Boeing 727

Sun Country 727
Sun Country 727

The Boeing 727 was, for a very long time, the most popular jet-liner in the world. The 727 first took to the skies in 1963, and entered service a year later - much earlier than its bigger and more famous sister the Boeing 747.

The 727 design arose as a compromise between United Airlines, American Airlines, and Eastern Airlines over the configuration of the successor to the Boeing 707. United Airlines wanted a four-engined aircraft for its flights to high-altitude airports, especially its hub in Stapleton International Airport. American wanted a twin-engined aircraft for efficiency reasons. Eastern wanted a third engine for its overwater flights to the Caribbean. Eventually, the three airlines agreed on a trijet, and thus the 727 was born.

The 727 has proved very successful with airlines world-wide because of its capability of landing in smaller runways while flying medium range routes. This effectively allowed airlines to attract passengers from cities with large populations but smaller airports to worldwide touristic destinations. One of the features that gave the 727 its ability to land on shorter runways was its unique wing design. Through flap extension and leading edge slat deployment, the 727 could almost double its wing surface area, allowing it to fly with great stability at very slow speeds.

The 727 was also designed to be used at smaller, regional airports which meant that independence from what may be non-existent ground facilities was an important requirement. This gave rise one of the 727's most distinctive features - the unique built-in airstair which dropped from the rear underbelly of the fuselage. Another innovation was the inclusion of an APU (Auxilliary Power Unit), which allowed electrical and air-conditioning systems to run independent from a ground-based power supply. The 727's three powerful engines also enabled quick take-offs from the shorter runways at small airports.

Even as the 747s came about during 1970, international airlines worldwide still needed the 727. Many of the airlines were from medium to large sized countries and needed to transport their passengers to the larger communities where they would catch the bigger airliners for their international flights.

In addition to that, the 727 proved extremely popular because the range of flights it could cover meant that the 727 would prove efficient for short to medium range international flights in areas around the world.

The 727 also has proved popular with cargo airlines and charter airlines. Federal Express began the cargo airline revolution in 1975 utilizing 727s. Many cargo airlines worldwide now employ the 727 as a work horse. 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 their airline division, Carnival Airlines.

The 727 proved so popular that many have described it as the "DC-3 of the Jet Age" meaning that the 727 is also a reliable and versatile plane that formed the core of many start-up airlines' fleets.

The 727 is also one of the loudest commercial jetliners, so most models in the United States must be fitted with Hush Kits to reduce engine noise if they are to land at most airports.

By the turn of the 21st century the 727 was still a vital part of some major American airlines' fleets (United, American, Delta, Northwest, Continental, Alaska, to name a few), but events would soon change that. The post-9/11 economic climate was perhaps the US Airline Industry's worst trauma since deregulation. Most airlines were already switching to twinjets, airplanes with only two engines. Twinjets tend to be much more efficient than planes with three (like the 727) or four jets. Moreover, the 727's JT8D jet engines utilize older low-bypass turbofan technology while more modern airlines utilize the more efficient and less noisy high-bypass turbofan design instead. Also, the 727 was one of the last airliners in service to have a three person crew, including a flight engineer, a crewmember whose job is performed by computerized systems on newer planes.

Faced with higher fuel costs, lower sales and the extra expense of maintaining older planes, most major airlines began phasing 727s out of their fleet. Delta, the last major US carrier to do so, retired its last 727 in 2003. However, the 727 is still flying for smaller start-up airlines, cargo airlines, and charter airlines, and it is also becoming increasingly popular as a private means of transportation.

Major airlines that have flown the jet include Delta Air Lines, Mexicana, Air France, American, Eastern Airlines, Viasa, Pan Am, Air Canada, Dominicana, Olympic Airways, Iberia, Avianca, Aerolneas Argentinas, British Airways, Lufthansa, ANA, Australian Airlines, Copa, Fed Ex and, among Charter Airlines, Carnival Airlines and Hapag-Lloyd. In addition to that, the USPS uses the type to fly mail from city to city every day.

The 727's sales record for the most jets bought in history, was broken in the early 1990s by its sister the Boeing 737.

On June 18, 2003, a 727 formerly used by American was stolen from Luanda's international airport in Angola. According to the AOL News, most intelligence agents believe the missing plane to be in the hands of terrorists or drug dealers. Others believe that the stolen example was the one that crashed off the coast of Benin on December 25 of that year.


Brief statistics

  • First flight: 1963
  • Production total: 1832 built
  • Production ended: 1984
  • Series: -100, -200


General characteristics (727-200)

  • Wingspan : 108 ft (32.91 m)
  • Length : 153 ft 2 in (46.69 m)
  • Tail height : 34 ft (10.36 m)
  • Powerplant : 3 × Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofans,
    • -15 rated at 15,500 lbf (69 kN) thrust
    • -17 rated at 16,000 lbf (71 kN) thrust
    • -17R rated at 17,400 lbf (77 kN) thrust
  • Max. number of passengers : 189


  • Cruising speed : 570 to 605 mph (890 to 965 km/h)
  • Cruising altitude : 30,000 to 40,000 feet (9,100 to 12,200 m)
  • Range : 1,500 to 2,500 miles (2,750 to 4,020 km)

Accident summary

(As of 2004)

  • Hull-loss Accidents: 85 with a total of 3698 fatalities
  • Other occurrences: 15 with a total of 256 fatalities
  • Hijackings: 180 with a total of 90 fatalities

External links:

Related content
Related Development
Similar Aircraft

Hawker-Siddeley Trident - Tupolev Tu-154

Designation Series

707 - 717 - 727 - 737 - 747 - 757 - 767 - 777 - 787

Related Lists

List of airliners

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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