A bit of aviation history trivia:
What is this aircraft's model number?

a)   707 -- The first (prototype) Boeing 707,  America's first jet transport
b)   367-80
c)   Dash 80
d)   All of the above
The correct answer is d) All of the above, but only on a technicality.  Ironically, the least appropriate name in the list, 367-80,  has become the one used most frequently.  Technically this was correct, but when the "367-80" was produced neither the public nor Boeing called it that.  To almost everyone it was "the 707", to Boeing insiders it was "the Dash 80".

If we believe this is a 367, then these derivatives of the B-29 Stratofortress are its closest relatives:

Boeing Model 367
KC-97 Stratotanker
Boeing Model 367
C-97 Stratofreighter
Boeing Model 377

Of course the Dash 80 doesn't look anything like these, it has very little in common with them except being a Boeing product that was manufactured at Renton, Washington.

Part of the Boeing 707's mid-20'th century origins came from the need for a jet tanker.  The KC-97 tanker version of the Boeing model 367 was in service and was slow in comparison to the new B-47 and B-52 jet bombers. For inflight refueling at altitude the tankers were pushing hard for speed and te bombers were at risk of wallowing near their minimum safe airspeed.  Early studies explored derivatives of the 367 design, and model number 367-80 means the 80th design of the 367, but by the time the 707 took shape it was clearly not a 367 at all.

Boeing's first internal design studies for jet transports were done by separate groups, one using model number 367 and the other using model number 473.  Near the end of 1951 Boeing took a fresh start as model number 707, with a 707-1 drawing dating to November 16, 1951.  The early-1952 study immediately preceding the Dash 80 design was the 707-6.  Calling it the new design a 367 might possibly have been a minor ploy to encourage Air Force funding...  a new model of an old plane sounds less risky and less expensive than a fairly radical new design.  So on paper the new aircraft was designated as the 367-80.

In reality Boeing knew it as the 707 by the time prototype construction began in 1952.  Within the company in Seattle it was generally known as the "Dash 80".  Boeing and Seattle proudly followed progress on the 707, which was expected to be the country's first jet airliner as well as a replacement for the military C-97 and KC-97.  It was built at the Renton plant on the shore of Lake Washington, which was then producing the 367's.  The 707 first flew on July 15, 1954 under civil registration number N70700.

My personal acquaintance with 707's goes back to being a kid in Seattle during those years.  My dad worked for Boeing, as did the dads of many of my friends, and my best friend's dad worked specifically on the Dash 80 during its construction.  I never heard any of them call it the 367-80 until one day two or three decades later my dad mentioned "You know, technically the first 707 was listed as the 367-80".

Frankly, I find the references to the 367-80 that started becoming more numerous in the last couple decades of the 20'th century annoying -- it's a minor detail, but it's still a distortion of history.  In the fifties Seattle and the rest of the U.S. looked to the 707 as a symbol of progress and national pride.
Here's some other evidence that accurately reflects the focus on the Dash 80 as the first 707, with not even a hint that it could be a 367/80:

Legend from this Boeing engineering drawing dated March 19, 1954  

Postal cover carried on first flight of Dash 80,
signed by Tex Johnston, pilot in command for this flight

Enclosed letter about first flight

Photo with caption identifying Dash 80 as "Model 707", from the Seattle Times Pictorial section, January 2, 1955.  The 707 was the main feature in this issue, whose full-page color cover was described like this...


The aviation history video that got it right: 
The Jet Airliner, in the Smithonian's Frontiers of Flight series.

The entire tape is about the Dash 80 and its only mention of "367-80" is to say that Boeing employees considered that model number to be a maffle.

This includes a recording of Tex Johnston communicating with the Renton tower as "707" for fhe first flight's takeoff clearance.


An honest mistake in a publication noted for its accuracy.  This is from the January 20, 1958 issue of Aviation Week,whose cover feature article was "Boeing Seeks to Lead Jet Age Market with 707s", beginning on page 48.  The cover photo shows the first production 707, Pan Am #1, in flight.  This aircraft's first flight was December 20, 1957, a short hop from Renton to Boeing Field (Plant #2).

Beyond naming evidence, a couple extra 707 photos...

Here's the flight line at Renton in late 1957, with the first production 707 (Pan Am #1) in the foreground, a line of KC-135's behind it.  The blob of a few pixels at the 707's wing root, near the open overwing emergency exit door, is my dad (Ken Raveling) at work. Click on the image to see a large copy (about 1.5 megabytes).

Incidentally, the KC-135's were Boeing model 717, not to be confused with the recent rename of McDonnell Douglas MD-95's to call them 717's.

Pan Am #1, first production 707, before 1st flight

And one last bonus photo, a nice black & white of the Dash 80 in flight...

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