The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

"Fuselagé" Is French...

It comes from the word fuselÉ (fyoo-zeh-LAY), meaning "spindle-shaped," which aptly describes what a fuselage is- the body of an airplane.

The First Generation of Jet Airliners

Pan Am 707 Airport
Courtesy Pan Am

Jet passenger service began in the United States in the late 1950s with the introduction of Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 airliners.
Pan American introduced overseas flights on 707s in October 1958. National Airlines soon began domestic jet service using a 707 borrowed from Pan Am. American Airlines opened domestic jet service with its own 707s in January 1959. Delta and United began flying DC-8s later that year.
British de Havilland D.H. 106 Comets and Soviet Tupolev Tu-104s had entered service earlier. But 707s and DC-8s were bigger, faster, had greater range, and proved more profitable.

"new way to a magic world of travel"

-Pan Am Jet Clipper brochure


Continental Airlines Brochure
Continental Airlines

Continental proudly announced the opening of its first jet service in 1959 with this colorful brochure, which detailed all the advantages of its Golden Jet service.

Pan Am 707 Crew
Courtesy Pan Am

With the Boeing 707, Pan American ushered in the Jet Age in 1958. However, its flight attendants still wore conservative military style uniforms.

Douglas DC-8
Rolls Royce plc

The Advantages of Jets

Jet engines have far fewer moving parts than piston engines, so they are more reliable, safer, and less costly to operate. They burn kerosene, which is less expensive than gasoline, and produce tremendous thrust for their weight. Therefore jet aircraft can be made larger and can fly faster than piston-engine aircraft.

Boeing 707
Copyright The Boeing Company

Boeing's 707 was designed for transcontinental or one-stop transatlantic range. But modified with extra fuel tanks and more efficient turbofan engines, 707-300s could fly nonstop across the Atlantic. Boeing built 855 707s.

Boeing 367-80 "Dash 80"
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Douglas DC-8
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The Douglas DC-8 was designed to replace the piston-engine DC-7 on long-distance routes. The rugged aircraft's adaptable design allowed the production of several versions with extended fuselages. The longest could carry 269 passengers. Douglas built 556 DC-8s.

Pratt & Whitney JT3<br/>1/4th scale
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Pratt & Whitney JT3
1/4th scale

The JT3 revolutionized air transportation when it entered service on the Boeing 707 in 1958. The new turbojet engine was a commercial version of the U.S. Air Force's J53, introduced in 1950.

In the early 1960s, the JT3 was modified into a low-bypass turbofan-the JT3D. The first three compressor stages were replaced with two fan stages, which extended beyond the compressor casing to act like propellers. The resulting increase in airflow lowered fuel consumption, noise, and emissions. JT3Ds became widely used, especially on long-range Boeing 707-300s and Douglas DC-8s.

Gift of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division,
United Technologies Corporation