Re: Good 'ole 727

Date:         08 Jan 2000 13:39:20 
From:         "Richard Isakson" <>
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I think I can help you with a bit of history.  From 1974 until 1980 I
worked in Boeing's aerodynamic staff and I was involved in some of this.
The three engine 727 had two problems.  It couldn't meet stage three
noise requirements and it had really high fuel flows (we had just gone
through the mid 70's fuel "crisis").  The logical thing to do was
replace the three engines with two high by-pass engines.  Boeing spent
a lot of money on testing but it didn't work.  There was no way to keep
the wing wake out of the engine inlets and, on a high by-pass engine,
that caused a compressor stall.  The idea was so seductive that Boeing
tried it four more times.  It still didn't work.  Later, Lockheed tried
it twice and I believe someone else tried it once.  It doesn't work.

That led to the 757.  Let's take the 727 body, cockpit and landing gear
and develop a new wing and  tail and put the big engines on the wing.
Later, we can grow the airplane into this niche up here that nobody's
filling right now.  Great idea except that nobody wanted the airplane.
We're in a recession and there are airplanes parked all over the
deserts.  Then along came Frank Borman and Eastern Airlines.  They were
willing to order enough airplanes to launch the program. BUT, they
didn't want the airplane that was being offered.  They wanted that big
airplane that was to come along later.  Faced with either canceling the
program or changing the airplane, Boeing redesigned the airplane and
launched the bigger 757 with the common 767 cockpit section.

That left a hole in Boeing's line, the 727 replacement.  The group I
worked in reinvented the wheel 50 times in the next two years trying to
shrink the Eastern airplane back down to a 727 size.  The simple fact is
airplanes don't shrink very well.  They grow very nicely but they don't
shrink worth beans.  You're trying to use a common wing that's just too
big, landing gear that's too heavy, different engines and a new tail.
It just doesn't work economically but we tried over and over and over.
At this point, it was kind of funny because Aviation Week was actually
anticipating our group's next move.  They must of had spies over in

It's only now that the 737 has finally grown into what the 757 was
suppose to be.

Rich Isakson