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The Boeing 727 is a mid-size, narrow-body, three-engine, T-tailed commercial jet airliner. The first Boeing 727 flew in 1963 and for over a decade it was the most produced commercial jet airliner in the world. When production ended in 1984, a total of 1,831 aircraft had been produced. The 727's sales record for the most jet airliners ever sold was broken in the early 1990s by its younger stablemate, the Boeing 737.

The 727 was produced following the success of the Boeing 707 quad-jet airliner. Designed for short-haul routes, the 727 became a mainstay of airlines' domestic route networks. A stretched variant, the 727-200, debuted in 1967. In August 2008, there were a total of 81 Boeing 727-100 aircraft and 419 727-200 aircraft in airline service.

Design and development

The 727 design arose as a compromise between United Airlines, American Airlines, and Eastern Air Lines requirements over the configuration of a jet airliner to service smaller cities which often had shorter runways and correspondingly smaller passenger demand. United Airlines wanted a four-engined aircraft for its flights to high-altitude airports, especially its hub at Stapleton International Airportmarker at Denver, Coloradomarker. American, which was operating the four-engined Boeing 707 and 720, wanted a twin-engined aircraft for efficiency reasons. Eastern wanted a third engine for its overwater flights to the Caribbeanmarker, since at that time twin-engined commercial flights were limited by regulations to routes with 60-minute maximum flying time to an airport (see ETOPS/LROPS). Eventually, the airlines agreed on a trijet, and thus the 727 was born. The third JT8D engine, which is located at the very rear of the fuselage (called engine 2), is supplied with air from an inlet at the front of the vertical fin through an S-shaped duct to the engine's inlet. The 727 design featured high-lift devices on its wing, thus being one of the first jets able to operate from relatively short runways. Later models of the 727 were stretched to accommodate more passengers, and they ended up replacing earlier jet airliners, such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, on domestic routes.

The 727 proved to be such a reliable and versatile airliner that it came to form the core of many start-up airlines' fleets. The 727 was successful with airlines worldwide partly because of its capability to use smaller runways while still flying medium range routes. This effectively allowed airlines to attract passengers from cities with large populations but smaller airports to worldwide tourist destinations. One of the features that gave the 727 its ability to land on shorter runways was its unique wing design. Due to the absence of wing-mounted engines, leading-edge lift enhancement equipment (Krueger, or hinged, flaps on the inner portion of the leading edge, and extendable leading edge slats on the remainder of the leading edge), and trailing-edge lift enhancement equipment (triple-slotted, aft-moving flap) could be used on the entire wing. The combination of these high-lift devices produced a maximum wing lift coefficient of 3.6 (based on the flap-retracted wing area). Thus the 727 could fly with great stability at very low speeds compared to other early jets. The 727 also initially had nosegear brakes fitted to further decrease braking distance upon landing. However, these were soon removed from service, as they provided little useful reduction in braking distances, while adding weight and increasing maintenance requirements.

The 727 was designed to be used at smaller, regional airports, so independence from ground facilities was an important requirement. This gave rise to one of the 727's most distinctive features: the built-in airstair that opens from the rear underbelly of the fuselage. D.marker B.marker Coopermarker, a hijacker, parachuted from the back of a 727 as it was flying over the Pacific Northwest. Boeing subsequently modified the design with the Cooper vane so that the airstair could not be lowered in flight. Another innovation was the inclusion of an auxiliary power unit (APU), which allowed electrical and air-conditioning systems to run independent of a ground-based power supply, without having to start one of the main engines. The 727 can also back itself up, thus not requiring the push tractor needed for most other jet airliners to leave an airport gate. The 727 is equipped with a retractable tail skid which is designed to protect the aircraft in the event of an over-rotation on takeoff. The 727's fuselage has an outer diameter of . This allows six-abreast seating (three per side) and a single central access walkway when wide coach-class seats are installed.


DHL Boeing 727-200F freighter at San Diego

The 727 is one of the noisiest commercial jetliners, categorized as Stage 2 by the U.S. Noise Control Act of 1972, which mandated the gradual introduction of quieter Stage 3 aircraft. The 727's JT8D jet engines use older low-bypass turbofan technology while Stage 3 aircraft utilize the more efficient and quieter high-bypass turbofan design. When the Stage 3 requirement was being proposed, Boeing engineers analyzed the possibility of incorporating quieter engines on the 727. They determined that the JT8D-200 engine could be used on the two side-mounted pylons, but the structural work required to fit the larger-diameter engine ( fan diameter in the JT8D-200 compared to in the JT8D-7) into the fuselage structure at the number two engine location would be too great to be justifiable.

At the turn of the 21st century, the 727 was still in service with a few airline fleets. However, due to changes by the U.S. FAA and the ICAOmarker in over-water flight requirements, most major airlines had already begun to switch to twin-engine aircraft, which are more fuel-efficient and quieter than the three-engine 727. Also, the 727 was one of the last airliners in service to have a three-person flight crew, including a flight engineer, a crew member whose tasks have been largely automated on newer airliners.

Current regulations require that a 727 that is to be utilized in commercial service must be retrofitted with a hush kit to reduce engine noise to Stage 3 levels. One such hushkit is offered by FedEx,, and has been purchased by over 60 customers. After-market winglets, referred to as "Quiet Wing" kits, have been installed on many 727s to reduce noise at lower speeds, as well as to reduce fuel consumption. Kelowna Flightcraft's maintenance division in Canadamarker has installed winglets on Donald Trump's private 727-100.

Operational history

In addition to domestic flights of medium range, the 727 was popular with international passenger airlines. The range of flights it could cover (and the additional safety added by the third engine) meant that the 727 proved efficient for short to medium range international flights in areas around the world. Prior to its introduction, four-engined jets or propeller-driven airliners were required for transoceanic service.

The 727 also proved popular with cargo airlines and charter airlines. FedEx Express introduced 727s in 1978. 727s were the backbone of its fleet until recently, but FedEx is now phasing them out in favor of the Boeing 757. Many cargo airlines worldwide now employ the 727 as a workhorse, since as it is being phased out of U.S. domestic service due to noise regulations, it becomes available to overseas users in areas where such noise regulations have not yet been instituted. Charter airlines Sun Country, Champion Air, and Ryan International Airlines were all started with 727 aircraft.

Interior close-up photo of the pilot and co-pilot area of a flight simulator for a Boeing 727 at the Pan Am International Flight Academy

Yet another situation where the 727 has proven to be popular is in situations where the airline services airports with gravel, or otherwise lightly improved runways. The Canadian airline First Air, for example, uses a 727-200C to service the communities of Resolute Baymarker and Arctic Baymarker in Nunavut, both of which have gravel runways. The high mounted engines greatly reduces the risk of foreign object damage.

Other companies use the 727 as a way to transport passengers to their resorts or cruise ships. Such was the example of Carnival Cruise Lines, which used both the 727 and 737 to fly both regular flights and flights to transport their passengers to cities that harbored their ships. Carnival used the jets on its airline division, Carnival Air Lines.

Faced with higher fuel costs (although all major United Statesmarker airlines phased them out immediately prior to the oil price increases since 2003), lower passenger volumes due to the post-9/11 economic climate, increasing restrictions on airport noise, and the extra expenses of maintaining older planes and paying flight engineers' salaries, most major airlines have phased 727s out of their fleets. Delta Air Lines, the last major U.S. carrier to do so, retired its last 727 from scheduled service March 2003. Northwest Airlines retired its last 727 from charter service in June 2003. However, the 727 is still flying for smaller start-up airlines, cargo airlines, and charter airlines, and it is also sometimes used as a private means of transportation. The official replacement for the 727 in Boeing's lineup was the Boeing 757. However, the smallest 757 variant, the 757-200, is significantly larger than the 727-200, so many airlines replaced their 727s with either the 737-800 or EADS' Airbus A320, both of which are closer in size to the 727-200.


There are two variants of the 727. The 727-100 was launched in 1960 and placed into service in February 1964. The 727-200 was launched in 1965 and placed into service in December 1967.


The first production model.

Convertible passenger cargo version. Additional freight door and strengthened floor and floor beams. Three alternate fits:
  • 94 mixed-class passengers
  • 52 mixed class passengers and four cargo pallets (22,700 lb, 10,297 kg)
  • Eight cargo pallets (38,000 lb, 17,237 kg)

QC stands for Quick Change. This is similar to the Convertible version with a roller-bearing floor for palletised galley and seating and/or cargo to allow much faster changeover time (30 minutes).

QF stands for Quiet Freighter. A cargo conversion for United Parcel Servicemarker, re-engined with Stage III-compliant Rolls-Royce Tay turbofans.


Stretched version of the 727-100. The -200 is longer (153 feet, 2 inches, 46.7 m) than the -100 (133 feet, 2 inches, 40.6 m). A ten foot (3 m) fuselage section ("plug") was added in front of the wings and another ten foot fuselage section was added behind them. The wing span and height remain the same on both the -100 and -200 ( and , respectively). The gross weight was increased from .

The dorsal intake of the number 2 engine was also redesigned to be round in shape, as opposed to oval as it was on the 100 series.

Convertible passenger cargo version. Only 2 built.

Advanced 727-200
MTOW and range increased. Also, Cabin improvements

Advanced 727-200F
All freight version of the 727-200.

Super 27
Speed increased by , due to replacement of the two side engines with the JT8D-217, which are also found on many MD-80s, and addition of hush kits to the center engine. These aftermarket modifications were performed by companies independent of Boeing, such as Valsan and Dee Howard.


In August 2009, 442 Boeing 727 aircraft (all variants) were in airline service. Most operators have only small numbers but the following operate at least 10 aircraft:

Sports operators

Government and military operators

In addition, the 727 has seen sporadic government use, having flown for the Belgianmarker, Yugoslavian, Mexicanmarker, New Zealandmarker and Panamamarker air forces, among the small group of government agencies that have used it. The United States military used the 727 as a military transport, designated as the C-22.

Former government and military operators

Accidents and incidents

As of 2007, a total of 282 incidents involving 727s had occurred, including 106 hull-loss accidents resulting in a total of 3,703 fatalities. The 727 has also been in 178 hijacking involving 256 fatalities.

Notable accidents and incidents

  • On August 16, 1965, United Airlines Flight 389, a new Boeing 727-200, crashed into Lake Michigan 30 miles east northeast of Chicago's O'Hare Airportmarker. The crew were told to descend and maintain 6,000 feet, which was the last radio communication with the flight. The NTSB was not able to determine why the airliner continued its descent into the water.
  • On November 8, 1965, American Airlines Flight 383, a Boeing 727-100, crashed on approach to the Greater Cincinnati Airportmarker with 62 people on board. Only three passengers and one flight attendant survived. The investigation determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the crew to properly monitor the altimeters during a visual approach into deteriorating visibility conditions.
  • On November 11, 1965, United Airlines Flight 227, a Boeing 727-100, departed New York-LaGuardiamarker for a flight to San Franciscomarker via Clevelandmarker, Chicagomarker, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Flight 227 crashed on landing at Salt Lake International Airportmarker, causing the deaths of 43 of the 91 people on board.
  • In 1971, Alaska Airlines Flight 1866, a Boeing 727-100, crashed into a mountain while on approach to Juneaumarker, Alaska. The cause included the crew's receiving misleading navigational information. All seven crew members and 104 passengers were killed.
  • In 1971, Northwest Airlines Flight 305 was hijacked by passenger D.marker B.marker Coopermarker while en route from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. After receiving a payment of $200,000 and 4 parachutes when he was in Seattle, he told the pilots to fly to Mexico, and jumped out of the aircraft from the aft airstairs over Washington or Oregon. Cooper's fate is unknown.
  • In 1972, during an attempted coup d'état, jets from the Royal Moroccan Air Force fired upon the Boeing 727 of King Hassan II of Morocco while he was traveling to Rabat. After the aircraft survived the attack, the king awarded the plane a medal of honor.
  • On February 21, 1973, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114, a Boeing 727-200 flying over the Sinai Desert was fired upon by Israelimarker air forces that suspected it of being an enemy military plane. Of 113 people on board, 108 died.
  • On December 1, 1974, TWA Flight 514marker, a Boeing 727-200 (registration N54328), crashed on Mount Weathermarker while flying from Indianapolis, Indianamarker, and Columbus, Ohiomarker, to Washington Dulles International Airportmarker in turbulent weather. All 85 passengers and 7 crew members aboard were killed.
  • In 1975, Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 crashed on approach for John F. Kennedy International Airportmarker, killing 112 people. The cause was determined to be a microburst.
  • On November 19, 1977, TAP Portugal Flight 425marker overran the runway at Madeira Airportmarker and plunged over a steep bank, bursting into flames and killing 131 of the 164 people on board.
  • On September 25, 1978, Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182marker, a Boeing 727, crashed after colliding with a Cessna 172 aircraft in San Diego, killing 144 people.
  • On January 21, 1980, an Iran Air 727 crashed near Tehran, Iran, killing all 128 on board killed.
  • On April 25, 1980, Dan-Air Flight 1008marker, a Boeing 727-100 crashed in Tenerifemarker. All on board were killed when the aircraft hit terrain while circling.
  • In 1982, VASP Flight 168, a Boeing 727-200A, a scheduled passenger flight from Rio de Janeiromarker, Brazilmarker to Fortalezamarker crashed into a hillside on final approach to Fortaleza, killing all 137 people on board.
  • On January 1, 1985, Eastern Air Lines Flight 980, a Boeing 727, crashed into Mount Illimani at an altitude of 19,600 feet. All 29 crew and passengers on board were killed. The flight, flight number 980, was flying from Silvio Pettirossi International Airportmarker and destined for El Alto International Airportmarker.
  • On February 19, 1985, an Iberia Boeing 727 crashed after striking a television antenna while landing in Bilbao, killing 148 people. It was flying from Madrid-Barajas Airportmarker; its flight number was 610.
  • On March 31, 1986, a Mexicana 727 with 167 people on board (eight crew and 159 passengers) crashed near Maravatío, Michoacán, Mexico. Shortly after takeoff and climbing to 29,000 feet, an overheated tire exploded in the right main wheel well, tearing through fuel lines and damaging the hydraulic and electrical systems. The resulting fire eventually rendered the aircraft uncontrollable. There were no survivors.
  • In 1996, an ADC Boeing 727 went down near Ejirin, Nigeria, after losing control after taking evasive action to avoid a midair collision. 143 people were killed in crash.
  • On May 25, 2003, a 727 with the registration number N844AA, formerly used by American Airlines, was stolen from Luanda's international airport in Angolamarker. The mechanic who was on the plane, Ben Charles Padilla, has never been heard from again.


Measurement 727-100 727-200
Cockpit crew Three
Max seating capacity 149 189
Length 133 ft 2 in (40.6 m) 153 ft 2 in (46.7 m)
Wingspan 108 ft (32.9 m)
Tail height 34 ft (10.3 m)
Zero fuel weight 100,000 lb (45,360 kg)
Maximum take-off weight 169,000 lb (76,818 kg) 209,500 lb (95,028 kg)
Maximum landing weight 137,500 lb (62,400 kg) 161,000 lb (73,100 kg)
Take-off runway length

(at 148,000 lb)
5,800 ft (1,768 m)
Landing runway length

(at max landing wt)
4,800 ft (1,463 m) 5,080 ft (1,585 m)
Cruising speed .81 Mach
Maximum speed .90 Mach
Range fully loaded 2700 NM (5000 km) 2400 NM (4450 km)
Max. fuel capacity 8,186 US gal (31,000 L) 9,806 US gal (37,020 L)
Engines (3x) P&W JT8D-7, -17R&S
Sources: Boeing 727 Specifications, Boeing 727 Airport report

Orders and deliveries

 1983   1982   1981   1980   1979   1978   1977   1976   1975   1974   1973   1972 
1 11 38 68 98 125 133 113 50 88 92 119
 1971   1970   1969   1968   1967   1966   1965   1964   1963   1962   1961   1960 
26 48 64 66 125 149 187 83 20 10 37 80
 1984   1983   1982   1981   1980   1979   1978   1977   1976   1975   1974   1973 
8 11 26 94 131 136 118 67 61 91 91 92
 1972   1971   1970   1969   1968   1967   1966   1965   1964   1963   1962   1961 
41 33 55 114 160 155 135 111 95 6 0 0

See also


External links

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