Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big brass ones

The Boeing 707 is as old as I am, having received it's FAA certification when I was a month old or so.  That's a long time ago, and it means that a couple things are important to know.

1. It was designed by slide rules, not computers.

2. There weren't any computers on board, because computers of the day filled a room.

That meant that the bird was flown by the pilot.  This is some sort of flying:

That's a roll test for the 707.  Yikes.  They were Giants, in those days.

Via Theo Spark.


DC Handgun Info said...

This beautiful plane is stored at the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, VA (The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center). I used to work there. A docent loved to tell visitors the story about that awesome double roll (!) by test pilot Tex Johnson, if I recall correctly. Have a nice holiday, folks!

Buffboy said...

The test pilot was quite right, done by a good pilot at altitude high enough any airplane can be rolled in such a manner. If done by a good pilot the only sensation by a passenger is visual with no more stress on the airframe than a normal turn. Scares those that don't know that though.

Brad_in_IL said...


You'd be talking about the Dash-80 prototype. IIRC, the first 707 was a bit larger than the '80. And yes, Tex Johnson was the pilot. I'd heard a tale that the 'double roll' was made up of the first roll in one direction and the second roll in the opposite -- ostensibly to 'unwind' the first.

Somewhere in intrawebz land I'm sure is a pic of the roll from the cockpit view while the plane is inverted. Neat stuff.

wolfwalker said...

Damn straight, it took big brass ones to do something like that. Still does.

In the interests of picking interesting though trivial nits, though:

"2. There weren't any computers on board, because computers of the day filled a room."

Not exactly. It had no electronic computers, that's true. I believe, however, that there were mechanical, analog computers onboard. Analog computers were on aircraft at least as early as WW2, and on ships for half a century before that.

Anonymous said...

The first modern computer was the guidance package for one of the ICBMs IIRC. I'll have a rummage through the photo archive.