The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

Coast to Coast by Jet

American Airlines Timetable
National Air and Space Museum Curatorial Files

American Airlines set a new speed mark when it opened the first regularly scheduled transcontinental jet service in 1959. Subsequent nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco took only 5 hours-3 hours less than by the piston-engine DC-7.

The one-way fare, including a $10 surcharge for jet service, was $115.50, or $231 round trip-almost 25 percent cheaper than flying by piston-engine airliners.

United Sud Aviation Caravelle
National Air and Space Museum Archives

In the early 1960s, new aircraft brought the comfort, speed, and efficiency of jet travel to short- and medium-distance routes. The pioneering design of the French Sud Aviation Caravelle (shown here) with its two rear-mounted jets, gave rise to the Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 727.

Trans-Texas Douglas DC-9
National Air and Space Museum Archives

To compete with the short-range British BAC 111, which was winning sales in the United States, Douglas produced the DC-9 in 1965. With the low operating costs of its rear-mounted twin-engine design and two-crew configuration, the DC-9 in its many versions sold extremely well.

Boeing 727 Engines
Copyright The Boeing Company

Modeled after the British de Havilland Trident, with its distinctive "T" tail and rear-mounted engines, the Boeing 727 was designed to fly on shorter routes and from smaller airports than the larger 707.

The 727 Series 200 had three Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofan engines and could carry as many passengers-189-as the 707. It was the first Boeing aircraft with triple-slotted flaps, completely powered controls, self-contained aft-mounted stairs, and an auxiliary power unit to replace ground starting equipment.