Today, the Boeing Company turns 100 and its monumental jet, the Boeing 367-80 celebrates a special anniversary as well. Sixty-two years ago today, the 367-80, commonly called the Dash 80, made its first flight, revolutionizing commercial air travel.
After stepping down from the cockpit that day, Boeing test pilot Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston remarked that the Dash 80, “flew like a bird, only faster.”
Compared to the de Havilland Comet (the world’s first production commercial jetliner), the Dash 80 flew 100 miles per hour faster, accommodated more passengers, and had double the range. But the Dash 80’s capabilities didn’t stop there, and Tex Johnston wanted to make sure that the entire aerospace community was aware of that. When Johnston flew the Dash 80 at the 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races in Seattle, he had a surprise in store for his audience.
“I’d flown fighters and commercial airplanes and you demonstrate them to impress people what they are capable of,” Johnston said.
Johnston was familiar with the prototype, he knew a maneuver that he could perform without hazard, and he went for it. A few barrel rolls later, he had stunned the crowd and thoroughly startled Boeing president Bill Allen. When Allen called Johnston into his office later to reprimand him for his stunt, Johnston simply replied, “I was selling airplanes.”
The Dash 80 was used as the prototype for the KC-135 Stratotanker, the first jet aerial tanker, which was bought by the Air Force. Boeing also sold the Dash 80 to the airline industry, where it became known as a Boeing 707. In the end, Boeing produced 732 KC-135s and 1,010 707s.
Happy anniversary, Dash 80! And happy 100th Birthday, Boeing!
To hear about more updates on Boeing's centennial, check out the hashtag #Boeing100 on Twitter.