Taken on Aug. 6, 1955 the incredible video in this post features Boeing test pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnston performing a barrel roll to show off the prototype of the Boeing 707.
According to the video description, as part of the Dash 80s demonstration program, then Boeing president Bill Allen invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association and International Air Transport Association to the Seattle’s 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on Aug.t 6, 1955. Boeing’s 367-80, nicknamed the “Dash 80” was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Tex Johnston instead performed a barnstormer style barrel roll 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, Johnston replied that doing so was completely safe. Allen asked him: “What the hell were you doing?” Johnston replied “I was selling airplanes.”
Tex kept his position as a test pilot and did not get into any legal trouble for his actions. His flying style and cowboy type dress (Johnston earned his nickname, “Tex” because he always wore his Stetson cowboy hat and cowboy boots while on the flight line) is said to be the inspiration for Dr. Strangelove character Maj. T. J. “King” Kong, who, in rodeo style, rode a balky nuclear weapon to its target.
The Dash 80 prototype led to the commercial 707 and the military KC-135 tanker. Both planes shared the basic design of the Dash 80 but were very different airplanes, neither one being a derivative of the other. One great difference was in the width and length of the fuselage. Airlines wanted the 707 fuselage to be 4 inches (2.5 centimeters) wider than the tanker’s. Its width and the 100-foot length (30.5-meter) made it the largest passenger cabin in the air. Placement of its more than 100 windows allowed airlines to rearrange seats. Location of passenger doors on the left side, at the front and at the rear of the cabin, became standard for subsequent Boeing jets. The exteriors of the 707 and its competitor, the DC-8, were almost identical, but the 707 wing had more sweepback, so it could fly about 20 mph (32 kph) faster.
In just two years, the 707 would help change the way the world traveled. Travel by air eclipsed travel by rail and sea. The dawn of a new era in travel helped to make the terms “Boeing” and “707” fashionable. Requests poured into Boeing for rights to use “707” for naming products. Jantzen swimwear titled its 1957 collection “the 707.”
Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777 on Jun. 12, 1994, his last instructions from then Boeing President Phil Condit were “No rolls”.
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