Sunday, March 13, 2022

Boeing 707 barrel-rolled on the day I was born

Do you remember any meaningful event that is related to the day you were born? Well I do and it was one of the most astonishing feats of aviation history that was performed by Alvin “tax” Johnston on 7th August 1955 – the day I was born.

Early 1950s were the days of the development of the first jet engine aircrafts of the world – then under development by the world renowned company, the Boeing. And the earlier days made history every day the aviation moved closer to commercial jetliners.

During that time, Boeing was testing the 707 prototype – the Dash 80. It was the first jetliner developed by the company and was supposed to bring down travel time significantly. Boeing's chairman at the time, Bill Allen, realized it was the perfect opportunity to show off the prototype to all the airline executives who had assembled there from around the world. Allen asked Johnston to perform a flyover of the Dash 80 over Lake Washington for the benefit of industry executives watching it from chartered boats on the lake. Johnston agreed but had a surprise planned.

Instead of performing a simple flyover, as decided, Johnston decided to surprise everyone by performing a barrel roll. According to the Seattle Times, he executed the barrel roll at a speed of 490 miles/hr (789 km/hr), flying the airplane upside down. And on 7th August 1955, Alvin “tax” Johnston barrel-rolled the Dash-80, the prototype of the Boeing 707, overhead some 25,000 people watching the huge aircraft flying over their heads at Lake Washington. Remember barrel-roll is a 360 turn of an aircraft around its axis – a feat normally undertaken by fast speed tiny jet fighters as their roll takes far lesser time than rolling over a huge commercial airliner.

As if doing it once was not enough, the ace pilot repeated the maneuver in case anyone had missed it. In an interview, Johnston spoke about his decision to perform the barrel roll twice, stating, “I knew that no one would believe what they had seen, so I turned around and I came back and repeated the same thing on a westerly heading.”

Now you may like to watch the Boeing Barrel-Roll for yourself, for it was a once in life time feat of professional excellence:

Do you remember any such big event related to your birthday?

References | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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