The Boeing 367-80, or "Dash 80" as it was known at Boeing, is an American prototype jet transport built to demonstrate the advantages of jet aircraft for passenger transport.
The Dash 80 was the prototype for the KC-135 Stratotanker tanker and the 707 airliner. It was built in less than two years from project launch in 1952 to rollout on May 14, 1954. Its US$16 million cost was an enormous risk for the Boeing Company, which had no committed customers.
Only one was built; it is now in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
Design and development
By the late 1940s two developments were encouraging Boeing to begin considering building a passenger jet. The first was the maiden flight in 1949 of the world s first jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet. Boeing President Bill Allen led a company delegation to Britain in summer 1950 where they saw the Comet fly at the Farnborough Airshow, and also visited the de Havilland factory at Hatfield, Hertfordshire where the Comets were being built. The second event was completion by 1947 of development of the B-47 Stratojet. Boeing felt it had mastered the swept wing and podded engines which it saw as key technologies that would enable it to improve on the Comet.
Boeing 307 Stratoliner]] faces the Boeing 367-80 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
In 1950 Boeing tentatively produced a specification for a jet airliner dubbed the Model 473-60C. The airlines were unconvinced because they had no experience with jet transports and were enjoying success with piston engined aircraft such as the Douglas DC-4, DC-6, Boeing Stratocruiser and Lockheed Constellation.
Boeing was experienced at selling to the military but had not enjoyed the same success with civil airliners. This market was dominated by Douglas who was adept at meeting the needs of airlines by refining and developing its range of propeller-driven aircraft, and in 1950 were marketing the forthcoming DC-7. Boeing decided the only way to overcome the airlines' suspicion of the jet and of itself was to show them a completed aircraft.
The Boeing 367-80 undergoing taxi tests at Boeing Field in Washington
As the first of a new generation of passenger jets, Boeing wanted the aircraft's model number to emphasize the difference from its previous propeller-driven aircraft which bore 300-series numbers. The 400-, 500- and 600-series were already used by missiles and other products, so Boeing decided that the jets would bear 700-series numbers, and the first would be the 707. Just after the program was approved Boeing changed the designation to mislead its competitors: "367" was the Boeing model number of the KC-97 Stratotanker, a piston aircraft to which the Dash 80 owed nothing. Although the design was announced as the Model 707 the prototype was referred to simply as the "-80", or Dash 80.
The -80 fuselage was wide enough for five-abreast seating; two on one side of the aisle and three on the other. By the time the Boeing company committed to production, the decision had been made to design the production model 707 as a six-abreast design, with a larger-diameter fuselage , based on feedback from C.R. Smith, CEO of American Airlines, who told Boeing he wouldn't buy the 707 unless it was an inch wider than the then-proposed Douglas DC-8 passenger jet. This decision did not unduly delay introduction of the production model since the -80 had been largely hand-built, using little production tooling.
By early 1952 the designs were complete and in April the Boeing board approved the program. Construction of the Dash 80 started in November in a walled-off section of Boeing's Renton plant. As a proof of concept prototype there was no certification and no production line and most of the parts were custom built. The aircraft was not fitted with an airline cabin; a plywood lining housed the instrumentation for the flight test program.
Boeing 367-80 (N70700) prototype in a NASA archive photo
The Dash 80 rolled out of the factory on May 15, 1954, two years after the project was approved and 18 months after construction had started. During a series of taxi trials the port landing gear collapsed on May 22; the damage was quickly repaired and the first flight was on July 15, 1954.
Following flights revealed a propensity to "Dutch roll" - an alternating yawing and rolling motion. Boeing already had experience with this on the B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress and had developed a yaw damper system on the B-47 that could be adapted to the Dash 80. Other problems were found with the engines and brakes, the latter once failing completely on landing causing the aircraft to overshoot the runway.
Boeing used the Dash 80 on demonstration flights for airline executives and other industry figures. These focused attention on the question of what the cabin of a passenger jet should look like. In a departure from its usual practice Boeing hired industrial design firm Walter Dorwin Teague to create a cabin as radical as the aircraft itself.
The barrel roll
As part of the Dash 80's demonstration program, Bill Allen invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) to the Seattle's 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on August 6, 1955. The Dash-80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin "Tex" Johnston instead performed two barrel rolls 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, notwithstanding Johnston's assertion that doing so was completely safe. The barrel roll story appears on a video called Frontiers of Flight The Jet Airliner, produced by the National Air and Space Museum in association with the Smithsonian Institution in 1992.
Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777 on June 12, 1994, his last instructions from then-Boeing President Phil Condit were "No rolls."
Use as an experimental aircraft
After the arrival of the first production 707 in 1957 the Dash 80 was adapted into a general experimental aircraft and used by Boeing to test a variety of new technologies and systems. One of its most important tasks during the late 1950s was to test systems for the new Boeing 727. These tests required the fitting of a fifth engine on the rear fuselage as part of tests for the 727. Other tests included experiments with different airfoil shapes and a number of high lift devices such as blown flaps in which compressed air bled from the engines is directed over the flaps to increase lift during takeoff and landing.
Boeing 367-80 at the Air and Space Museum
After 2,350 hours and 1,691 flights the aircraft was withdrawn from use in 1969 and placed in storage. On May 26, 1972 Boeing donated the 367-80 to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which had designated it one of the 12 most significant aircraft of all time. For the next 18 years the aircraft was stored at a "desert boneyard" in Arizona before being retrieved by Boeing in 1990 for restoration. The Dash 80's final flight was to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. on August 27, 2003. Repainted to its original yellow and red Boeing livery, it was put on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, located adjacent to Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.
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