Thursday, December 20, 2007

50th Anniversaries

50 years ago today, I was awaiting my first Christmas. At 10 mos old, I was probably more interested in the boxes and lights than anything else. Across the country in Seattle, on a wet and gloomy Friday December 20, 1957, Tex Johnston Chief Test Pilot for Boeing Aircraft and his crew readied the first production Boeing 707 for its first flight.

The 707 was not the first jet powered airliner, that honor belongs to the De Havilland Comet. The 707 was however, the most successful of the first generation of jet powered airliners, revolutionizing air travel and cutting the world down to size. Europe was just a few hours away, not a day or two as in a slow propeller airliner or a week in an ocean liner. The orient was in reach, Australia opened up. Travel was no longer for the very rich. Richard Nixon wowed the Chinese in his polished 707 Air Force One, Lyndon Johnson became president in one. Over a thousand were built for both civilian and military use.

We who travel by air owe a lot to the 707 and all its sisters up to the new 787. We can see the world, visit family far away and close the gaps between the continents.

50 years later, many are still in service, mostly for military and freight. 50 years later, I am still in service too, and still fascinated by lights and the promise of a box under a tree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, so young and smart and only 50!

You could argue that the airplane was one of the greatest inventions in history. Not just for travel, but it allowed the guts of a factory to be delivered to a remote area such as Africa or Japan, and then the equipment needed to set it up the next day on another plane.

Air conditioning is another, but the 20th century saw some highly useful inventions that improved the quality of life. Now if we could get those inventions to stop killing the planet's climate.