What an amazing time in flight back then. Tex Johnson showed potential Boeing 707 customers what the plane was able to do. Without notice or warning to Boeing executives, Johnson did a barrel roll with his Boeing 707. The video shows the roll, but also has narrative from Johnson and shows a photograph taken from inside the aircraft while it was upside down. Could you imagine the test pilot of the Boeing 787 doing this on their first flight? Not likely.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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28 Comments

Jaja, a 787 doing that would be crazy!

Only problem is it would go on fire… Its a shame… 😛

OysterEngineer

It wasn’t a 707, it was the Boeing 367-80, or Dash 80. Although the Dash 80 served as a prototype for both the KC-135 & the 707, it was very different from both airplanes in almost every detail. For example, the Dash 80 had a MTOW of only 80 tons vs the 707-120 at 128 tons.

Billy Meeks

Finally, someone got it correct. 367-80.

It’s “close enough” to call it a 707 because they were using it to sell 707s.

Just like Johnston was told “don’t do it again”, it seems very unlikely that an even more risk-averse large company today would let their test pilots do a roll on a test flight, much less in front of a crowd. But if flown correctly with enough extra altitude for safety margin, a 1G roll would be completed just as safely today as it was then. There is no technical reason why it couldn’t be done.

Regulations are a different story. Once the wings roll past 60 degrees, it’s aerobatics, which aren’t allowed over congested areas, in controlled airspace and other conditions in FAR 91.303. So it wouldn’t happen over the Seattle metro area without a written waiver from the FAA. And that isn’t going to happen.

There are uncongested/uncontrolled areas where it could be done legally. The only reason why it’s remotely possible that they’d consider it would be simply as a publicity stunt, just like it was in 1955. The first one to do it today would probably reap plenty of new PR from it. But nevermind that. It’s still not likely to happen.

Steve DeLange

14CFR Part 91 did not exist in 1955. The FAA did not come into being until 1958. The Dash 80 was operating under Civil Air Regulations from 1940.

Or how about rolling a 747 or 777. You could roll each and every one of these Boeing products – no sweat at all. If you were careful and kept it at 1g you could have a whole load of people on board as well to enjoy all the fun!!!!

They can’t :). The newer planes won’t allow pilots to do a roll.
David

Sorry to disappoint you but there is a case of a 747 executing a roll, albeit it was near vertical and and lost a bunch of angels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFd8YCpqpfA

Lloyd Kennedy

Are you joking ? This is CGI .

Stuart Jackson

Actually to clarify the onboard computers wont allow the plane to do a roll, however the plane will. This is illustrated when you watch any air show flight demonstration. I have seen modern airliners doing tailstands (stopping in mid air with the nose pointing vertical), this however is with some re programming. I do have a hunch though that since some accidents, attributed to computer error, in the early days of fly by wire there may be a manual override, which could make it possible.

My father was there and watched as Kelly rolled the mighty 707 and it just floored everybody to say the least! One interesting fact is that he could have had a whole plane full of people all with drinks in their hands while doing the roll and none of them would have spilled a drop during the entire roll!

GREATEST AERIAL AROBATIC EVER.
I WAS AT BOEING IN 1966 AS INSTRUCTOR FLIGHT ENGINEER. TEX WAS A
LEGIT LEGEND THEN AND NOW…ALL THE COMMENTS ARE PURE RUBBISH,
FROM PEOPLE WHO NEVER HAD THE BALLS TO DO WHAT TEX DID… PERIOD.
THANK YOU, RON ZIOR

R Lopaka

Boeing Baby!!!!

BostonShuffler

As far as I know a Lufthansa crew tried a roll with a 707 (Boeing 720-030B
D-ABOP “Bremen”) on July 15 1964 and crashed the aircraft. Only three crew on board, all killed in accicent.

http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19640715-0

Byron Goch

My Stepfathers Family were there and witnessed the infamous roll. My Stepfather told me about this stunt years ago and had the pictures to back up what he told me. The pitures unfortunately have been lost but a check of the seattle news paper will satisfy any of you “doubtful minds”

Hey Byron,

It is too bad the photos didn’t make it, but having a family story is pretty sweet as well! Thanks for sharing.

David

Some people out there surely still have pictures of the Dash 80 rolling. Possibly even a different video made from an old 8mm film. Wouldn’t you like to share them?

Not a barrel roll was an aileron roll

AirGiggle

Tex Johnson was a true American aviation hero! He was cool! My grandfather saw the whole thing! He said it was truly breathtaking!

Andi Helgen

Tex Johnston did the stunt in between laps of the Gold Cup hydrolysis races on Lake Washington. I remember it well and the pride we felt toward the plane and Boeing. Later the 727 prototype did a”wave” over Husky Stadium (1955 or 1956) and the whole stadium erupted. Great memories.

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