A Look Back: Boeing’s 727
Today’s passenger airliners sure are impressive, aren’t they? As a dedicated aircraft photo spotter, I am tremendously excited whenever I get an opportunity to focus one of the newer paxbirds, like a 380 or a Dreamliner, in my viewfinder. But I have to be totally honest with you; as pumped up as I get when I am able to see one of those, I get three times the thrill when I find myself around a Boeing tailend tri … the wonderful 727.
Even though it was a half-century ago, I still recall the first time I saw a 727. The skies over GBIA (Greater Buffalo International Airport) were thick with gray clouds so the day was rather bleak, but even a driving downpour could not have diminished the excited sparkle in my eyes as I eagerly sought my first glimpse of the American Airlines NYC-BUF flight that was inaugurating 727 jet service to Buffalo.
Seemed like I had to wait forever (remember, back in the mid 60s there was no way for an Average Kid like me to “track” the progress of an in-flight airliner so all I knew was that it was supposed to be on the way) but finally, there, way off in the distance, I saw a dark smudge of black smoke emerging from the gray clouds, and the even darker speck in the middle of that smoke was a Boeing 727-100. I actually took a picture of that scene: a black and white film picture clicked with a little Kodak Brownie that, when developed about a week later, revealed … a black spot and a bunch of gray clouds. (lol) I still have that snapshot and occasionally, I glance at it for a laugh.
Anyone who sees it is dumbfounded since they have no clue why I took it. (They politely say something like, “Wowwee!” “Clouds, eh?” “And a black dot too.” “Yep, that was a keeper for sure.” “Anybody can plainly see why you’ve been hauling this shot around with you for half a century.” ” ??? “) I’m fairly certain my wife doesn’t honestly understand why I keep it either, but she’s abandoned any hope that I might someday toss it out. Anyway, when I look very, very, VERY closely, I think I can see an airplane, so I know why I keep it.
Maybe there are some readers, at least one or two, I hope, who understand too. Nah, don’t worry (chuckle), I’m not going to make you stare at that picture. However, I AM going to post another photo I took a couple of years later. There are three main similarities: 1) it is a B&W pic, 2) it was taken with a Kodak film camera, and 3) it shows lots of clouds. But there is one BIG difference: you can actually see a B727 in this click. (grin)
I’m not going to make any friends with environmentalists when I make this next comment, but I’ll write it anyway. I really, really miss the streams of dark black smoke trailing from those three JT8D-1s. But even more, I miss the noise those triple turbofans made.
Many were the times back in the mid ’60s when I sat about three feet off the end of GBIA’s runway 05, totally engrossed in the sight of a Boeing three-holer coming straight at me down runway 23 and excitedly anticipating the thunderous music it would make as it crackled overhead while on the climb.
Yep, back in those days, there were very few fences around airports and if there WAS one, no one cared if a teenaged kid climbed over it so he could sit with his camera at the edge of the concrete. Nowadays, the edge of the runway is inaccessible, the smoke and the decibels given off by modern jet engines are both much reduced, … and the sight of a Boeing tri in the sky is becoming increasingly rare. If it is an airplane, I am crazy wild to take a picture of it.
Prop or jet; one engine, two, three, four, eight (as with the B-52), or even with none (as below); I want to be around it and capture a click of it. Active, static, or scrapped; airborne, parked, or abandoned; I wish I could get close to it or maybe even have a minute or two inside the pax cabin or the cockpit.
When it comes to seeing and/or photographing three or four engined passenger aircraft with all the engines located “astern,” I’ve had one or two lucky encounters. I once saw a tail-mount quad, a VC-10, and that one (BOAC livery) was a long way away from my kiddie camera’s lens, but I snapped it and I still have it.
Regretfully, I’ve never seen a Trident. I’ve never seen an Ilyushin 62 either; however, I DO have a couple rather heat-distorted photos of RA-85655, a Tupolev TU-154M-LK1 tri (the Russian Zero-G aircraft). And despite the deteriorated and faded condition of my VC-10 shot and the heat-roached quality of my TU-154 snaps, I was super happy when I saw them and I am pleased to have those few pictures of them.
Naturally, if I ever had the incredibly good fortune to be within photo-shooting distance of a Trident; I’d be ecstatic, but I’m a realist; that’s never going to happen for me. So my only true hope of encountering an aircraft that spurs a “look back” to the days of the old three-holer tail mounts is the Boeing 727 … and the opportunities to be around one of those seem to be decreasing daily. When I stumble upon one or when I hear of one being somewhere in the vicinity, my aviation-photography antennae are fully focused on that classic Boeing bird.
Here are some pictures, some ancient and some more recent, of Boeing’s best selling triple. Certainly, I’ve not had the pleasure of being aboard every 727 shown in this post, but in my days I’ve been a pax in Twenty-Sevens wearing American, Braniff, Delta, Pan Am, and United paint schemes. And I’d go again in an instant.
OK. You’ve read about my enthusiasm for this bird. Please share your feelings, photos, and experiences with Dave and me. Any former 727 pilots, cabin personnel, maintenance, or airport agents out there? OldeCarl (at) gmail.com is the address you need in order to get your comments and pictures to me. And Thanks for reading this post and for enjoying my pics. My next topic will be Mohawk Airlines so check back soon. Until then, here are several more 727 photos below. … Reno Gary
I found some interesting items in my box of airline memorabilia. There were two large 5 x 7 postcards showing the 727. I’ve scanned one of those cards and entered it (above) to share with readers. In three months (June, 2015), my Whisperjet postcard will be 50 years old. Eastern advertised their 727s as Whisperjets” because, as it says on the back of this card, “This is Eastern’s famous Whisperjet, the quietest kind of airliner. With its engines in the rear, the noise is left behind. … One more reason to fly Eastern …”. Over the past six years, there have been a few visits to Reno by cargo-configured 727s. The last Fed Ex 727 to come here was, to the best of my knowledge, in 2009 when “Dominique” came thru. Since then, only Capital Cargo International and Amerijet have brought 727s into KRNO.
Although they are gradually disappearing from the sky, 727s can still be found. Here’s one I found on a shelf …
… and here is another. In this final photo below, I had positioned the model on its plastic display stand in front of a glass window. After taking the picture, I edited the plastic stand out of the shot, leaving the following scene. One way or another, I’ll find a way to keep the 727 “flying.”
Added April 13, 2015 >> Photographer Cuong M. Nguyen (cuong.m.nguyen (at) outlook.com) has graciously authorized me to add his superb photo of a Cargojet B722 to my article. Cuong’s outstanding snap of C-GUJC was taken at Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Thank you for allowing me to share your excellent picture, Cuong.
Added June 29, 2016 … Photographer Peter Scharkowski has granted permission for me to download one of his outstanding photos from Flight Aware and repost it here. Thank you very much, Peter. (Thumbs Up)