew and 159 passengers) crashed near Maravatío, Michoacán, Mexico. Shortly after takeoff and climbing to 29,000 feet, an overheated tire exploded in the right main wheel well, tearing through fuel lines and damaging the hydraulic and electrical systems. The resulting fire eventually rendered the aircraft uncontrollable. There were no survivors.
On January 8, 1987, Middle East Airlines Boeing 727-323C OD-AHB was destroyed by shelling after landing at Beirut International Airport.
On March 17, 1988, Avianca Flight 410, a Boeing 727 domestic flight, crashed into low mountains near Cúcuta - Norte de Santander, Colombia, after take-off, killing all 143 on board. It was determined that pilot error was also the cause of this crash, in a situation similar to that of Avianca Flight 011, five years earlier.
On October 21, 1989, Tan-Sahsa Flight 414 a Boeing 727-200 (N88705) operated as TAN, crashed at the "Cerro de Hula" mountains after an unsuccessful approach method, killing 127 people.
On October 27, 1989, an Avianca Boeing 727 crashed after a bomb exploded on board. All 6 crew and 101 passengers were killed.
On May 19, 1993 — SAM Colombia Flight 505, en route from Panama City, Panama, to Medellín, Colombia, hit Mt. Paramo de Frontino at 12,300 ft. while on approach to José María Córdova International Airport (SKRG). The aircraft descended into mountainous terrain before actually reaching the Abejorral non-directional beacon. The VHF omnidirectional range/distance measuring equipment (VHF/DME) had been sabotaged by terrorists and was not in service. All 132 passengers (including a group of Panamanian dentists on their way to a convention) were killed.
In 1996, an ADC Airlines 727 went down near Ejirin, Nigeria, after losing control after taking evasive action to avoid a midair collision. 143 people were killed in crash.
On October 10, 1998, On 10 October 1998, a Lignes Aériennes Congolaises 727 was hit by a shoulder-fired Strela 2 surface-to-air missile and crashed.
On May 25, 2003, a 727 with the registration number N844AA, formerly used by American Airlines, was stolen from Luanda's international airport in Angola. The fate of that aircraft was never discovered.
On January 2, 2010, Boeing 727-231F 9Q-CAA of Congolese airline Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation was substantially damaged when it departed the side of the runway at N'djili Airport, Kinshasha and was written off.
|Max. seating capacity
||133 ft 2 in (40.6 m)
||153 ft 2 in (46.7 m)
||108 ft (32.9 m)
||34 ft (10.3 m)
|Zero fuel weight
||100,000 lb (45,360 kg)
|Maximum take-off weight
||169,000 lb (76,818 kg)
||209,500 lb (95,028 kg)
|Maximum landing weight
||137,500 lb (62,400 kg)
||161,000 lb (73,100 kg)
|Take-off runway length
(at 148,000 lb)
|5,800 ft (1,768 m)
|Landing runway length
(at max landing wt)
|4,800 ft (1,463 m)
||5,080 ft (1,585 m)
||30,000 - 40,000 ft (9,144 - 12,192 m)
Max Altitude 42,000 (12801 m)
|Range fully loaded
||2700 NM (5000 km)
||2400 NM (4450 km)
|Max. fuel capacity
||8,186 US gal (31,000 L)
||9,806 US gal (37,020 L)
||P&W JT8D-7, -17R&S
Orders and deliveries