Which airlines flew the Boeing 707?

The Boeing 707 is one of the most important airplanes today. It was the first commercially successful aircraft, ushering in the era of jet travel. The aircraft also marked the beginning of Boeing’s growth in commercial aircraft development and the launch of the 7X7 series. It was initially popular in the United States, but soon entered the service of airlines around the world.

Boeing 707

The Boeing 707 was not the first jet aircraft developed. This award goes to the British manufacturer de Havilland and its Comet the plane. It first flew in 1949 and entered service with BOAC in 1952. It suffered several early setbacks, with aircraft losses due to airframe and pressurization problems. This damaged the Comet’s credibility and paved the way for other manufacturers to achieve greater success – although the later improved Comet found great use.


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Boeing followed with the 707. Its first jet was launched in 1957 and entered service in 1958. There were several variants of the 707. The first variant, the 707-120, was soon upgraded to the 707-120B with more powerful engines and the 707 -220.

The Boeing 707 headed to the paint hangar

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Significant improvements followed in 1959 with the 707-320. It was a stretched version, with increased fuel capacity and range. What is important is that it opened up transoceanic opportunities and was by far the most orderly option. The 707-320B added aerodynamic improvements, and the 707-320C added cargo/passenger sharing (although most deliveries were higher-capacity passenger models).

More than 850 707s were built and more than 700 entered airline service, but there were many government, air force and other private operators. The most famous is that the 707 served the US Air Force One until the current 747s were introduced.

Boeing 707 Lufthansa

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The 707, unsurprisingly, was Boeing’s most successful in its home market of the United States. It was operated by many legacy US carriers. Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) was the first customer of the type in October 1958. It became the largest operator, retiring its last aircraft in 1981.

Pan Am 707

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Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were notable exceptions. They both introduced the Douglas DC-8 in 1959 and did not operate the 707. United, however, was the primary operator of the shortened version of the Boeing 720.

Using data obtained from the AeroTransport Data Bank (ATDB.aero), the major airlines performed the following (with figures based on the total number of orders placed by the airline):

  • Pan Am: 133 aircraft in total, including 61 707-320B aircraft and 36 707-320C aircraft.
  • TWA: 128 aircraft, including 41 707-320B aircraft and 18 707-320C aircraft.
  • American Airlines: 124 aircraft, including 10 707-320B and 40 707-320C.
  • Continental: 18 aircraft.
  • Braniff International Airways: 19 aircraft.
  • Northwest Airlines: 36 aircraft, including 26 707-320s.

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European airlines

European airlines were also heavy users of the 707. As with American carriers, the 707s entered service on medium-haul routes, but soon became transatlantic with many airlines.

The largest operator was Air France with 45 aircraft (only one 707-120 and all others 707-320). UK airlines were not far behind. BOAC operated 34 707s. These were mainly 707-420 variants fitted with Rolls-Royce Conway engines instead of JT4A engines. British Caledonian Airways operated 30 aircraft.

Air France Boeing 707.

Other important operators include the Belgian airline SABENA with 30 aircraft, Lufthansa with 24 aircraft, Aer Lingus with 13 aircraft, Olympic Airlines with nine aircraft and TAP with five.

Lufthansa, Boeing 707, written off

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South American Airlines

The 707 flew with many of the major airlines of the time. Among them are VARIG with 20 aircraft, LATAM Chile with 14 aircraft, Aerolineas Argentinas with 11 and Aviana also with 11.

Asia and the Middle East

Pakistan International Airlines was one of the first and largest operators in Asia with 37 Boeing 707s. Air India operated 11, El Al 24 aircraft and Iran Air 14.

Qantas operated 34 aircraft, formerly Qantas Empire Airways. Qantas has operated specially modified 707-138s since 1959. In the mid-1960s, they were joined by the 707-320 (in total, it operated 13 707-138s and 21 707-320s). They formed the bulk of Qantas’ long-haul fleet until the 1970s.

Qantas 707

Other Asian operators included Cathay Pacific with up to 14 aircraft, Korean Air with 11 and Japan Airlines with two.


In Africa, Egyptair, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines were important operators. Egyptair ordered 21 aircraft over the years, marking a transition to mostly Boeing aircraft (after Comet ceased operations in the mid-1970s, it operated primarily Boeing 707s and 737s). South African Airways has ordered 17 aircraft, while Ethiopian Airlines has ordered nine.

Air Zimbabwe operated the 707 on second-hand Lufthansa aircraft. He flew this type between 1985 and 1998.

Egyptair 707

What about the first 707?

Before the 707 became globally popular, there was a prototype – the Boeing 367-80. For its next big plane, Boeing wanted to create a military transport aircraft with a jet engine, but failed to interest the US Air Force. In the absence of financing, the aircraft manufacturer decided to take a gamble and invest $16 million (two-thirds of the company’s net profit up to that time) into the project.

After several design changes, the 367-80 appeared. Because the 367-80 (also known as the Dash-80) was modeled as a military tanker, it had few windows and no seats. While Boeing continued to build 732 units of the military version, it also set its sights on the airline industry.

Boeing 367-80 in flight

In 1955, the company decided to show off the Dash-80 to airline executives gathered in Seattle for the annual IATA convention, which coincided with the Gold Cup seaplane races held on Lake Washington. Test pilot Tex Johnston turned what should have been a simple flyover into an exciting event doing a couple of barrel rollsimpressing surprised airline officials.

Shortly thereafter, Pan Am placed an order for 20 Dash-80s, convincing Boeing to make some design changes, and the rest is history!

The Boeing 707 is still in service

The Boeing 707 is no longer in service with airlines. TWA’s last commercial flight to the US was in 1983, but it remained in commercial use with others – Iran’s Saha Airlines operated it until 2013.

But many planes remain in flight. Today, most serve in the army. The US Air Force operates more than 40 707 aircraft – all military variants based on the 707, including the E-3 Sentry and E-8. NATO, the British RAF and the Royal Saudi Air Force also operate significant fleets of E-3 aircraft.

US operator Omega Air still has three 707s as refueling aircraft in its fleet, although ch-aviation data shows only one is active. One of these appeared in the entire Boeing 7X7 series aircraft line in 2016 as part of the 100th anniversary celebration.

Another 707 still in service has owned and flown for many years John Travolta. It purchased an ex-Qantas Boeing 707-138 in 1988 and re-registered it as N707JT. In 2017, he donated the aircraft to the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society based at Shellharbour Airport in Wollongong, Australia.

John Travolta's Boeing 707 at Sydney Airport

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The Boeing 707 is an important part of aviation history. It was served by many airlines around the world. This article covers the main customers and operators, but there are many more. Feel free to discuss further in the comments.

Source: ATDB.aera

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