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Boeing 727. Why was it relatively unsuccessful in the UK?

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Boeing 727. Why was it relatively unsuccessful in the UK?

Old 19th Aug 2020, 20:46
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Boeing 727. Why was it relatively unsuccessful in the UK?

As far as I'm aware, there have only been three British airlines to have operated passenger flights with the 727; Dan Air, Sabre and Cougar (I'm not counting BAF's brief dalliance with JAT aircraft circa 1992). I think it's quite well known that, in the mid to late 1960s, BEA was interested in both the 727 and 737 but was steered towards the Trident and 1-11 by the government. Many UK airlines operated the 707 or 720 and the 737 was a popular choice for the IT brigade so what went wrong with the 727 ? Too big for 737 routes, too small for 707 routes ? Insufficient range ? Excessive import duties ? I would have thought (don't ask me why) the 727 would have been ideal for Britannia's and Monarch's more busy Mediterranean routes but it wasn't to be. Dan Air seemed to like them, although I concede they had to make some airframe modifications to keep the CAA happy.

Any ideas ?
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Old 19th Aug 2020, 23:00
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This is just a guess with regards Monarch, the 720/707 was probably a better fit for their trans Atlantic ops due to initial price, load capacity and range capability.
When Monarch started operating 737-200s and 300s around Europe, they could easily do what the 727 could with a lesser fuel burn, less maintenance and without the additional cost of a flight engineer, no disrespect meant to FEs. Then 757 put an end to the 727.
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Old 20th Aug 2020, 00:13
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Agree with the above. The 727 did see service with flag carriers in many other European countries - Iberia, LH, AF, Olympic etc but the biggest potential U.K. operator was pushed into the Trident, even though they’d rather have had the 727. The 737 came along shortly afterwards so the 727 missed its window of opportunity if you like in the U.K.
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Old 20th Aug 2020, 06:37
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Don't think Monarch had a trans-atlantic operation when they bought the 720 - I think they got them cos they were cheap. Remember we are going back to the days of affinity charters etc. The 720 doesn't really have that sort of range and don't remember Monarch having the 707 as a mainline a/c (might have been some short term leases?).

The issue with the 727 in the UK was the amount of work (and money!) required to get them approved by the CAA (stick shakers?)

As an aside, was working a MON 720 from MAN-TLV which was over-booked and I remember walking down the queue of people saying "do you want a jump seat in the cockpit or we will have to leave somebody behind..." - there were no takers and we ended up bumping a family....
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Old 20th Aug 2020, 10:23
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As well as the stick shaker, Dan Air's early -46 fleet, acquired from JAL, had an extra over wing exit fitted at the behest of the CAA. This was to permit a higher seating config. I think Monarch did the same with their 720s. I don't know if either of these mods were required on the -200 but I agree, they would have added to purchase and maintenance costs, whether on the production line or post-production.

BEA neatly sidestepped the Flight Engineer issue with the Trident by sitting a third pilot in front of the panel which also meant not having to deal with Engineering unions in the cockpit. I wonder if this might have been allowed with the 727, had the type been more successful in the UK ?

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Old 20th Aug 2020, 19:08
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Thankfully we still have the 2excel oil busters and at least one Manx-registered private 727 to keep the machine alive in the UK.

Condor, Iberia and JAT flew the 727 on holiday jollies yet all three had access to lower-capacity aircraft, i.e. the 737 and DC9. There might be something in that.
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Old 21st Aug 2020, 08:24
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Hmm.....I've got an old thumbed notebook, that says it was a B727 that I flew on in Jan 1989 from Gatwick to Grenoble and then back again a week later when going on a package skiing trip.
I don't recall what the airline was and didn't note it, and I don't recall the specific flight being 30 years ago, and one of many now, other than it was the first time I had flown from Gatwick, so I'm wondering if that is an error now and it wasn't a 727...?

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Old 21st Aug 2020, 09:24
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GeeRam, Dan-Air most likely. Still going in '89 I think and they had a number of 200s then.
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Old 21st Aug 2020, 09:40
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I recall Dan-Air detached a B727 to Australia 1989/1990 to operate the ADL/PER/ADL ETOPS route, Aussies could operate the route with 2 engines using a highway as an alternate, alas the European authorities viewed things differently, trouble was that the B727 that Dan Air detached could carry passengers and fuel but not both at the same time so one B727 came home whilst a replacement B727 went down.
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Old 21st Aug 2020, 13:20
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Dan Air's purchase of 3 ex JAL 727-100's saw extensive Mods required by the CAA, and DA's choice to increase pax seating from 131 to a max of 154 by the fitting of 2 rear aft Type A doors (similar location as on 727-200)
Entry into DA service was summer 1973, with 2 more ex JAL door modified 727's following in 1974.
3 more unmodified a/c came on strength by 1977 (1 from Burma and 2 from Delta)
The 727 for DA became their mainstream charter aircraft, with the 189 seat -200 series being added from 1980.

Hapag Lloyd also from 1973 obtained a fleet of ex ANA JAL and TDA 727-100's but had no exit door mods made.

Prior to DA getting the 727 onto the UK registerboth BMA and Court Line had considered the 727 (-100 and -200 series respectively)
I cannot recall where BMA's were to be obtained from but they were not new.
Court Line went with the Tristar.

Both Channel Airways and BKS/Northeast in 1968 had each ordered a pair of 123-139 seat HS Trident One E-140 aircraft but they were the only carriers to use these on IT routes.
Channel did fly theirs from STN to the Canary Islands.

The only other carriers before DA that had been using 727's for IT charterswere Condor (obtained through LH from 1966) and Transair Sweden (3 new 727-100 in 1969)
But Wardair, TIA, AFA and World from 1966 had all used their 727-100's on Transatlantic Affinity charters to LGW.

By the early 70's most package holiday charter airlines in the UK and Germany had gone with the 1-11 or Britannia AW with the 737-200, which at the time both types were not optimal for longer routes to the Canaries and the Greek Islands, but they certainly did often fly down there, either with a reduced payload or with a tech stop.
Hence the likes of Laker, BEA Airtours, Caledonian & Monarch now all having Boeing 707 or 720B's for the longer flights.
Dan Air had been using Comets on their longer IT routes so now the 727 would take these over - using less fuel and carry more pax.

The 737-200ADV with much improved engines came along in 1973/74.
Around late 1979 British Airtours, Britannia, Air Europe, Monarch and Orion all were starting to order new 737-200ADV, 130 seats, 2 crew, with long enough range to see off any 727-100.
In Europe many other charter airlines were also buying the 737-200.
Hence no one else apart from Dan Air ever considered buying 727's in the UK - even Dan Air was to start to build up a 737-200 fleet.

German airlines were not allowed to fly German tourists from Berlin so many UK charter airlines from the 1960's, including DA had a base at TXL, plus Modern Air's CV990's (followed by Aeroamerica 707/720/1-11 and Air Berlin USA 707/737) flew IT's from there too until Reunification.

Other countries at the time were mainly using cast off's, or leases/purchases from within their in-house or affiliated State airlines, these such as Sobelair, Scanair, Luxair, Balair, Condor,
Air Charter Intl, SAM, Martinair Holland who used mainly Caravelle DC-8 DC-9 707 727
LTU in 1973 entered the wide body era with new a Tristar, and Condor had both of their 747's in service by then.
Other airlines to use their new 747's on regular or seasonal IT charter flights were Aer Lingus, BOAC, KLM, Sabena and SAS/Scanair

The Spanish charter airlines were using mainly older jet fleets -
Air Spain TAE & Aviaco all had DC-8's, with TAE Aviaco & Transeurorpa all also using Caravelles and TAE a sole 1-11
Spantax had a jet fleet of CV-990A's, with secondhand DC-8 and DC-9 being added in 1973/74 plus a DC-10 in 1978

In Scandinavia -
Transair Sweden had 3 new 727-100's in 1969 which had the range to the Canary Islands - these flew for Scanair
Scanair used Caravelle DC-8 727 and 747
Sterling had a large fleet of Super 10B3 Caravelles including in 1971 the new Super Star 12 series seating 131-140 passengers, with their first 3 HGW 727-200ADV's added from 1973.
Conair of Scandinavia obtained ex EAL 720-025's in 1971
Karair and Spear Air both had DC-8's in 1972 & Finnair used their own DC-8's frequently on IT charters (and it's DC-10's from 1975)

Nordic Package holidays then was very successful with Tjaereborg (owned by Sterling) and Spies (owner of CONAIR) and VINGRessor who was owned by Scanair...

The popular Yugoslavia holiday charter markets for UK & Germany saw Inex Adria and JAT operate new DC-9's and Aviogenex new Tu-134A's.

Monarch purchased cheaply in 1971 from Northwest 3 x 720B's with a service life expectancy of 5-7 years - MON/OM had these modified to enable 170 seats with adding an extra pair of over-wing exits. A few more were added in subsequent years, along with 707-120B's.
Also in 1971 BEA Airtours obtained a growing fleet of ex BOAC RR 707-420's which KT used mainly on IT holiday charters.

A Question was asked above -
''Don't think Monarch had a trans-Atlantic operation when they bought the 720 - I think they got them cos they were cheap. Remember we are going back to the days of affinity/ABC charters etc. The 720 doesn't really have that sort of range...''

Monarch did operate Caribbean charters at first mainly to St Lucia with the 720B and used the Azores for tech stops.
Subsequently, in 1981 a 707-355C was leased from BCAL enabling non-stop flights to the Caribbean which for Monarch did become quite a money earner in later years.

I may have possible gone off on a ''post lock-down Covid boredom tangent'' but I think I have outlined maybe why the 727 never saw early service on IT flights in the UK.

It must be said that later on we saw the 727-200 series on much more IT work with Dan Air, Sterling, Condor, Hapag Lloyd, Air Atlantis, Air Colombus, JAT, Aviogenex

Dan Air never ventured much further than Tel Aviv or Banjul with their 727's
but Sterling did plenty of long haul with theirs - Mombasa, Colombo Malé International Airport, Hulhulé Maldives, Fort Lauderdale Miami YYZ were some of the places they flew to.

Last edited by rog747; 21st Aug 2020 at 13:47.
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Old 21st Aug 2020, 15:30
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Oc37, the Australian airlines leased in numerous British charter aircraft at the time to which you refer.
Australian pilots went on a prolonged strike
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Old 21st Aug 2020, 21:39
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A largely missed opportunity for the 727 in the UK, but the type was also bypassed by flag carriers such as KLM, SAS and Swissair - all largely McDonnell Douglas customers anyway. Sabena operated the 100 for a spell but they too went for the 737 in the end. The story could well have played out differently had the UK government let BEA have their way in 1966.

rog - a detailed and fascinating account🙂.
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Old 21st Aug 2020, 22:10
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Originally Posted by Mooncrest View Post
The story could well have played out differently had the UK government let BEA have their way in 1966.
It was "BEA having their way" that caused de Havilland to reduce the size of the aeroplane they were designing for BEA so that we " . . . designed an internationally unwanted airliner with scaled-down engines that RR knew they could not sell elsewhere." The original DH121 was B727 size in most respects so history shows that our (and Boeing's) original sizing was right and BEA was wrong.
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 00:48
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Originally Posted by bean View Post
Oc37, the Australian airlines leased in numerous British charter aircraft at the time to which you refer.
Australian pilots went on a prolonged strike
Yes, along with other European carriers also, but only one of those carriers had anything with 3 or more engines whilst European twins couldn't operate to/from PER.

And it wasn't a strike, it was a dispute!
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 10:27
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Monarch did operate Caribbean charters at first mainly to St Lucia with the 720B and used the Azores for tech stops.
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 10:29
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Monarch did operate Caribbean charters at first mainly to St Lucia with the 720B and used the Azores for tech stops.

Monarch also used Gander as a tech stop, depending on winds.

With the right conditions they occasionaly came back direct, although it was not unknown to request a straight in on 08 as fuel was getting a bit tight!
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 10:48
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Originally Posted by OC37 View Post
I recall Dan-Air detached a B727 to Australia 1989/1990 to operate the ADL/PER/ADL ETOPS route, Aussies could operate the route with 2 engines using a highway as an alternate, alas the European authorities viewed things differently, trouble was that the B727 that Dan Air detached could carry passengers and fuel but not both at the same time so one B727 came home whilst a replacement B727 went down.

727 DA leases to Oz during pilot dispute at TN

G-BHNF leased 1/90 - 4/90 to Australian Airlines - This 727 was a HGW ADV model with -17A engines built for Sterling Airways in 1977

G-BPNS was ret 13/1/90 to Dan-Air London
G-BPNS chartered 1/11/89 Dan-Air London>Australian Airlines (This 727 was built for Ansett in 1974 and was an A model)
This 727 was spotted at ADL SYD MEL & BNE


So was PNS the Dan 727 that was unsuitable for ADL-PER-ADL?
Although at just over 1300nm that sector was well within range of a full 189 seat 727-200 - Do I assume alternates was to return to origin if nothing suitable en-route?
Why would you mention ETOPS for a 3 engines 727?

Or was it ETOPS for a twin?
Note that IEA Inter European Airways leased a pair of 737-300's to TN during the TN dispute, as did 737-300's from Britannia.

Last edited by rog747; 22nd Aug 2020 at 11:07.
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 11:50
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Originally Posted by rog747 View Post
727 DA leases to Oz during pilot dispute at TN

G-BHNF leased 1/90 - 4/90 to Australian Airlines - This 727 was a HGW ADV model with -17A engines built for Sterling Airways in 1977

G-BPNS was ret 13/1/90 to Dan-Air London
G-BPNS chartered 1/11/89 Dan-Air London>Australian Airlines (This 727 was built for Ansett in 1974 and was an A model)
This 727 was spotted at ADL SYD MEL & BNE


So was PNS the Dan 727 that was unsuitable for ADL-PER-ADL?
Although at just over 1300nm that sector was well within range of a full 189 seat 727-200 - Do I assume alternates was to return to origin if nothing suitable en-route?
Why would you mention ETOPS for a 3 engines 727?

Or was it ETOPS for a twin?
Note that IEA Inter European Airways leased a pair of 737-300's to TN during the TN dispute, as did 737-300's from Britannia.
I wasn't a 'Reggie Spotter' but what I recall was that the first B727 had to be replaced due couldn't carry the weight on the route ADL/PER/ADL.

European twins couldn't operate the route due EROPS/ETOPS, it was 2 engines, not 3, that I mentioned ETOPS regarding, there was a Forrest Airport en-route that although it's runways weren't long enough for a loaded B737/B757 the Aussie CAA accepted that Aussie aircraft wouldn't use the runway, they'd use the highway, try explaining that to a European CAA!

Yes, IEA and Britannia had a couple of B737's each down there, Monarch had a couple of B757's, I recall TEA Belgium & TEA Switzerland down there, Paramount had a B737 chartered by the Queensland government, DA had the B727, I seem to recall an Eastern European airline down there, I think there were some 8 foreign airlines but only one of them had 3 engines for the PER route.
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 12:04
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Originally Posted by Allan Lupton View Post
It was "BEA having their way" that caused de Havilland to reduce the size of the aeroplane they were designing for BEA so that we " . . . designed an internationally unwanted airliner with scaled-down engines that RR knew they could not sell elsewhere." The original DH121 was B727 size in most respects so history shows that our (and Boeing's) original sizing was right and BEA was wrong.
Are you saying that DH should have told BEA to b*gg*r off, and gone ahead with the original-sized, Medway-powered design ?

I guess we'll never know how many of those they might have sold ...
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Old 22nd Aug 2020, 13:20
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OC37 I can not and will not believe that Dan air operations and route planning would have dispatched an aircraft thousands of miles to do a job for which it was unsuitable.
Your azsertion thay Aussie twin aircraft could always land o a road and did'nt need etops is patently and laughably absurd
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