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I've heard a lot of names for the 727.

Some have called it the "DC-3 of the Jet Age".

At my company we called it the "Jurassic Jet", "Slave Ship" (because it flew the toughest schedules), or "Whistling Sh$thouse" (because of the lavatory's proximity to the cockpit).

Call it whatever you want, I loved flying it.

I've always loved the 727. When I was a kid, if I was doodling a picture of a jet airliner (instead of paying attention in class) it probably looked like a 727. It just looks fast with those sharply swept wings and the way it sits nose-down on its wheels like a muscle car.

When I was older and flying as a passenger I liked them because they had a nice ride and an enviable safety record.

And when I finally got my chance to fly one (after six months of sitting sideways in them) I was thrilled.

First Officer on a 727 was about the best job in the airline business. The Engineer does all the work and the Captain has all the responsibility. All I had to do was drive the jet. And what a jet it was.

Time for a little history. After the success of the 707, several airlines wanted a smaller jet that could economically service smaller cities over shorter routes. United wanted enough performance to operate out of Denver. Eastern wanted to fly from LaGuardia, with its short runways, to Miami and from Miami to the Caribbean.

What they came up with was a design with engines in the tail, leaving the wing clean and allowing the use of high lift devices along the entire wing. Note that Boeing didn't invent this, the French and British were already doing it with the Caravelle and B.A.C. 111.

To this day most smaller jets use the tail-mounted engine configuration because the wing sits too low for pod-mounted engines.

It looks fast because it is fast.
The requirement for over water capability (under the rules of the day) meant three engines were needed.

Finally, the airlines wanted the plane to be self supporting for when it operated out of smaller airports with limited facilities. It was given an Auxiliary Power Unit (tucked into the wheel well) so it could self start and the characteristic rear air-stairs.

The end result was an aircraft capable of .90 mach and a range of 2700 miles yet able to operate out of a 4800 foot runway.

So how's it fly? This is the last of the old school airliners. You actually fly it, you don't program it. The cockpit has just the basics. Old fashioned "steam gauges" plus a fairly basic autopilot. Most of ours didn't even have GPS, so we were going from VOR to VOR just like the old days.

How primitive man used to fly.
They're noisy, both inside and outside. At least the freighter cockpits are noisy because the sound insulation has been stripped out to save weight. Even with a "hush kit" the engines are noisy. Some places don't even allow them anymore for that reason. Ironically Eastern used to call these "Whisperjets".

They can be a bit underpowered depending on which flavor of JT8D engine the plane is equipped with. If you're lucky enough to fly one of the re-engined "Super 27s" they're rocket ships.

Oh but they're fast! Climbing out at 250 knots below 10,000 the plane feels like it's "mushing" through the air. Once you lower the nose and start accelerating past 300 it "planes out" like a powerboat. It doesn't really come alive until you get some speed.

Top speed is .90 mach or .88 in the stretched 727-200s. Not much goes that fast anymore. A few business jets will but that's about it. A 757 maxes out around .84 and we mostly cruise around at .80 to save fuel.

Handling is superb. No other big jet I've flown has felt as crisp and responsive on the controls. It reminds me more of the T-38 than anything else.

The ride is Cadillac smooth. The high wing-loading dampens a lot of the smaller bumps.

I always felt safe in a 727. It's built like the proverbial tank. They threw in some extra metal just for good measure. As one instructor told me:

"These were built back when we were still afraid to fly"
The flight controls were powered by dual hydraulic systems, one engine-driven and the other run by electric pumps. If all that failed, there were good old-fashioned cables and pulleys. Probably the last airliner to have manual reversion. Mr. Boeing doesn't like a single point of failure.

What's most amazing is the ability to slow from .90 mach down to 130 knots and land on a short runway. Even Boeing won't build a wing this complex any more. Both inboard and outboard ailerons, plus spoilers. Full width leading edge flaps and slats. It's an amazing piece of engineering.

Good shot of the wing configured for takeoff.
It wasn't that hard to land, but smooth landings were hard to come by. Especially on the 727-200s, which were stretched by 20 feet. The main gear were so far aft that flaring to land almost drove them into the runway.

The trick was to flare the plane and then ease off just a touch and "roll" the mains onto the runway. And whatever you do, don't pull the power until it's about ready to touch down or it will come down like a brick.

So what's not to like? Why aren't we still traveling across the country on these things?

Fuel prices mostly. A 727 burns roughly 10,000 pounds of fuel an hour. A 757 will carry the same payload for around 7,000 lbs/hr. A 737-800 or A320 will do it for even less. Plus you only have to pay for two pilots on those airplanes.

Upkeep is also expensive. Those round-dial gauges look simple but they're more like Swiss watches - with all the expense and complexity. Modern flat screen displays are a lot less expensive and there's not much to break.

Finally, they're just getting old. The last ones were built almost 30 years ago. Unlike military aircraft, airliners get flown a lot. A 30 year old airliner most likely has seen plenty of service. Some of our older 727-100s had so many leaks they would barely pressurize. At some point it's just cheaper to buy new.

I still love the 727. If I absolutely had to fly through some horrible weather it's the plane I would pick to get me through it.

Originally posted to Major Kong on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 07:56 PM PST.

Also republished by Kossack Air Force and Central Ohio Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (140+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    profewalt, JeffW, ExStr8, begone, notrouble, Azazello, Bisbonian, skod, Ohiodem1, Timaeus, Slaw, Hey338Too, ancblu, Free Jazz at High Noon, lotac, BlackSheep1, jwinIL14, jo fish, Pandora, ruleoflaw, here4tehbeer, out of left field, politik, paulitics, Ekaterin, TomFromNJ, Simplify, PrahaPartizan, davybaby, twigg, mookins, Risen Tree, jck, billmosby, pixxer, BlueJessamine, cosette, Youffraita, tegrat, DeadHead, sea note, AngieV, Lefty Coaster, riverlover, magnetics, subtropolis, Otteray Scribe, Permanent Republican Minority, lazybum, Tinfoil Hat, Oye Sancho, tampaedski, semiot, Melanie in IA, Buckeye54, susan in sc, sawgrass727, badscience, cactusgal, itzadryheat, Byron from Denver, boatjones, Habitat Vic, profundo, roses, GulfExpat, peterj911, dustbin, nzanne, Ice Blue, mali muso, Brian1066, mconvente, BrooklynRaider, dougymi, mndan, Miggles, No one gets out alive, Ed in Montana, kevin k, jessical, MKinTN, Late Spring, thestructureguy, AdamR510, kevinpdx, fisheye, chimpy, InAntalya, blue speck, OIL GUY, Sean Robertson, JimWilson, Pilotshark, FindingMyVoice, MarkInSanFran, gas28man, JanetT in MD, mkor7, fluffy, nickinnewyork, techno, implicate order, JLan, NBBooks, SierraDrinker, PaloAltoPixie, Rhysling, Vatexia, HybriDude, wilderness voice, xaxnar, IndyinDelaware, high coup haiku, LillithMc, MRA NY, Blicero, wheeldog, terabytes, hyperstation, envwq, Mr Robert, flygrrl, elfling, winsock, beth meacham, worldly1, VTCC73, Oldestsonofasailor, Joy of Fishes, rgjdmls, BusyinCA, markdd, emmasnacker, Turbonerd, Wheever, jhop7, Mulkum, gattogrosso, windje

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 07:56:40 PM PST

  •  I got your jet age DC-3 right here . (11+ / 0-)

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:07:26 PM PST

  •  The Kossack Air Force is busy tonight Major. (9+ / 0-)

         Did you see this one ?

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:18:28 PM PST

  •  Hmm, and I always thought of the 707 (13+ / 0-)

    as the jet age DC-3...the one everybody else copied, in one form or another (the rear mounted engines of the 727 were tried out on the 707 prototype, the "Dash 80".

    Of course, I always thought the 727s were very cool...they look faster, though a 707 was pretty fast, too.  .9 for the redline, .77 for best range, but .82 wasn't much thirstier.

    Now I fly the Baby Boeing.  Hey, they're getting better looking :)  Took my type ride in a -100, and flew my first nine months (and much of the next ten years) in the -200s.  As a minor quibble, I would say THAT was the LAST of the old school airliners.  No INS, no computers, cable flight controls...even a flight engineer for a while (though he didn't have anything to do).  -200s flew pretty good.  Nice handling, balanced controls.  But, they won't come down and slow down at the same time...very hard to slow down, and they aren't going all that fast to begin with!

    I look forward to seeing the last of the -300s.  -500s are an awful mix of more power, more wing, more tail, and less moment arm.  -700s are pretty decent, and the -800s are pretty much a pig.

    I regret that I will probably never fly a Seven Two...definitely the coolest looking of the lot.

    When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

    by Bisbonian on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:26:24 PM PST

  •  I recognize (6+ / 0-)

    that first photo - there's one sitting at the west end of Burbank Airport. It's been there awhile - I think they did something with the wings; they were off for a while.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:29:08 PM PST

  •  I'm a fan of this series! (6+ / 0-)

    The number to call is BR-549.

    by lotac on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:45:14 PM PST

  •  By the way, the 727 is responsible for one of (7+ / 0-)

    my friend's flying career.  He was an airline mechanic.  When the airline got a (one) 727, they made a few mechanics into flight engineers.  When the plane left the property, he decided he still wanted to fly, and got hired plumbing for one of the Saudi princes.  He worked his way to the right, and finally the left seat, and back to the airlines.

    He loved the nosewheel brakes.

    When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

    by Bisbonian on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:45:36 PM PST

  •  The Chicago Museum of Industry has a (10+ / 0-)

    complete Boeing 727 mounted inside.

    It's almost, but not quite, as cool as the captured U-505 German Uboat they have on display.  ;)

  •  727's in Chicago (13+ / 0-)

    thanks!  Living in chicago (ORD/MDW) we saw a LOT of 727's.  I loved them.  We had an AA flight from CLE to ORD that was pretty late, but we had a 727.  Pilot comes up on the intercom before we pushed back, let us know that he was going to try and make the many many connections in Chicago.  We were going to go as fast as he could get a routing for.  He commented that we were on the sports car of the air. We didn't even have a drink service enroute.  I think we did CLE-ORD in about 35 minutes -fastest flight between those two points I've ever done!  Almost everyone made their connections that night.  The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a UAL 727-100 as part of their exhibits.  The most senior pilot at UAL (from what I understand) got the assignment to fly from ORD and land at the old Meigs Field on Chicago's lakefront.  From there they barged it about 5 miles to the museum site, and then a short overland trip to the museum. I saw pics of the landing -the pilot had everything out, and he put that 727 smartly down on the numbers! Made it just fine, but the pilot commented that it was probably the shortest runway he ever put a 727 down on.
    The bird is in UAL's original jet color scheme, and has a number of seating arrangments.  Nice to see her well preserved.

  •  Air Micronesia (12+ / 0-)

    Back in the mid-70's, Air Mike flew 727-stretches on the island hopping route, Guam, Truk, Palau, Yap, Ponape, Majuro, Kwajalein, Johnson Island and Hawaii.  At least one of the runways (Truk) was 4200 feet, 600 feet short of the minimum for a 727.  (Those numbers are from memory, but the runway was too short, according to the rules).  The FAA gave special dispensation for the short runway, which also wasn't asphalt paved in those days, being hard-packed coral, and the runway (there was only one), ended in the lagoon on both ends.  Landing was a trip, to put it bluntly.  Touchdown, and immediate reverse thrusters and brakes with enough force to put passenger heads down in their laps and a cloud of coral dust.  Takeoff was only marginally less exciting, with throttle up, brakes off and full throttle roll, again accompanied by the cloud of coral dust.  Sometime around the early 80's the runway was lengthened and paved, which took just a bit of the fun out of it.

    •  I shudder while thinking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bisbonian, chimpy

      how much damage the coral dust must have inflicted on the engines.

      And they’'ll drink 'til their eyes are red with hate for those of a different kind. -Richard Thompson

      by lazybum on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 03:19:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm trying to remember the whole story ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bisbonian, chimpy, lazybum

        ... but Continental Airlines used to be pretty much the only air carrier to islands like Truk, Yap and Palau in Micronesia.  These airports are built on coral islands ... many "upgraded" from WWII Japanese airfields.  In Yap and Truk the runway is right on the edge of the water and over time the coral filler surrounding the runway has sank away leaving a 1-2 foot "leading edge" on a concrete runway.  As suggested in the diary, 727 are great at short field landings ... which all these small island runways required.  In the early 80's, one short field landing on Yap resulted in touchdown on the coral filler prior to the end of the runway.  As the airplane crossed the concrete of the actual runway (which of course was elevated above the coral filler), it snapped the main landing gear and the airplane then slid down the runway veering left.  Probably cause of course was pilot error in aiming touchdown before the actual concrete runway.  As a Continental Captain involved in the review explained to me, the scene was out of a James Bond movie.  The Captain and crew successfully got everyone off the plane safely ... as the fuel and oil that trailed the crash caught fire and gradually crept toward the airplane.  Apparently the airplane was a fixture off the Yap runway for some time.  Continental managed to paint the exposed tail to wipe off its logo since they continued to fly into Yap.  I am extremely sympathetic for the passengers that were stuck in Yap!  Just passing through there was an "experience" I hope to never repeat!  

  •  Cruise flaps? (7+ / 0-)

    ISTR a story from an old-time pilot that these were often flown very high (to save fuel, maybe?) and that up there they often used cruise flaps on them.

    And, of course, D.B. Cooper made them (more) famous, along with the "D.B. Cooper switch" that prevents egress during flight.

    •  I've heard of those "cruise flaps" too (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eyesoars, Simplify, subtropolis, chimpy

      1 degree up from flush, if I heard it right.  Kong will know.

      When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

      by Bisbonian on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:04:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One fell out of the sky (metaphorically) (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, Bisbonian, Ice Blue, chimpy, eyesoars

      (mouseover identifiers to decode)

      Back in the '70s, I think. It was a TWA flight, and I don't recall from where to where, but somewher in the vicinity of ECK the a/c fell out of FL390 (stalled) and dropped many thousand feet before they regained control. They diverted to DTW, and an investigation ensued.

      The flight crew (captain's name was "Hoot" Gibson) all denied playing with "cruise flaps" and curiously, the 30 minute loop CVR (cockpit voice recorder) had been erased and nobody could prove anything. I don't remember the deneoument but I think they got some time on the beach.

      It was quite a transition for me transferring from ZJX to ZAU as the highest airliner we ever saw in ZJX was the odd Delta Convair at FL370. When I got to ZAU we routinely saw Tri-jets (as we called 727s) at FL410B430. They got the block altitude because what they really wanted was FL420—the highest altitude they were certified for—and back in those pre-RSVM days, 42 was not available. Up to that time, I had no idea they could fly that high.

      They were all flights from the West Coast and of course that was not their initial altitude, but by the time they'd flown halfway across the country and we got them over FOD and MCW they'd shed a lot of weight in fuel burn. As I recall, we didn't see many coming in over PWE, and I suspect it might have been due to temperature. TAT was a factor in determining how high the jets could fly, as well as weight.

      These were mostly ORD inbounds. While we certainly had some coast to coast flights in the same airspace, for some reason my memory wasn't impacted by them the same way it was for inbounds. I guess because overflights were "check 'em on, check 'em off" while we actually had to work to get the inbounds sequenced and down.

      •  I know Hoot. Retired a few years ago. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chimpy, exatc, Azazello

        It's nice to hear a controller who knows something about how airplanes fly, and their limitations.  Getting pretty scarce.

        When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

        by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:32:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          (mouseover annoying abbreviations to decode)

          It probably helped that I was a pilot first. Nothing past Comm ASEL/I with a few hundred hours, but I spent a lot of time on the flight deck on FAM trips over the years. I was a controller who truly benefited from that time, using the program for what it was primarily intended. I couldn't tell you how many FAMs I took, but I can count on one hand the number that I spent back in the cabin, and only one where it was the preference of the captain (and, no, it wasn't my fault).

          I also have a natural curiosity about stuff, so I made it a point to try and learn, then apply, as much knowledge about the other side of the radio as I could. Some of it was pretty obscure, too. For example, in the '70s, there were three legged DC-10s and four legged DC-10s. The four legged ones had INS (a form of the modern descriptor RNAV). They always got "direct" from me without even having to ask if they were capable. There are several levels of detail in that example.

          I appreciate your sentiments.

          •  I had a LAS Tower controller on the jumpseat (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            once.  Can't do that any more.  Too bad...we had a great interchange of information.  The relationship seems to be getting more adversarial all the time, now.

            When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

            by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:00:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Hoot retired here, didn't he ? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bisbonian, eyesoars

          I once knew a guy who dated Hoot's daughter briefly, very briefly. I'm sure the guy I'm talking about would not quite have measured up to Hoot's standards. I met Mrs. Hoot who had been a stewardess on one of those Boeing liners that were basically passenger versions of the B-29. It had two decks and a staircase.


          The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

          by Azazello on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:35:17 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, he's in Arizona...I think possibly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Tucson, or maybe Vail.  He has Real Estate signs all over in rural SE AZ, now.

            In a weird sequence of coincidences, his brother was the one who did the required test flight on my plane, back in the '70s. The builder didn't know how to fly (yet), but quickly learned.

            When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

            by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:25:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I had to look that one up (8+ / 0-)

      Supposedly some crews would pull the circuit breaker so the leading-edge slats wouldn't come out and then extend the trailing flaps to 2 degrees.

      This supposedly helped improve lift at high altitudes.

      Sounds like a bad idea to me. Start messing with the wing at those mach numbers and you've just promoted yourself to test pilot.

      I doubt Boeing did any wind tunnel testing with flaps extended at .90 mach.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 05:39:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmm... The one degree up thing must have (0+ / 0-)

        been the gliders, then.

        When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

        by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:31:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The first notch of flaps on the 727 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          was 2 degrees. I think the 747 may have a Flaps 1 setting.

          The 727 had 2, 5, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40

          Flaps 2 gave you partial slats
          Flaps 5 gave you full leading edge flaps and slats

          We weren't certified for 40 so that last detent was locked out.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:53:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

        That and the note above align with what I vaguely recall (that being many years ago). That the flaps were used to get as high as possible (~FL 410) to minimize fuel consumption.

  •  A Boeing 727 was the 1st aircraft I ever rode in, (7+ / 0-)

    shortly followed by a DC8.  The pilot of each let me peek into cockpit.  At age 7 my eyes grew big as saucers both times, but I told the DC8 crew that the 727 looked a lot neater.  Two of them just sorta smiled politely, one did NOT.   ;-) That was in 1966.

    Father Time remains undefeated.

    by jwinIL14 on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:03:01 PM PST

  •  D. B. Cooper liked it too (4+ / 0-)

    Here's a sketchy discussion board history of the plane's life after the incident.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot

    by paulitics on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:04:49 PM PST

  •  Fascinating Diary! (10+ / 0-)

    One of the things I love about dKos is that no matter what the subject, there's always someone here who is a true expert.

    Great job!

  •  I always liked the 727. (6+ / 0-)

    My most memorable flight in one was from Detroit to Salt Lake City one day in 1977. It must have been in late March because I remember the Tenerife disaster was still in the news, and the weather was so bad all the way I couldn't help thinking about that.

    Anyway, I was in one of those rearward facing seats all the way towards the front of the cabin. All I could see were all the other rows all the way to the rear, a really long tube full of people as it was one of the stretched ones.

    As we got to the mountainous parts of the route, the turbulence got worse and worse, with a lot of pitching and rolling motions, until finally I got such a case of vertigo that I really couldn't tell which way we were rolling and which way was up. Eyes open or closed, it made no difference. After about 20 minutes of that, I started thinking that I could just about see getting airsick at some point, and that is the only time I ever came anywhere near that state.

    About 10 minutes after that point we had let down into the Salt Lake valley and the turbulence moderated quite a bit. But almost all the way down I couldn't see a thing on the ground until the very last seconds. Tenerife came to mind again. But all was well, and I made the connecting flight up to Idaho Falls where I had the job interview that resulted in my being an Idahoan for the next 28 years.

    Despite what I have written, I really liked the 727 and always appreciated the times I got to fly on one.

    Much later I got to fly a number of times on Tu-154s. Though they look something like 727s, they are somewhat larger. Air turbulence is mostly absent in Russia in my experience so I never had a chance to see how those compare to 727s in that respect. I have read here and there that the Tu-154 is now the fastest airliner in service in any quantity, with a cruise mach of 0.90. Although with their fuel burn they are said to be flown down in the range of .87 or .88 these days.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:44:44 PM PST

  •  3-holer (5+ / 0-)

    Three engines is a nice optimum: with two engines there's a lot of excess power because it still has to be able to take off if it loses one, while with four engines there's the added purchase and maintenance cost along with higher likelihood of a mechanical problem just because there are more moving parts that could fail.

    On a big plane, three heavy engines in the tail would make for a narrow center of gravity range for the passengers/luggage or cargo. Hence the DC-10 and L1011, with one engine on each wing and the third in the tail. Problem was, maintenance access for that center tail engine is a pain in the ass. On the L1011, the designers even considered putting two engines on one wing and one on the other. Would've worked fine, too, although they figured the passenger acceptance wouldn't be there!

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 10:22:09 PM PST

  •  Still see Fed-Ex 727's here in Iowa. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The faculty golf league course is near the airport and the 727's come right over us for landing. A real substantial plane, not like the composite fly by wire death traps up there now.

    Only Amtrak for me...poorly cheaply maintained crap in skies now, IMHO..Yeah, I know, almost no crashes anymore, but the turbulence is terrible in the little crap they use now.

    WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

    by IARXPHD on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 10:51:39 PM PST

  •  Hush kit indeed (7+ / 0-)

    Many years ago I used to live in the Georgetown area of Seattle. Directly north of the runway at Boeing Field. Occasionally you'd get a cargo plane taking off and flying right overhead. I'm pretty sure it was the FedEx 727's that were the ones where all conversation would stop in the house until they passed.

  •  Boeing 727 (5+ / 0-)

    One of the great work horses in American aviation history.

    I understand that 23 are still in service.

    thanks for posting this.

    "It ain't over till it's over."-Yogi Berra

    by mock38 on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 01:58:46 AM PST

  •  landings (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JohnnySacks, Bisbonian, chimpy

    Was surprised to read that smooth landings were hard to come by. As a passenger I always felt safe at landing time on a 727 because touchdowns were always soft and smooth. Today's airliners seem to be semi-controlled crashes with minor but disconcerting swerving at the higher speeds as the airplane slows; maybe due to more automation.

    •  How Many Landings In 2+ Decades? (0+ / 0-)

      Figuring short hops are their mainstay, Miami-Atlanta, Boston-NYC, that's at least 2 landings a day, figure a couple hundred days a year.  Damn, that's 8,000 drops from the sky after 20 years!  (and I bet I'm being conservative on the numbers)

  •  So what's not to like? (6+ / 0-)

    The damn things are freaking noisy! When I grew up in the 70's we lived right under Laguardia's flight path, and I used to hear the damn things take off and land dozens of times a day. I didn't find them terribly attractive, what with their long and thin profile and rear-mounted jets that made them look like rubber band toy planes, compared to wide-bodied behemoths like the DC-10, 1010 Tristar and, of course, the 747.

    Plus, you knew that they only flew domestically, to boring places like Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and not to romantic overseas destinations like Paris or Rome or even cool domestic ones like Los Angeles (Disney!). These were the preferred mode of transport for mid-level white bread gray flannel suit corporate executives who worked for companies that made toilet paper, hospital supplies and industrial pipe fittings. Zzzzzzz...

    Plus, they were powered by now obsolete turbojets, not today's prevalent turbofans, which are quieter, more powerful and more efficient--and also more attractive, IMO. Those things were NOISY.

    But I don't doubt you that they were fun to fly. At my ear drums' expense!

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:04:57 AM PST

    •  They always had turbofans, but they (7+ / 0-)

      were the long skinny low-bypass turbofans, not the big high-bypass fans in vogue now.  The last of the straight turbojets were used on the early model 707s.  The REALLY LOUD ONES HAD WATER INJECTION...sorry about the noise, there.

      When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

      by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:39:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Which to my developing ears were basically (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bisbonian, chimpy, bobinson

        the same, or seemed so. Of course, by the 70's turbojets weren't in wide use outside of the military, right, so perhaps, relatively speaking, I had it good?

        What was the water for, cooling or noise suppression?

        Btw, it's been really cold here on the east coast these past few days and I've noticed that planes making a landing approach to Laguardia (I once again live under its flight path!) have this weird "whooshing" sound come out their turbofans that they don't normally make. Is this the result of the colder than usual and thus denser low altitude air being inherently noisier going through a turbofan, or the result of measures taken by these engines to handle such cold air? Or does this sound effect have more to do with the motion of the plane itself, including wings with flaps and spoilers deployed, through cold air?

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:46:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What was the water for? (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie, Ice Blue, bobinson, elfling, VTCC73

          MORE NOISE!

          The theory was, more mass flow in, more mass flow out, i.e. greater thrust.  Actually, it went into the combustion chamber, cooled it down enough that you could throw in a bunch more fuel (25-30% more), which then brought the temp back up.  More fuel, more noise, more smoke (!), and a little more thrust.  The JT-3D-49WB put out 9,600 pounds of thrust, dry, or 12,800 pounds, wet.  The CFM-56-2 that replaced it puts out 24,000 pounds...nice big, relatively quiet, almost smokeless, high-bypass turbofan.

          I notice the fans make more noise when there is more humidity.  Also, if there is a low overcast, or (especially) a temperature inversion, the noise bounces off of that and makes a weird sound.  And, it could be the wake vortices from the wingtips, which similarly get louder under certain atmospheric conditions.

          When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

          by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:27:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  make that JT-3C, oops. (0+ / 0-)

            When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

            by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:27:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I had no idea that injecting water (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            made a jet more powerful. Wasn't that offset somewhat by the extra weight of the water that had to be carried, along with the extra cost, complexity and risk that adding such a subsystem to the plane entailed, and perhaps reduced passenger and/or cargo carrying capacity?

            Thankfully, high-bypass turbofans made all that moot. I think.

            Btw, as an aside, do you know if it will it ever be practical from a technical and/or cost perspective to replace at least some traditional fuel-burning jets that are at the core of all turbofans with electric motors, i.e. ducted electric fans, assuming we ever solve the battery capacity, weight, cost and safety issues? Meaning, assuming the batteries can be made someday that could supply enough electricity cheaply in a light, safe and reliable form, will it ever be possible to produce an electric motor powerful enough to replace today's fuel-burning jets (or an array of less powerful ones)?

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:38:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Extra cost, complexity, weight, risk? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Yes, all of the above.  The water tank in a 707-100 held 5681 lbs of water.  The engines burned it in two minutes...just long enough to take off and get the flaps up.  It had to be heated in the winter, or drained if it got too cold for the heaters.  If the water pumps failed, it was like losing an engine.

              I suspect batteries will always be heavier than fuel, but I had never thought of using electric motors.  Now what if one jet engine turned an auxiliary generator (as they usually do), that powered an electric fan?  Might work, but I think we're getting into cumulative losses of efficiency in the process.  It would be interesting to work it out, though.

              When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

              by Bisbonian on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:08:30 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It occured to me a while back (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                In theory, it could work from what I understand about how turbofans work, which generate up to 80% of their power from the ducted air and as little as 20% from the core jet engine. So an electric motor moving an identical amount of air at the same speed and pressure could be up to 80% as powerful as a turbofan that did that. If it could be made around 20% more energy efficient than a jet engine (factoring in weight and everything else of course), then we could see breakeven (assuming the costs were also in line).

                Why would we want to do this? Well, aside from the fact that we're running out of fossil fuels and they're getting more expensive (and harder and dirtier to extract), even if we weren't, or could manufacture enough synthetic fuels to replace them, they're dirty to burn and contribute to global warming and other nasty environmental effects, whereas solar, wind and hydro power, while not completely clean (making and in the case of hydro installing them incurs an environmental cost), are ultimately cleaner than combustible fuels, both fossil and synthetic. And electric motors are becoming ever more efficient and quiet. Making the real issues being one, can they ever become powerful enough to generate enough power to replace jets, and two, can we ever make the batteries needed to power them light, cheap, safe and reliable enough to supply enough power to make that realistic at 30k feet?

                Also, why aren't today's planes covered with solar panels to offset even a part of the energy needed to power their electrical systems? No lack of sunlight up there! Is it because they're too heavy and expensive at this point, or have too much negative impact on aerodynamics and maintenance?

                "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                by kovie on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:23:34 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  The more they could cool the mix down (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            before it got to the turbines, the better.

            Turbine blades were made of titanium.  (They probably still are but it's been a while since I paid attention to my materials science.)   Said titanium begins to thermally fail at, IIRC, ~7000K.  You can bitch and stomp and do math all day but that's still a given.  What the designers were trying to do was lower the temperature of the combustion mix as much as possible before it hit the turbine blades.  That way they could raise the engine's pathetically low efficiency by a teeny tiny bit.

            Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn

            by Ice Blue on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:13:19 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Those were the days (0+ / 0-)

            back when man thought he could burn water!

            If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

            by Major Kong on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:04:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, I remember flying in the farthest back (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bisbonian, chimpy, bobinson

      row of a 727 once, and the noise was something else.  During the cruise of that flight the RPM of each engine was a little different, resulting in a very long moaning sound due to the beat frequency.

      •  Yes! I've ridden in those seats, too! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bisbonian, bobinson

        Noisy isn't the word for it.  And then that infernal bass whump-whump-whump at certain speeds.  Lots of vibration back there, too, as I recall.  Still, they were quieter than the Ilyushin-18s with their weird counter-rotating dual propellers on each engine...  Now those were LOUD!!!  I really don't think the Russians knew what acoustical insulation was...  

        -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

        by GulfExpat on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:59:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I know diddly about planes but I sure enjoy (7+ / 0-)

    your series!

    That cockpit looks exactly like my mind's eye's perfect crystallization of what a cockpit looks like. Floor levers and lots of dials :-)

    How does the 727 compare with the L10-11?

    •  I never flew the L1011 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      however I know several who have. They all said it was by the best thing they ever flew.

      Unfortunately they were beaten to market by the flawed DC-10 so they never sold enough to break even.

      They used to say the ultimate airliner would be designed by Lockheed, assembled by Boeing and marketed by Douglas.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:03:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The L1011 is a lot bigger. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

           it was a wide-body, Lockheed's 747.

      The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

      by Azazello on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:25:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The first time I flew in a 727 (Chicago-Seattle), (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crider, mconvente, Bisbonian, chimpy

    it backfired loudly on takeoff.  A fearful flyer, I came very close to soiling myself. None of the other passengers acted as though they heard it, and I kept my eyes glued on the wing the rest of the way, like William Shatner in the Twilight Zone episode. (I still have armrest material under my fingernails.)

    Later, when we moved to Seattle, I never shared that incident because I thought nobody would believe it, and I feared being renditioned by the Boeing secret police.  

    Great diary, Major!

  •  As a passenger, I've logged many, many (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, chimpy, MRA NY, PrahaPartizan

    hours in 727s as well as 720s and 707s. I always found the 727 to be very comfortable, and as long as you sat at least eight or ten rows from the back, the noise levels were actually very good -- certainly quieter than sitting over the wing in a 707.  I used to fly them in and out of Pierre and Rapid City, SD, where they had to use their built-in power supplies because the airports didn't have the equipment that larger ones had.  And since they were the only largish aircraft serving those points on barely a daily basis, they didn't have large enough stairways, either, so we always used the fold down stairway at the back to board or disembark.  

    I was also lucky enough to have a few flights on the old VC-10, the Brit counterpart to the 707.  All four of its jets were in the tail.  For passengers at least, I think it was the most comfortable jet in the air.  If you were seated in the front half of the aircraft, you could talk to your neighbors at a normal conversational volume and understand every word.  Caravelles were nice, too.  Loved the triangular windows with the rounded corners.  Very, very elegant looking. I think United was the only company to fly them in the US.  (I remember taking their 7:00 a.m. all-first class flight between Minneapolis and Chicago a number of times.  Back then, as a student under 26, you could fly 50% stand-by, and if there was a spare seat, whether in first or economy, and there were standby passengers, the airline had to fill them up.)

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 07:16:25 AM PST

    •  That's the Rest of the Route! (0+ / 0-)

      I used to fly those Caravelles on United's Cleveland to Baltimore portion of the route.  I was trying to remember where United's routing headed after Cleveland, but Chicago and points north and west makes eminent sense.  Flying student stand-by on United's all first-class seating (whether Caravelle, Viscount or DC-6)  was sought by all of my fellow students on that run.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:32:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice memories (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, chimpy, Mr Robert

    You've answered one question I used to have about the 727. I'd look out the window and see what looked like a flat front edge on the wing. That must have been the landing flaps you talk about. It did look odd.

    I had a roommate in college who worked for Boeing in the '60s. He said the only problem with 727s was that their takeoff angle was so steep (remember that?) that pilots were sometimes scraping the tail on the runway.

    I agree with the DC-3 comparison. Both have a solid ride. The DC-3 feels more like a Greyhound bus than a plane. And some DC-3s are still flying.

    •  You had to watch for tail strikes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They actually installed a retractable tail skid. You didn't want to hit the skid, because the tail still wasn't really stressed for it.

      They'd end up having to inspect the plane and you'd be talking to some people you probably didn't want to talk to.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:00:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I never got to fly one (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, chimpy

    but got to work on a few -100 and -200`s

    I as well always love looking at one in flight or even on the ground, it did have that i want to be in the air look.


  •  awesome (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, Mr Robert

    I didn't wake up this morning expecting to learn about the 727, let alone from someone who flew them, but it was a fantastic addition to my coffee. On top of that, if I ever have to fly in a 727 again, I'll feel that much safer. Thanks for writing Major Kong!

    "Don't be afraid to say revolution." --Dr. Cornel West

    by nickinnewyork on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 08:44:04 AM PST

  •  My dad's cousin worked for Boeing in Wichita (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, bobinson

    Back in the day when machinists were still treated like royalty in the aerospace industry.  He had been there since WW II so had a lot of seniority.  He got assigned to supervise the parts fabrication for the 727's tail section.  

    I discovered this little fact not long after I had become a full-blown airplane nut so the next time I saw him, I quizzed him for several HOURS about the tail end of a 727.  He was very proud of that airplane and what it meant for jet travel to previously unserved airports like Washington National.  I remember him claiming that the 727 exceeded every engineer's projection for flight performance when it finally flew—esp rate of climb and top speed.  He claimed that had never happened before at Boeing so lots of guys like him got some trinket as a sign of appreciation.

  •  I've said it before (5+ / 0-)

    Having a window seat on the wing was extra fun - it was like a magic trick or something out of Transformers watching that wing just expand in all directions on approach and landing.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:29:18 AM PST

  •  Finding the cabin leaks used to be easy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, MRA NY, elfling, PrahaPartizan

    Buddy of mine is an aircraft maintenance guy for United. He says back in the old days, it was easy to find the cabin leaks. They usually occurred along the door seals. When passengers were allowed to smoke, all he had to do was look for the tar stripe then replace that seal. When the smoking went away, the stripes went away but the leaks remained.

    i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

    by bobinson on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:31:22 AM PST

  •  Like a rocket out of National ! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I remember as a kid passenger, flying on a 27 out of National on a cold winter day, that upon rotation, the pilot must've pulling the stick back into his lap. Cuz the aircraft seemingly stood on its tail and climbed like a fighter, leaving our collective stomachs on the tarmac.

    Must've been one of those "Super 27s" that you mentioned :)

    The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

    by ozsea1 on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:12:07 AM PST

    •  And Landings Were Just the Reverse (0+ / 0-)

      Some of the first 727s flying into Washington National were flown by Northwest.  I had the chance to fly into National out of Cleveland when I first started flying while in college.  It was a real eye-opener.  All of Northwest's pilots appeared to have been naval aviators given the way they placed the plane onto the runway.  They were still looking for the cable when they landed.  The 727s could obviously land at National, but it seemed as if more than one pilot was drifting the plane off the runway onto the taxi way, since one could watch the Potomac River about 100 feet away rush past your line of vision out a window as the plane hurried by.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:39:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  mach buffet (0+ / 0-)

    The last time I flew on a 727 was on United from LAX to SEA. United had (has?) a nice feature where you can listen to pilot-controller conversations  on channel 9. I was an ex-controller (1981 strike vet) and liked listening to it.

    When our flight was turned over from Oakland to Seattle Center (enroute controllers looking at radar/computer displays) over the northern edge of California, the controller told our crew to maintain mach .82 for sequencing with other flights that would be lining up for Seattle near Portland. Mach being the speed of sound at sea level when a controller issues this instruction. Shortly after, the plane started encountering this consistent light choppy turbulence.

    One of our pilots told the controller that we would either have to back off the speed or descend to a lower altitude, at mach .82 at this altitude we were encountering consistent mach buffet.

    I used to fly little airplanes and I love flying and all I could think was Wow! That was so cool! I got to experience mach buffet!

    A 727 was the first flight I ever took when I was 10 years old and over the years when I was flying a lot for work I enjoyed it many times. A comfortable, good ride. Got to sit up front in the jump seat once or twice when I was a controller taking what they called familiarization flights. That was a lot of fun too.

  •  Thank you! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not always political, but when I am I vote Democratic. Stay Democratic, my friends. -The Most Interesting Man in the World

    by boran2 on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:46:54 AM PST

  •  This month's Air & Space magazine (0+ / 0-)

    has a nice article on the 727, that echoes much of your love for the airplane.

    We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

    by Keith Pickering on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:13:38 AM PST

  •  Thanks Kong (0+ / 0-)

    Late to the party, I had a sick computer.

    The 727 is probably my most favorite airliners, possibly only challenged by the 777.

    When I lived in San Antonio, you could only go non stop to Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Dayton.  Dayton didn't make any sense til the time I took that plane and was surrounded by USAF uniforms.

    In the days before deregulation, my buddy and I were flying from Atlanta to San Antone via Houston.  The plane must have been a 727-200, as I remember it being kind of long.  It was nearly empty on the ATL - IAH leg.  On the IAH - SAT leg we were the only two on the plane (3 crew, 3 stews, 2 passengers).  In some mistaken attempt at passenger comfort that plane had fold down seat backs.  We folded the seats ahead of us down after take off and stretched out lounger style.  As we were a set of quiet drunks, the stews left us alone util time to set the seats upright for landing.  When was the last time you weren't in a sardine can?

    I used to think the DC-9, MD-80, 717 family was the worst of all airliners.  The odd 2 x 3 seating.  They could never 'sync' the engines and there was this constant wine that shifted from side to side and gave me a headache.  I was always being stuck in the last row, the seats don't recline and your view is of the engine nacelle.

    My new candidate for worst airliner is the Airbus A-319.  All of the seating drawbacks of the DC-9 with few improvements in engine noise.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 04:40:54 PM PST

  •  They really were rocket ships! (0+ / 0-)

    In order to meet Mexicana's requirements for taking off from "hot & high" airports while meeting the engine failure certification requirement, Boeing designed, certified, and built about thirty 727-200s with rocket-assisted takeoff (RATO) boosters.  Here's a video, presumably from a certification test:

    I can't imagine the FAA certifying something like that today, or any of the major aircraft mfgs even attempting it.


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