“Flight 714” opens with a jetliner landing in Djakarta. Captain Haddock and Tintin were onboard this aircraft. They were allowed to de-board as the plane was being refuelled on its way to Australia. The aircraft was a Qantas Boeing 707. It was not surprising that Herge depicted the Boeing 707 in this book as “Flight 714” was published in 1968 and the 707 was one of the most popular passenger aircraft of the time. Another aircraft shown in the book is the fictional Carriedas 160.
The Boeing 707 is considered as the aircraft that revolutionised air travel as we know it today. It was an aircraft which established Boeing as the world leader in passenger aircraft to an extent that by the 1970s three-quarters of all civilian aircraft flying across the world were Boeing. Till the 1940s, Boeing was a global leader in military aircraft, however when it came to passenger aircraft, it was a distant second fiddle to McDonnel Douglas. The preferred passenger jet at the time of introduction of the 707 was the DC-8.
In the early 1950s Boeing realised that it needed to develop aircraft which could be sold to both, the military as well as the civil aviation sector. For this, in 1952, the company invested USD 16 million into developing a new jet aircraft. This money was the equivalent of all the profits the company had made since end of world war 2.In 1952 they conceived the 367-80, also called the Dash-80. The aircraft flew on its maiden flight on 15 July 1954. This aircraft was used to demonstrate the capability of jet aircraft to passengers and airliners reeling under the impact of several crashes of the deHavilland Comets. However, the aircraft was wide enough for a two by two seating which did not appeal to the airlines. As a result the fuselage of the Dash-80 was widened to allow for a three by three seating which was at par with the DC-8 and was becoming the preferred arrangement for airlines. This aircraft also had a military version KC-135 air to air refueller. Later several military aircraft like the E3C AWACS, E8A JSTARS and the KC-135 stratolifter were based on the fuselage of this aircraft. This aircraft also did service as the Air Force One, the personal aircraft of the US President. Cargo versions of the aircraft were also built and the last commercial aircraft was retired in 2019.
The first Boeing 707 flew on 20 Dec 1957. Pan American Airline of USA was the first airline in the world to order and operate the Boeing 707. The 707 was produced in several versions, basically different lengths and combination with different engines to cater to specific requirements of the airlines. The various versions were; Boeing 707-120B, 707-138, 707-220, 707-320, 707-320B, 707-320C, 707-420. Other aircraft based on the same fuselage were the Boeing 720, 727, 737 and 757. Between 26 Oct 1958 when the first 707 was introduced and 1978 when the last aircraft was built, Boeing built 1,010 707s for civilian use. Production for military aircraft, however, continued till 1991.
The Aircraft in which Captain Haddock and Tintin landed in Djakarta was a Boeing 707-138. These were custom built Boeing 707-120 for Qantas which required the fuselage to be shortened by 3,000 mm (10 ft) to increase its range to reach Australia. The fuselage was shortened by removing three fuselage frames from ahead of the wing and three from after the wing. As a result the length of the plane reduced to 41.0 m (134′ 6″). The most common engines on these aircraft were four Pratt and Whitney JT3D turbofans. These planes could seat up to 174 passengers in a single class seating and 137 in twin class seating. The fuselage of the 707 was 3.759 m (148″) wide. It had a wing span of 39.88 m (130′ 10″). The 707 had swept back wings at 35 Degrees. However this led to something called the “Dutch Roll” an enhanced alternate yaw and roll movement. At least one aircraft is believed to have crash landed because of this effect when three out of four of its engines were ripped off from the wings when a novice pilot could not control this motion. Boeing installed a yaw damper on the 707 to reduce the “Dutch Roll”.
The Pratt and Whitney JT3D engines were turbofan engines derived from the JT3C turbo jet engines. They had an axial flow two stage fan which was driven by a gas turbine with 6 stage Intermediate Pressure and 7 stage High Pressure compressors. They had cannular 8 flame combustor to ignite and burn the fuel which operated an axial single stage High Pressure Turbine and a 3 stage Low Pressure Turbine. These engines produced 80 kN (18,000 lb-ft) of thrust each. This allowed for a maximum take off weight of 117 tons (257,340 lbs). Four of these engines allowed a cruise speed of 977 km/h (607 mph). A 707-120, on which the Qantas 707-138 was based had a range of 6,700 km (4,100 miles).
The Boeing 707 was operated by a crew of three in the cockpit, the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer.