Boeing 727 Guide and Specs

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The Boeing 727 came into the limelight at the beginning of the 1960s. During the previous decade, early jet airliners like the De Havilland Comet and the Tupolev Tu-104 signaled the beginning of the end for piston-powered passenger aircraft.

The point was made clear with the advent of more mature models like the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8. The newer airlines quickly replaced piston airliners for long-haul flights, but Boeing saw a gap in medium and short routes.

Choosing the layout was not easy. United Airlines wanted a four-engine jet to service high-altitude airfields like Denver. American Airlines wanted two engines to save fuel on shorter routes.

Meanwhile, Eastern Airlines requested three engines due to strict restrictions on twin-engine aircraft operations over remote areas. After multiple meetings, the airlines and Boeing agreed on a trijet.

Existing passenger jets all had restrictive airport requirements. Aircraft like the Boeing 707 required a long runway and specialized support infrastructures like starter carts and airstairs.

These needs meant up-and-coming destinations were inaccessible to jets without serious investment to bring the airports up to standard.

The Boeing 727 introduced several features that changed this. The wings had a triple-slotted flap system that, when deployed fully, increased the wing area by 25%.

This feature lowered the landing speeds and resulted in much shorter runway requirements. Against limited logistics, the 727 had a built-in auxiliary power unit (APU) for unassisted starts and a rear-mounted airstair set.

Bottom Line Up Front

The Boeing 727 revolutionized commercial aviation in 1964, allowing airlines to operate from airfields with minimal infrastructure. Production lasted until 1984, and though the 727 is no longer in passenger service, it remains a cargo workhorse worldwide.

Boeing 727 / Specs

Boeing 727

The Boeing 727 is a trijet narrow-body airliner. It uses a trio of Pratt & Whitney JT8D low-bypass turbofan engines, one on each side of the fuselage and the third through an S-duct linking the air intake to the turbine.

The passenger cabin of the Boeing 727 uses a six-abreast configuration with a corridor down the middle. Its overall arrangement and cross-section match the Boeing 707 four-engine airliner, and the same goes for the cockpit section.

The Boeing 727 has a crew of three. It is the last Boeing airliner designed to have a pilot, a copilot, and a flight engineer. The 737, introduced in 1968, reduced the crew to just two people. 

All variants of the Boeing 727 have a wingspan of 108 ft, with a noticeable 32º wing sweep. The original 727-100 was 133 ft 2 in long and 34 ft 3 in tall. The 727-200 extended the fuselage to 153 ft 2 in and added another eight inches to the height. In both versions, the cabin is 140 inches wide.

The tailplane is in a high T-tail arrangement. The 727 has a shock absorber on the tail to protect the aircraft in case of over-rotation during takeoff.

The 727-100 weighs 87696 lbs empty, compared to 97650 lbs on the 727-200 and 100700 lbs for the 727-200 Advanced. The early variants have a maximum takeoff weight of 169000 lbs, while the 727-200 has an MTOW of 172000 lbs, and the 727-200 Advanced has 209500 lbs.

Fuel capacity started at 7680 US gallons but rose to 8090 gals in the 727-200 and eventually 10585 gals in the Advanced variant.

Numerous JT8D variants have powered the 727 over the years. The JT8D-9 is the only engine model to have flown aboard the 727-100, 727-200, and 727-200 Advanced. The thrust rating of early models was 14000 lbf, but this grew to 17400 lbs with the JT-8D-17 series found on the Advanced.

The 727-100 seats 106 passengers in a mixed class configuration, compared to 134 for the 727-200. In a single class cabin, these numbers rise to 125 and 155. The convertible 727-100 could take 94 passengers, 52 passengers, and four pallets totaling 22700 lbs, or eight pallets for 38000 lbs.

The flight deck of the 727 is instantly recognizable to those familiar with other Boeing aircraft of the 1960s. The pilot and copilot have individual flight instruments on the dashboard in front of them.

The middle of the panel fits the main engine, autopilot, and trim gauges and switches. The 727 relied only on radio navigation. Many operators retrofitted a modern FMS and GPS receivers to the aircraft, while others used a capable if spartan inertial navigation system.

Hydraulic power comes from two independent systems. System A draws power from the engines, while system B uses AC power to operate.

Under nominal conditions, the former powers the essential flight controls while the latter actuates the lower rudder, flaps, slats, and spoilers, among other functions. In case of system A failure, system B can power flight controls in its place.

At the time of its introduction, the Boeing 727 had one of the most advanced autopilot systems in the world. Beyond basic navigation tasks such as altitude and heading hold, it had an auto-flare function that allowed for automated landings, provided an ILS station was available.

The 727 was one of the first airliners with an auxiliary power unit. This feature and the built-in stairs in the rear of the fuselage allowed the jet to operate from remote airfields without starter carts or airstairs.

Boeing 727 / Prices

Boeing 727

At the time of its introduction back in 1964, Boeing sold its revolutionary trijet for $4.25 million. The aircraft was successful in the market and sold 1832 units throughout its production until 1984.

The 727 sold twice as many aircraft like the iconic Boeing 707, built from 1956 to 1978. By 1982, the Boeing 727 price had risen to $22 million.

Boeing 727 / Performance and Handling

The Boeing 727 is a hot rod. The combination of an aggressive sweep angle and three powerful engines makes for a fast and exciting jet to fly.

The maximum Mach limit for the aircraft is 0.9, with nominal cruise speeds of Mach 0.84. Many operators recommended bringing this number down to 0.78 to save fuel.

The Boeing 727-100 cruises at 495 to 518 knots. The heavier 727-200 and 727-200 Advanced have cruise speeds from 467 to 515 knots. The service ceiling of 36100 feet grew to 42000 ft with the 727-200 and Advanced.

The 727-100 could fly to 2300 nautical miles. The 727-200 lost some of this due to weight increases, clocking in 1700 nmi. Thanks to the more efficient engines and additional fuel capacity, the 727-200 Advanced not only matched but exceeded the original variant, with a maximum range of 2600 nmi.

In standard atmosphere conditions (ISA), a fully laden 727-100 requires 8300 ft to takeoff. When the early 727-200 became heavier, this grew to 10000 ft. This growth in runway requirements did not last long, as the 727-200 Advanced brought it down to 8500 ft thanks to its new engines.

As a large aircraft powered by beef hydraulic actuators, the controls on the Boeing 727 have noticeable inertia but feel smooth and predictable.

The aerodynamic configuration of the 727 allowed it to operate from airstrips which most airliners could never dream of flying in. However, the performance gains did not come free.

Like most T-tail aircraft, the 727 could fall into a deep stall if the pilots reached high angles of attack. The situation resulted from low airspeeds without flap deployment.

The turbulent airflow from the wing travels over to the tailplane, rendering the elevators unresponsive. Boeing installed a stick shaker to warn pilots before it is too late.

Using full flaps on the Boeing 727 during landing requires care, as they can incur unrecoverable sink rates. The landing technique for the 727 can feel alien to pilots transitioning from other types. The Boeing trijet lands better when the pilot pushes the nose gently into the flare. 

Boeing 727 / Modifications and Upgrades

Boeing 727-200

Over its two decades of production, there have been multiple Boeing 727 variants. All are derivatives of the two main 727 models, the Boeing 727-100 from 1963 and the 1967 Boeing 727-200.

727-100

Boeing delivered the first 727-100 in October 1963 to United Airlines, initially under the 727-00 designation. The Seattle company produced a total of 572 units between 1963 and 1972.

The original 727 could seat 125 passengers and had a maximum takeoff weight of 169000 lbs. The first units used three Pratt & Whitney JT8D-1 engines, later upgraded to the JT8D-7 and JT8D-9 after their introduction.

The United States military-operated five 727-100. The first one used the designation C-22A and flew for the United States Southern Command in Panama City, while the other four flew for the United States Air Force as the C-22B. 

727-100 Freighters

Due to the rising demand for convertible passenger-cargo aircraft, Boeing introduced the 727-100C. This variant reinforced the cabin floor to allow for heavier loads and added a freight door to make loading and unloading operations more convenient.

The Boeing 727-100C could seat 94 passengers in an airliner layout, 52 plus four cargo pallets in combi configuration, or eight carbo pallets with no passengers. 

While the 727-100C was popular, some operators raised concerns about the time it took to change configurations in the original convertible variant.

Boeing addressed this with the 727-100QC, which implemented a roller-bearing floor to speed up cargo operations and allowed operators to change configurations in as little as 30 minutes.

727-200

In 1967, Boeing delivered a stretched version of the 727. The 727-200 was 20 ft (6.1m) longer than its predecessor, a change achieved through two fuselage extensions added before and after the wing spar.

In the beginning, the two variants were almost identical besides this change, and they shared the JT8D-7 turbofan engine. Over the years, Boeing evolved the 727-200 to a point where the company felt comfortable discontinuing its shorter peer.

The original Boeing 727-200 had a relatively short production run, with 310 units built from 1967 to 1972.

727-200 Advanced

In 1970, Boeing launched an improved version of the 727 dubbed the 727-200 Advanced. This new variant used JT8D-9 turbofans and greatly extended the range of the aircraft.

The maximum takeoff weight rose to 210000 lbs, from 1930 to 2550 nautical miles. From 1972 until 1984, the Boeing 727 Advanced line was the only one under production.

727-200 Freighters

Unlike the 727-100, Boeing only built one convertible 727-200, designated 727-200C. The definitive 727-200 freighter came in 1981. The Series 200F Advanced (727-200F Advanced) used improved JT8D-17A turbofan engines and had a reinforced fuselage to allow for heavier cargo.

The aircraft introduced a cargo door in the forward fuselage and removed the windows from the cabin. FedEx was the original customer for the fifteen units built.

After airlines began retiring their 727 fleets, many cargo companies purchased these aircraft and converted them into freighter configurations. Companies that handle such conversions like FlightStar in Jacksonville tear down the passenger cabin, remove and plug the window wells, and install a cargo door.

For added safety, companies place a thick wall between the new cargo hold and the cockpit door, able to withstand impacts from any cargo that comes loose.

The main deck receives a reinforced spar beneath it with a strengthened floor. The original navigation suite traditionally gives way to GPS navigation based on customer requests.

Aftermarket Modifications

Boeing 727-22

Most modifications to the Boeing 727 came up in response to the Noise Control Act of 1972. Regulations classified the 727 as a Stage 2 aircraft, while new requirements mandated transition to Stage 3 over time.

Because its fleet relied so heavily on the Boeing 727, FedEx designed its own Stage 3 hush kit. Over 60 operators have purchased their solutions.

In 1988, Valsan Partners introduced a stage 3 modification to the Boeing 727. The Super 27 program replaced the side-mounted engines with the JT8D-217C or JT8D-219, resulting in better fuel consumption, runway requirements, and lower noise.

The Super 27 is compliant with new noise abatement regulations. The Super 27 applied a hush kit to the center engine at the expense of its thrust reverser.

Following a series of mergers, BF Goodrich became responsible for the modification. In 2000, the Super 27 upgrade cost $8.6 million. Besides the Super 27 upgrade, Valsan Partners also created winglet kits that reduced the noise during approach and improved fuel consumption.

Raisbeck Engineering invented a package to make the Boeing 727 compliant with Stage 3 requirements. The company engineered changes to the flaps and slats scheduling that reduced the noise level significantly at most weights.

Operators wishing to fly closer to MTOW can do so with the help of a silencer exhaust mixer. Most major airlines in the United States that operated the 727 used this solution in place of engine changes.

A unique feature of twelve 727-200 Advanced was the provision to carry jet-assisted takeoff (JATO) tanks. The carrier Mexicana de Aviacíon serviced multiple high-altitude routes in the 1970s.

Due to contingencies in case of an engine failure, their aircraft had a limited payload. To get around this, Boeing rerouted part of the avionics and air conditioning ducting to make way for JATO installation.

The system was as a backup. With the rockets fitted, Mexicana could fly their 727 out of hot and high airports with a full payload. In the event of an engine failure beyond abort speeds, the crew would have activated the rocket motors and climbed to safety.

Boeing 727 / Where to Find Replacement Parts

Thanks to the popularity of the Boeing 727 in the freight industry, multiple companies still stock and overhaul parts for the global 727 fleet. Among them are US Aerospace Corp from Tennessee, and Hayward and Green, based in England. 

Boeing 727 / Common Problems

Boeing 727

The Boeing 727 was revolutionary, but it had a difficult start. One year after its introduction to the commercial market, three Boeing 727-100 crashed during landing in the United States.

The aircraft was the first to use a new flap system to shorten takeoff and landing runs. Pilots who had transitioned from the Boeing 707 sometimes did not follow the correct procedure for the new system.

Because of the sink rates from these mistakes, the aircraft often ended in unrecoverable positions during landing. Boeing and the FAA worked together to improve pilot training, ending the streak of crashes.

Outdated Engines

In 1972, things took a turn for the worse for the future of the Boeing 727. The Noise Control Act planned to ban all Stage 2 jet airliners from US airports in 2000.

Between then and the deadline, many companies created hush kits and other adaptations to make the Boeing 727 compliant with Stage 3 requirements, but this came with a high cost for the operators.

In 1973, the oil crisis sent fuel prices soaring. Its effects were not immediate, but they came to mark the beginning of the end of the trijet era. In 1974, Air France began operations with the Airbus A300.

This aircraft was the first twin-engine widebody airliner, equipped with two high-bypass turbofans. Thanks to a 1976 ICAO ruling, the Airbus could fly long-range routes for as long as it was within 90 minutes of a divert field on a single-engine.

The situation worsened in the early 1980s when Boeing introduced the 757, 767, and a stretched 737 fitted with high-bypass turbines. At around the same time, Airbus debuted the A310. With its three low-bypass engines, the Boeing 727 could not compete with the operational costs of twin-engine aircraft.

Besides the fuel consumption woes, the placement of the Boeing 727 engines made them more expensive and time-consuming. The central JT8D with its S-duct mount required disassembling the rear fuselage to access.

The D. B. Cooper Case

Boeing 727 had a rear ventral airstair by the end of the fuselage under the centerline engine. This feature allowed 727 operators to fly from airports without much support infrastructure.

However, in 1971 a hijacking changed the global perspective on this feature. A mysterious man under the alias Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727-100 operated by Northwest Orient Airlines between Portland and Seattle.

After releasing the passengers during a stop at Seattle Tacoma Airport, Cooper collected a ransom of $200000 and four parachutes, then directed the crew to fly at 10000ft and just above stall speed.

Once alone in the passenger cabin, Cooper opened the rear door and disappeared. The commonly believed story is that the hijacker parachuted with the money. The D. B. Cooper case led to nineteen copycats, most involving the Boeing 727. 

In response to the D. B. Cooper craze, the FAA required that aircraft equipped with a ventral airstair have a way of preventing its opening in flight.

Designers created an aerodynamic spring-loaded vane that, when pushed by the airflow over the fuselage, would fold and block the stairs from opening. The device is called the Cooper vane, after the famous robber. McDonnell Douglas retrofitted the vane on their DC-9 series, which also had rear stairs. 

Boeing 727 / Resale Value

Boeing 727-200

The Boeing 727 prices experienced a severe drop in the 1990s because of commercial successes by its twin-engine Boeing siblings and stiff competition from Airbus.

According to the International Aircraft Price Guide, a Boeing 727 costs between $2.9 and $9.5 million. In 2022, Trade-A-Plane listed two Boeing 727-200. The 1982 model had an asking price of $3 million, compared to $1.5 million for the 1976 unit.

Boeing 727 / Similar Aircraft 

The Boeing 727 was one of many revolutionary designs introduced in the early 1960s.

A year after the 727 came in, McDonnell Douglas delivered the first DC-9. This aircraft shared many features with the 727. It had a high T-tail, an APU, ventral airstairs, and could operate from runways even shorter than its Boeing cousin.

The DC-9 competed with the Boeing offering for short-haul flights, but its range and low cruise speed prevented it from attacking longer segments. For carriers specifically looking to service short routes, the DC-9 proved cheaper with a crew of two and only a pair of JT8D engines. 

European aviation also placed its bets to compete in the short and medium-haul niche. In the late 1950s, French giants Sud Aviation introduced the Caravelle. This twin-engine airliner quickly evolved from its earlier iteration, adding an APU, Fowler flaps, AC generators, and aerodynamic improvements.

The Caravelle was a global hit, with 282 units delivered between 1958 and 1972. While vastly superior to the troubled De Havilland Comet, the Caravelle eventually fell behind the 1960s offerings.

In the United Kingdom, the aviation industry had prepared an answer to the 727. Hawker Siddeley acquired De Havilland in 1960, and one of the projects inherited was the DH.121 trijet airliner.

The new owners saw the aircraft through to its delivery in 1964, the same year as the Boeing 727. The Hawker Siddeley Trident had a high T-tail and three Rolls-Royce Spey low bypass turbofans.

The Trident was the first airliner to make a zero-visibility landing while flying with passengers aboard. Despite the performance and innovative avionics, Hawker Siddeley only sold 117 units, all of which had retired by 1995 due to poor profit margins.

Further east, the Soviet Union had made strides into this market segment. The Tupolev bureau had scored a hit with the twin-engine Tu-134 introduced in 1970 and pushed further with the Tu-154 trijet in 1972.

The Tu-154 used a trio of low bypass Kuznetsov NK-8 turbofan engines until the Tu-154M in 1982. The new model used the Soloviev D-30 engines with much lower fuel consumption.

Production of the Tu-154 lasted from 1968 to 2013, spanning 1026 units. In 2020, ALROSA became the last airline to retire the Tupolev trijet.

FAQs

Question: Are any Boeing 727 Still Flying?

Answer: Yes. According to data from early 2022, 38 Boeing 727 are flying with 23 organizations. Only five still use the 727-200 in airliner configuration.

Question: How much is a Boeing 727 Worth?

Answer: In 1992, the Boeing 727 cost between $2.9 and $9.5 million.

Question: When was the Last Boeing 727 Built?

Answer: The last Boeing 727 rolled out of the production line in 1984.

Question: How much Fuel does a Boeing 727 Burn per Hour?

Answer: The Boeing 727-100 variant burns 4140 kg/h, while the 727-200 consumption is 4500 kg/h.

Question: When did American Airlines Retire the 727?

Answer: American Airlines retired the Boeing 727-100 in 1994, followed by the 727-200 in 2002.

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