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Why The Boeing 727 Fell Out Of Favor

In January 2019, on a domestic route in Iran operated by Iran Aseman Airlines, the Boeing 727 made its last commercial flight. ( More...

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George Lane 21
Some of my first airline flights as a child were on Delta 727s. Many fond memories.
Peter Fuller 1
Delta once had the world’s largest fleet of 727s, but ironically didn’t get any until 1972, after all the other US major airlines. Their first 727s came with the merger with Northeast Airlines. Delta must have liked ‘em so much they loaded up!

Before the merger, Northeast flew a Miami-Los Angeles nonstop with the 727. The airplane was barely able to do that, it may have been the longest scheduled 727 run.
darjr26 1
I remember that too. I’m thinking westbound in the wintertime they made some enroute landings for fuel.
paul gilpin 12
D.B. Cooper sends his best.
FAwareM 3
And you, my friend, are today's internet winner!
sparkie624 6
I really loved the 727.... A great plane, very reliable, easy to work on.. A Mechanics Dream and very comfortable to ride in.
Darryl Sarno 6
I was fortunate to fly the B-727 (Delta) and loved it! The aircraft will always be my favorite. I think with two engine planes such as the B757, B737 including NG as well as Airbus A319, A320 and A321's became more fuel efficient as opposed to the three engine B727. Just my thoughts.
sparkie624 8
Just thinking of this fantastic a/c... I remember sitting in the break room as one of the 727's would land with the "Hush Kits" and with Full TR's open shacking the entire hangar someone would ultimately uttter... "I sure am glad they have Hush Kits"! LOL!
Jorge Romo 1
Flown it also for 15 years and really enjoyed speed and reliability
Ed Crist 5
Use to fly a company (ARCO Alaska) B-727 once a week between Anchorage and Prudhoe Bay. Landed on the company gravel strip across from base camp, except for a few times in winter white out conditions, then it would land at Deadhorse with its paved runway and better IFR apparatus. Company flight crews and company flight attendants. Those were good times. Back in the 70's
and 80's. Nothing better then watching that big white/blue B-727 coming in to land.
brock55 5
I loved the 727 as a ramp agent. We could load that aircraft full of bags, mail, and freight and it would hold weight with no issues.
sparkie624 4
I also remember that the 727 is the only A/C that I knew of that you could get on top the a/c without a ladder.... Through the Aft AirStair, into the Fuselage area, about a dozen quarter locks to a panel at the intake. Climb into the Intake and out the front to on top the a/c. Can't tell you how many times I have done that to replace an antenna... Back then, we would do them on through flights... No Safety Cable or Harness.... The days before OSHA changed the world.
Perfect for military use, no ladder needed. The French got ones stuck on the Tarmac in an African country because they had no ladder for their DC 10.
This is a European (French) term. Used in the military. Yes, it is a material but it is also used for ramp or runway as somebody mentioned. Africa has a lot of French influence and many countries speak French as well so in many African countries they will use the word Tarmac instead. Many military pilots will use that word. Kodak is a brand name but it was used for camera. Ray Ban is a brand name but in France they talk about sunglasses. In this case it happened in Zaire so that's why I used that word Tarmac. Tar is actually "betume" in French but they will not use tarmac to describe a tar road.
James Simms 1
Somewhat related is the term “Xerox it” after the company developed the first business copier. Even if the copier is of another make, people got into the habit of saying “Xerox it”. I believe the Xerox Corporation tried to curtail the use of the phrase under a copyright protection but failed.
Antonello Davi -1
there is no Tarmac....Either runway, taxiway or apron
James Willich 3
Tarmac is a material, not a place.
Correct, but as the plane is sitting on the ramp or runway made from that material it is sitting literally on the Tarmac. I think that's where the use of the word is coming from. But yes the plane was sitting on the runway.
Gary Black 1
Thank you!
I hate the term "tarmac", as pilots we would just call it the Ramp.
matt jensen 4
My fav jet. And the L1011 and 747
Dick Cramer 4
I flew the 727-200 for 4 years for ATA Airlines. Great airplane and I loved the 3 person crew. And it was fast. One December night in 1999 enroute from PHX to MDW we found ourselves in the core of the jet stream. The flight engineer said,”Look at that ground speed.” It was about 650 kts. The Captain pushed the power levers up a bit and our airspeed increased to about.85 Mach. MMO for the 727 is .88 Mach. So each time he adjusted the power we got a higher ground speed. At the top of descent we were doing 691 kts across the ground. That’s 795 mph! Fastest I have ever gone.
jaymeinen 3
I was lucky to have flown the 727. It was a magnificent aircraft. I was sad to see it retired.
Mark Kortum 1
Is it true that it was an exceptionally aerodynamic design that made an excellent glider? I thought a pilot told me that one time.
Elliot Cannon 2
The reason it fell out of favor was profit. More profit could be made with airplanes that were cheaper to operate. Less fuel and less crew members equal more profit.
jmoyikjr 2
I always liked the sleek exterior design of the 727, but as a passenger, I hated all fuselage mounted engine configurations; the 717,727,MD80 and their variants (with all due respect to the pilots who loved flying them). I always thought the cabin was noisy, especially in the back. More than once I ended up back there with an engine cowling as my window view and my seat vibrating from the turbines spinning at a gazillion RPMS just a few feet from where I sat. I'm sorry to say I did not shed a tear when all of these types were retired.
Rob Palmer 2
Not mentioned here is the problem that this design had with undershooting runways at times, because of weight distribution and possibly rear microbursts at low speeds at times. At original landing specs the plane could go into a "fishtail", and drop before the runway was reached and at too low an altitude to correct. FAA later corrected this problem by mandating 40 degree flap adjust on landing over the prior 30 degree setting, which worked for the rest of the planes life. The undershoots produced fatalities, one of which I witnessed as a purchasing expeditor for a small company losing their sales manager in the Salt Lake City crash. Very sad as the poor fellow had just moved into a new house in Wellesley after marrying the owner's daughter.
Ric Ben 3
Correct, 8/16/1965 UAL389 plunged into Lake Michigan while descending for landing at ORD. On 11/8/1965, AA383, crashed during its approach to CVG. On 11/11/1965 UAL227 crashed on landing at SLC. And 2/4/1966 an ANA727 crashed into the sea on approach to HND.
The CAB found that 727 pilots were making high, descent rate approaches more often in 727s than in any other jet transport made possible by the 727s sophisticated flap system, which allowed excessive sink rates to develop if approaches were not carefully monitored.
James Simms 1
The 727 was it’s era’s 737 Max as there were cries to ground it
srobak 1
You sure about that at ORD? you're still at 4200+ when crossing the shore on final and 15 miles out.
Ric Ben 1
UAL 389 was cleared to an altitude of 6,000 feet MSL by ORD Approach, but the plane never leveled off at 6,000 feet. Instead, it continued its descent, at an uninterrupted rate of approximately 2,000 feet per minute, until it hit the waters of Lake Michigan, which is 577 feet MSL.
srobak 1
I'm not disputing that... I'm just thinking that was caused by a lot more than a 10 degree flap adjustment. 15 miles is a bit more than an "undershoot" at approach speed.
Ric Ben 0
It was a very unusual accident since the Probable Cause was: "The Board is unable to determine the reason for the aircraft not being leveled off at its assigned altitude of 6,000 feet."
John Cordes 2
The 727 served all of us exceptionally well for many many years. It was a big part of the dramatic expansion of short and mid length routes worldwide.
I remember flying in planes that had five person crews: Pilot, Copilot, Navigator, Radio Operator, and Flight Engineer. The office was a bit more crowded in those days.
Steve Kemper 2
Nice article. I learned a few things, particularly about maintenance considerations that should be incorporated into the design phase of a plane.

My last two Boeing 727 flights were taken in July 2007 on a round trip between Oklahoma City and Las Vegas on Champion Air. On the leg out to Vegas, I flew on N293AS, which entered service in 1977 with Singapore Airlines. It also flew for VASP, Alaska Airlines, Express One International, Sterling One, AvAtlantic, and served as Bob Dole's plane during his 1996 candidacy for President. Maybe most interesting, this plane ended up being the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary where a group intentionally crashed it into a Mexican desert near Mexicali.
Steve Kemper 0
Doug Fehmel 2
I once flew in an Icelandair 727 combi freighter. I was sitting in the first row, business, and was the first one that got the instant Iceland fresh air when they opened the left side door.
got2flycfi 2
The most efficient way to turn fuel into noise for sure
Peter Fuller 1
Ha! Good one! I’ve heard that also referring to the old slow Ford Tr-Motor.
My first flight as a 6-yr old was on an Eastern 727. MCO to JFK. Still remember walking out on the tarmac to the plane (sight and smell). They made my mom put out her cigarette!
i loved the 727 and worked flights with that aircraft on many occasions..i remember the "rear door" exit which was seldom used,and i do remember a few maintenance delays..i also remember when smoking was allowed on airplanes,and the smoking section was in the rear of the 727..even after the plane sat for a while at the gate, with doors open, that horrible "used" cigarette smell remained as it permeated the upholstery on the seats! still, all in all,it was comfortable to fly in,and i never heard complaints,even from crewmembers..i believe that had a 3 person cockpit,which seemed a "bit" crowded..
darjr26 1
It seems funny now, but Eastern Airlines called their 727s Whisper Jets.
Phil Carter 1
My first 727 ride was an AA flight to San Antonio for USAF basic training in 75.
I used to ride the (TAA) 727 between Sydney and Melbourne. After taxi out to the runway, they would power down the galley and we would be off. The nose would really pitch and you would see the cabin lights dim as the flaps retracted. It felt like a ballistic lift-off and it was a fast ride. We could take off after an Ansett DC-9 and arrive before it.
Kim Horsnell 1
I regularly flew from Adelaide (Austalia) to Perth, some 1800 miles, and ADL to Darwin (2400 miles) in the 727's of Ansett Australia. Felt secure in this aircraft rather than in the 737 I later flew in from Adelaide. Great for long distance flights. My first jet flight was in an Ansett 727 (reg. VH-RMA -the RMA was Sir Reginal Ansett's initials) - in 1965 from ADL to MEL (Essendon). My favourite aircraft of all time, though the A350 and A380 take some beating.
SkyAware123 1
wrong. It can't hold enough fuel for long distance.
Terry Briggs 1
Never had a bad ride on a 727. Even sitting in back next to the power from KLAX to PAJN.
I was at the hanger at GSW (Amon Carter Apt. in FT. Worth) When the first A.A. 727-100 arrived. At the time, I was just finishing selling the simulator to the F.A.A. This was American Airlines first digital simulator, and mine as well. I really loved that airplane and believe that it would still be around if it had a two member cockpit instead of Three.
SkyAware123 1
HAte this plane. I've flown it from Europe to the US. Due to headwinds it couldn't make it and had to land in Gander Canada to fuel up. Result was all kinds of missed connections, missing work, etc...
darjr26 1
What airline was that?
Shawn Meehan 1
No airline (globally) operated a 727 nonstop from Europe to the United State. Was it possible? Yes but no airline made the investment making such flights safe.
Doug Fehmel 1
I used to fly the 727 on Lufthansa. My flight to Naples Italy over Genoa, was always a treat for me. They even had one named for my hometown of Heidelberg, which I flew in once to Madrid.
themold 1
The B-727 was a HOT ROD. On take off it really pushed you back in the seat. It was fast enroute also. My last flight was on TWA from PHL to JFK to catch a TWA B-747 flight to Paris.
Randy Brown 1
My first airplane flight of any kind was on a 727. My little league football team flew from SLC to California in November of 1970. Walked up that rear ramp did not realize it was unique until later.
aurodoc 1
I flew on the 727 many times out of Phoenix in the 1960s and 70s. Many airlines flew the 727 out of Sky Harbor. TWA, American, Continental and Western (The only way to fly)were all flying the 727. Quiet up front but noisy in the back. Only used the rear stairs once.
James Herring 1
I've flown on the 727 a number of times for business travel to/from El Paso. Last time was in the early '90s. Really a beautiful jet; the tri-engine layout really moved the aircraft along, although a bit noisy toward the rear of the plane (lol). Leaving El Paso was always a thrill on the 727 as takeoff direction would occasionally be toward the mountains which required a quite noticeable bank in addition to the normal takeoff pitch to avoid the mountains. Good times!
John Clark 1
My first and last flights on 727's were on Delta in 1978 and 2000 respectively. That last flight highlighted the model's weary state with a failed air con pack during taxi that sidelined us for about an hour. The whole cabin was offered free drinks for the duration of the flight to "compensate" their inconvenience. Very memorable.
Lanny Word 1
My first flight alone at 11yrs old was from ATL-OKC in 1980 on a Braniff 727-200, orange if I remember correctly. As a kid, Braniff was super cool to fly with their crazy colors and interiors. It’s interesting to see all the the new international low cost airlines taking their cues from them. But I flew many times on Delta, Eastern and Piedmont 727’s. The 727 and L1011 will always have a special place in my cold dead heart.
Bob Kamman 1
One of my favorite all-time flights was Lima to Cusco, 1971, in a Fawcett 727. We didn't fly over the Andes, we flew between the peaks. Seats were assigned based on check-in time and we got to the airport early enough to be in Row 1 of the single-class aircraft. Up front, there was little noise from the engines way in back. It was like being in a glider.
Went to Ft Lauderdale back in the days when you could smoke on board.
stratofan 1
I flew on several of them when I was in the USAF. Mainly Alaska Airlines and Eastern. Never could understand how Eastern could brand it "Whisperjet". Those JT8Ds would get your attention at full power settings. All in all, she was a great ride, just could not deal with Stage 3 restrictions, without a hushkit or new gen engines. I am glad to see some still soldiering on as cargo birds, albeit with the aforementioned mods.
Tim Howard 1
From a catering standpoint 727 was easy airplane To cater. Straight in approach for the first class cabin never any passing your boarding problems. Mostly always carriers or trolleys. Oven racks right in the oven cavity for hot meals. Rear galley approach was a little tricky going along the wingtip but with solid training a highlift catering truck could make it with no problem and never made contact with the airplane. Some airlines insisted on use of an engine plug others did not. Same as first class carriers or trolleys ice and milk and ice bins. Rear ventricle stairs were easy for hot shops or extra catering supplies ice or sodas. Miss that airplane a lot.
Tim Howard 1
Sorry that’s ventral stairs
James Simms 1
Still occasionally have 727 freighters come into TCL In support of the Mercedes plant located nearby
rodolfo sero 1
Mis vuelos de cabotaje en los 727 de Aerolíneas Argentinas constituyen un recuerdo imborrable, gran máquina
K R 1
In its way more of a breakthrough aircraft for middle class air travel than the 737. It opened up access to all those runways built during WW2 - no need for a control tower and passenger stairs/ramps - just the the need of a jetfuel tanker at one airport on the route, and an occasional extra engineer and tools to support the on-board engineer. Designed to be a "world wide" aircraft rather than US only - all that R&D funding of aeronautical engineering by the US in WW2 coming to fruition for the benefit of all.
John Haller 1
The last flight I flew on a 727 suffered from 2 compressor stalls when attempting to take off in a cross wind. Finally, they used a straight-on takeoff, and no compressor stall.
I flew the 727-200's for 9000 hours plus and it was a reliable airplane and fun to fly. It would
really perform once you got to altitude very fast. You did not want to get behind the power curve on
landing because it could bite you. We use to back up and power out of the parking gate at my airline
by using reverse on the engines. Did that for a short period of time then the airline thought this might be hard on the engines so they stopped doing it. Only one problem with the 727 it was very loud
in the cockpit due air noise.
got2flycfi 1
I believe the three holer as it had been referred to had a skid plate on the bottom in the tail so on rotation if the tail hit the ground there was no damage. If I have the right AC I was a young pass when that happened, not knowing that was ok.
Joe Birts 1
Some of the DC-9s did, think it was a retrofit after a few scrapes.
chiefaviator 1
Do journalist ever do actual research anymore to the facts of a story?

This is a retelling of a similar article.

The last "commercial flight" of the 727. The NYT said the same about the 747.

Both untrue. There are still many 727s being operated by airlines. Although with boxes as passengers instead of people. Both inside the US and around the world.

There are still both cargo and passenger service with airlines using the 747, both in the US and around the world. Just because the US legacy carriers retired them does not qualify as no longer used on commercial flights.

These "journalist" are sloppy, ill informed, misleading their readers and lazy for not doing any research on the subject.
Joe Birts 1
Noisy & uncomfortable in the rear cabin.
Ron Voss 1
A story I heard (can anyone confirm?): The 727 was found to be difficult to land smoothly until pilots noticed that their best landings were on San Diego’s 27 with its steep approach. Applying the steep profile then improved landings everywhere.
wdw56 2
When I was a child I remember my Dad's friend who was a TWA 727 pilot talk about the steep approach. It was adapted as the new approach configuration sometime in the late 1960's.
My memories are fading here, but the hotter landings might be related to the issue of a steep nose-up attitude causing the wings to block air to the tail and causing a stall of the high-mounted vertical stabilizer. This caused at least one landing accident early in the 727's service. The fix was to increase landing speed. Does anyone remember this? Can't find a reference to it ...
Rob Palmer 1
I remember the undershoots (see my comment today). All I heard later was FAA mandating a change in flap degrees to 40 from 30 as correction; no more after that, I believe. One time coming into Wash National I experienced the "fishtailing". Great plane other than that. I have more hours on a 727 than any of the more recent ones.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

sparkie624 4
I would live to see a New 727 with CM56's installed on each Nacelle... Would make an Interesting Center Engine as well! :)
sparkie624 2
"NOISY" - Don't forget that they had Hush Kits installed on them... ! LOL
Ric Ben 1
Years before Hush Kits Eastern Airlines painted the advertising nickname 'WHISPERJET' on their fleet of 727s.
Northwest/Delta they went from 727's to DC-9's, and SAAB turbos, AVRo's, and then RJs.

Untied kept flying the 737 in and out, until they went to RJs.

The 727 was fantastic to fly in. And the 737 (200's) were awesome too. 'The good old days'

Last 727 was MSP to DTW. Last 737-200 was ORD to DEN (as I remember).
R Jolly 0
As a five year old, I received a battery operated B727 toy in JAL colours as a gift. I fell in love with the iconic shape, started reading about aeroplanes and retired as an aeronautical engineer last year. Thanks Boeing.
Ric Ben 0
First flight on any A/C was back in 1964 or 1965 on AA 727-100 LGA to LGA 40 Minute Flightseeing Flight with low level flight up Hudson River to Kingston NY then down to Mid NJ coast back up to LGA. Cost, IIRC was $5. After hundreds of 727 flights, last flight was DAL 727-200 RDU to ATL.
Only incident experienced on all those flights was a DAL 727-200 flight LAS to LAX problem with Landing Gear Door problem which delayed flight landing 30 minutes.
Craig Good -2
It's adorable how people think that aviation = advanced.

This isn't nearly as bad as how weather and NOTAMS are still living in the days of 300 baud.
Craig Good 1
Oops. Posted this in the wrong discussion. Is there a way to delete one's own post here? I'm not seeing anything obvious.
Rob Palmer 1
I used to work at FAA Hq in Washington, where NOTAMS are edited and distributed. The same IBM 360-30 which originated and sent out NOTAMS did all the local stuff for us. I wrote the first program to require the 360-40; I tested and wrote it in two pieces, and joined them back when the 40 was installed.


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