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Why Did Airlines Retire Their Boeing 720s Early?  
User currently offlinedoulasc From United States of America, joined Dec 2011, 579 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 11 months 6 hours ago) and read 8767 times:

I have noticed that the Boeing 720 left airline fleets in the United States between 1970 and 1975.
Eastern retired theirs in 1970,United in 1972,American,Northwest,Continental 1975.Western retired theirs
in 1979. I heard in the end fate was not kind to the Boeing 720. Did the Boeing 727-200 make the Boeing
720 obsolete as far as being cost effective?

24 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25999 posts, RR: 22
Reply 1, posted (2 years 11 months 6 hours ago) and read 8727 times:

Quoting doulasc (Thread starter):
I have noticed that the Boeing 720 left airline fleets in the United States between 1970 and 1975.
Eastern retired theirs in 1970,United in 1972,American,Northwest,Continental 1975.Western retired theirs
in 1979. I heard in the end fate was not kind to the Boeing 720. Did the Boeing 727-200 make the Boeing
720 obsolete as far as being cost effective?

The oil price shocks of the early 1970s, when oil prices quadrupled almost overnight, no doubt played a role. Why fly 4 engines on short to medium routes when 2- and 3-engine aircraft were much more economical. That was especially true of UA's and Eastern's turbojet JT3C-powered 720s which were less fuel-efficient (and far less capable performance-wise) than the turbofan JT3D-powered 720B. I think AA was the only early 720 operator that converted their first batch of turbojet 720s to 720Bs (their later 720s were delivered as 720Bs).

And in those regulated years, when average load factors were seldom much higher than 50 to 60%, there wasn't much the early turbojet 720s could do that even a 737-200 couldn't do (with 2 less engines and 1 less person in the cockpit).


User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1159 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (2 years 11 months 5 hours ago) and read 8629 times:

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 1):
And in those regulated years, when average load factors were seldom much higher than 50 to 60%, there wasn't much the early turbojet 720s could do that even a 737-200 couldn't do (with 2 less engines and 1 less person in the cockpit).

Actually, because of ALPA national policy the 737-200 was operated with three pilots by UA, WA, PI and FL until about 1978. This actually began with the Caravelle at UA which was also flown by three in an aircraft certificated for two pilots. I've never understood why the BAC-111 and DC-9 weren't affected. No doubt this had some effect on the 737 being such a slow seller in it's early days.


User currently offlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5157 posts, RR: 43
Reply 3, posted (2 years 11 months 5 hours ago) and read 8589 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 2):
I've never understood why the BAC-111 and DC-9 weren't affected.

The early BAC-111s and DC-9s "snuck" under the weight whereby a third pilot was required. Later ones of course did not, but the rule had changed by then.



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlineordpark From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 576 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (2 years 11 months 5 hours ago) and read 8560 times:
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Yeah, economics is always the reason that accelerates aircraft retirements. My 2nd flight on an airplane was on a UA 720..in 1963 from EWR to ORD. I was so impressed with that airplane, and United...I was 12 or 13....but it started a lifelong love of airplanes and Airlines....I've been with UA for 38 years now...

User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1159 posts, RR: 7
Reply 5, posted (2 years 11 months 5 hours ago) and read 8538 times:

Quoting longhauler (Reply 3):
The early BAC-111s and DC-9s "snuck" under the weight whereby a third pilot was required. Later ones of course did not, but the rule had changed by then.


As I recall, the FAA granted exemptions to both the -111 and DC-9 because they exceeded the rule in effect at that time
requiring a flight engineer on a/c with a GTOW of 75,000 pounds or greater. For some reason ALPA went along with this but decided to make a stand on the 737. I think this is covered in my well-worn copy of "Loud and Clear" by Robert Serling, I'll have to check. In any event, the 737 was certificated by the FAA with two pilots from the beginning, so this was a union issue. Southwest which was non-union at it's 1971 start-up never flew with the GIB (guy in back) as he was called at Western.

[Edited 2012-01-24 21:32:41]

[Edited 2012-01-24 21:34:01]

User currently offlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5157 posts, RR: 43
Reply 6, posted (2 years 11 months 5 hours ago) and read 8507 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 5):
Oh yeah, now I remember - the 75,000 pound rule. Good catch longhauler!

If I recall it was 80,000 lbs, not that it really matters. But ... when the rule was repealed by the FAA in April 1965, Douglas announced the DC-9-30 version.



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlineghifty From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 891 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 11 months 2 hours ago) and read 8281 times:

Does the introduction of similarly-sized twin-jets have anything to do with the demise of the tri-jet? I'm sure it does...

Damn twin-jets! Tri-jets are sooo beautiful.



Fly Delta Jets
User currently offlineTravellerPlus From New Zealand, joined Nov 2008, 347 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (2 years 11 months 1 hour ago) and read 8222 times:

My first flight in the 1970s was on a turbo-jet powered B720 through African skies. They were kicking around with Air Rhodesia/Air Zimbabwe up until 1980-1981. The noise and smoke were phenomenal on take off. Also the stewardesses wore white gloves and the captain invited me to the flight deck. He puffed on a pipe like a mariner. How times have changed. These 720s were ex-Eastern machines.

Basically, after its mainline career at Eastern, the B720 was only good enough for an airline that needed to bust UN sanctions and would take any jet going.



What goes around comes around....unless your luggage is not on the carousel...
User currently offlinedoulasc From United States of America, joined Dec 2011, 579 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 7987 times:

always wonderd why Eastern's Boeing 720s had 2 overwing emergency exit windows and everyone elses had only one.

User currently offlineWA707atMSP From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 2264 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 7886 times:

Quoting doulasc (Reply 9):
always wonderd why Eastern's Boeing 720s had 2 overwing emergency exit windows and everyone elses had only one.

Many years ago, Air Transport World said EA fitted the extra overwing exits so their aircraft could have a higher density seating configuration.

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 5):
Southwest which was non-union at it's 1971 start-up never flew with the GIB (guy in back) as he was called at Western.

Western pilots were told to stop referring to the 3rd pilot as the GIB after someone discovered that a "Gibcat" is a male cat who has been neutered.



Seaholm Maples are #1!
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25999 posts, RR: 22
Reply 11, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 7353 times:

Quoting doulasc (Reply 9):
always wonderd why Eastern's Boeing 720s had 2 overwing emergency exit windows and everyone elses had only one.

I think Eastern at some point had plans to operate the 720s in a higher-density confuguration that required the additional exits, but in fact never did. With the extra exits the 720 was certified for about 25 more seats.


User currently offlinen471wn From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1603 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7281 times:
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Most of the turbofan models went on to long lives serving other carriers...

User currently offlineairman99o From Canada, joined Aug 1999, 980 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7200 times:

Why did some of the 720's have the antenna on the tail and some not? was this an option? I don't recall any of the 707 series not having the antenna.


Safety is Everyones Responsibility.
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25999 posts, RR: 22
Reply 14, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7135 times:

Quoting airman99o (Reply 13):
Why did some of the 720's have the antenna on the tail and some not? was this an option? I don't recall any of the 707 series not having the antenna.

That was the High Frequency antenna. Many 720s operated by US carriers never operated any routes where HF radio was needed so they were able to do without the antenna. Some carriers needed the antenna, for example Western, which used the 720B to Hawaii for many years.


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Photo © Frank C. Duarte Jr.



[Edited 2012-01-25 15:18:17]

[Edited 2012-01-25 15:23:40]

User currently offlineairman99o From Canada, joined Aug 1999, 980 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 7107 times:

Cool Thanks I had no idea. I loved the look of that tail on the plane. too bad the rest of the boeings didn't keep that look.


Safety is Everyones Responsibility.
User currently offlineBoeingGuy From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 3258 posts, RR: 7
Reply 16, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 7060 times:

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 14):
That was the High Frequency antenna. Many 720s operated by US carriers never operated any routes where HF radio was needed so they were able to do without the antenna.

Wasn't UA pretty much the only 720 operator that didn't have the HF antenna? I think TW 707-120s did not either. Seems like almost every other customer and minor model always had it.

HF is optional on the 737 too. Like WN doesn't need it (yet), but AS does for the Hawaii routes, for example. It used to be optional on the 767 a long time ago, but HF is standard on all non-737 Boeing models now.

A common misconception is that the 707 "needle" was a pitot probe.


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25999 posts, RR: 22
Reply 17, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 7024 times:

Quoting BoeingGuy (Reply 16):
Wasn't UA pretty much the only 720 operator that didn't have the HF antenna?

Also AA.

Quoting BoeingGuy (Reply 16):
I think TW 707-120s did not either.

Early production AA and TW 707-120s had the antenna. Those were aircraft built with the original short tail that were later modified with a 3 foot taller tail (and ventral fin below the fuselage) to correct stability problems. I think the modified tail on those aircraft had the antenna. (As part of that modification AA also converted the early turbojet 707-123s to -123Bs with JT3D turbofans but TW never did that.)

Some late production 707-120Bs built as -120Bs for both AA and TW lacked the antenna.

More on that subject in this 2008 Tech/Ops thread which also discusses some 707s with two HF antennas, the usual one on the tail and one on the right wingtip.
HF Antenna On 707-100s (by Exitrowaisle Jul 1 2008 in Tech Ops)


User currently offlineprebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6539 posts, RR: 54
Reply 18, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 6904 times:

Quoting n471wn (Reply 12):
Most of the turbofan models went on to long lives serving other carriers...

A substantial number of them found a second home at European charter companies. That included also old non-fanned birds.

I remember especially Danish Conair and Maersk Air flying those birds in the 70'es and 80'es.

Conair was last to retire them - in 1990 - when they were replaced by all new A320s.

The 720 had exactly the range to make Scandinavia - Canary Islands non-stop which made them quite popular around here.



Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
User currently offlineBoeingGuy From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 3258 posts, RR: 7
Reply 19, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 6857 times:

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 17):
More on that subject in this 2008 Tech/Ops thread which also discusses some 707s with two HF antennas, the usual one on the tail and one on the right wingtip.
HF Antenna On 707-100s (by Exitrowaisle Jul 1 2008 in Tech Ops)

Interesting. Two HFs are standard on non-737 Boeing airplanes. Did 707s have SATCOM? My experience doesn't go back that far.


User currently offlinemilesrich From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 2012 posts, RR: 6
Reply 20, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 5144 times:

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 1):
The oil price shocks of the early 1970s, when oil prices quadrupled almost overnight, no doubt played a role. Why fly 4 engines on short to medium routes when 2- and 3-engine aircraft were much more economical. That was especially true of UA's and Eastern's turbojet JT3C-powered 720s which were less fuel-efficient (and far less capable performance-wise) than the turbofan JT3D-powered 720B. I think AA was the only early 720 operator that converted their first batch of turbojet 720s to 720Bs (their later 720s were delivered as 720Bs).

And in those regulated years, when average load factors were seldom much higher than 50 to 60%, there wasn't much the early turbojet 720s could do that even a 737-200 couldn't do (with 2 less engines and 1 less person in the cockpit).

Viscount, you and I usually do not disagree but you missed here. Oil did not go up until October of 1973, due to the Arab oil embargo following the Egypt-Israel Yom Kippur War. United decided to ground their 720 fleet in 1970 or 71, and they were all retired by the end of 1972. United continued to fly non fan JT-4 powered DC-8's until 1978. I remember reading at the time that United was considering converting the 720's to B models but the aircraft needed to be reskinned. I think the lighter weight structure caused the airplanes to age more rapidly than regular 707 models. While it was true that 720's were not as fuel efficient as 727's, fuel was still 10 cents a gallon when United parked their fleet at MSP and DEN. Many of those 29 airplanes never flew again. They were only 10-12 years old.

Eastern's 720's were leased and I think they made a deal with Boeing to take them back early, and they all found homes. Perhaps Boeing realized it was easier to place the used aircraft when they were newer rather than older.

Also, when the 720's were parked, the 737-200's still had an FE, which is why they weren't a very good seller, and the 720 non fan jet could still operate from cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh to the west coast, and carried 20 to 30 percent more passengers with ample seat pitch than the 737 did.

American dumped their 720B's long before they started selling off their 707-123Bs including some of the first ones delivered. They certainly didn't use more fuel that the 707-123B.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 14):
That was the High Frequency antenna. Many 720s operated by US carriers never operated any routes where HF radio was needed so they were able to do without the antenna. Some carriers needed the antenna, for example Western, which used the 720B to Hawaii for many years.

The HF antennas were required if the aircraft were CRAF certified and were part of that fleet. UA's weren't, neither were the later 707-131B's that did not have them, and AA's 720's didn't have them either.

Braniff got rid of their 720's in 1973 when they decided to standardize their domestic fleet with the 727. But I think the first poster pointed out something very interesting. Only Continental dumped their DC-8's or 707's first before retiring their 720's including the fan powered B model that had coast to coast to range and could be flown from the West Coast to Hawaii. Western also kept their 720B's longer than any other carrier but that is because the only operated two 707-139's that were leased and a few 707-347C's that were purchased later on for routes they were never awarded and used on MAC charters during the Vietnam era. The 720B was the heart of Western's fleet for years. Northwest retired theirs before their 707-351B and C Models, probably because of their longer range.

I would like to hear from someone at Boeing about this, but as I said, I think the lighter structure had something to do with it.


User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1159 posts, RR: 7
Reply 21, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 4893 times:

Quoting milesrich (Reply 20):
Only Continental dumped their DC-8's or 707's first before retiring their 720's including the fan powered B model that had coast to coast to range and could be flown from the West Coast to Hawaii.

Continental never operated the DC-8 to the best of my knowledge.


User currently offlinezippyjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 5540 posts, RR: 13
Reply 22, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 4864 times:

Quoting ordpark (Reply 4):
Yeah, economics is always the reason that accelerates aircraft retirements. My 2nd flight on an airplane was on a UA 720..in 1963 from EWR to ORD. I was so impressed with that airplane, and United...I was 12 or 13....but it started a lifelong love of airplanes and Airlines....



My first jet flight ever was on an Eastern Airlines Boeing 720 in late June, 1962 from BWI (then Friendship International Airport/BAL). I had a love for aviation before as a little kid but this cemented the deal! I was 5! And the sweet sounds of those 4 jet engines drowned out the cries, farts, gurgles and other strange noises from my sister who was a little over a year old.

http://i76.photobucket.com/albums/j13/aerofotoworld3/FS3/720-eastern.jpg

The answers stated pretty much cover the early death of the 720. Eastern actually flew them into 1971. Still 2 to 3 years earlier than the Nixon/Arab oil embargo crisis and tanking of our economy. However, 727's, DC 9's etc. were more efficient and had stretch versions. Also the 747 was the go to bird for any airline who wanted to spread their wings. Also on the grand scale of large airliners the DC 10 and L1011 were on order or already in service. Like the Electra time marched on and these were left back at the gate.



I'm Zippyjet & I approve of this message!
User currently offlinemilesrich From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 2012 posts, RR: 6
Reply 23, posted (2 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 4384 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 21):
Quoting milesrich (Reply 20):
Only Continental dumped their DC-8's or 707's first before retiring their 720's including the fan powered B model that had coast to coast to range and could be flown from the West Coast to Hawaii.

Continental never operated the DC-8 to the best of my knowledge.

I didn't say that Continental operated DC-8's. I said that only Continental and Western retired their DC-8 OR 707's before they they retired their 720's. My comment said DC-8 OR 707's referring to all the trunk carriers that purchased the 720 and either had 707's [b]or[b/] DC-8's.

The following operators of 707's and/or DC-8's retired their 720's first.
United DC-8
Eastern DC-8
American B-707
Northwest DC-8 replaced by B-707
Braniff 707 replaced by DC-8
Lufthansa 707
Pan Am 707
Olympic 707
El Al 707
Aer Lingus

[Edited 2012-01-28 07:05:31]

User currently offlinelmml 14/32 From Malta, joined Jan 2001, 2565 posts, RR: 6
Reply 24, posted (2 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days ago) and read 3971 times:

I started my career on the B720b and have operated on eight, possibly nine, of the type between 1978 and 1991. Although what I fly on today bear no comparison, except that they have wings and engines, the B720b will always be in my heart.


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Photo © Wolfgang Mendorf



So it is very emotional for me to watch this video....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=wo6rAj7iCFQ


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