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Wed, May 01, 2002

End of an Era: American's Last 727 Flights

American Airlines ran its final Boeing 727 passenger flight yesterday, marking the retirement of an airline industry workhorse by its largest operator. American operated the biggest 727 fleet, at one time flying 182 of the tri-jets.
American employees, customers and reporters gathered Tuesday evening at Miami International Airport terminal B to watch the final four 727 flights from Miami, which were all scheduled to depart Miami between 7:10 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. EDT. The last 727 departure from Miami was AA flight 926 to Raleigh/Durham, which received a traditional water cannon retirement salute on taxi-out. Passengers on flight 926 received certificates commemorating their historic final 727 flight on American.
The 727 was significant to the development of today's air transportation system. The earliest model 727s entered service in 1964, helping bring the first pure jet service to many smaller communities. A unique high-lift wing design, its rakish "T-Tail," and three powerful aft-mounted turbofan engines allowed the 727 to economically serve airports too small for the larger first- generation jetliners, like the four-engine Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. There were 1,832 Boeing 727s produced -- a production run surpassed only by the nearly 4000 Boeing 737s built thus far.
"The popular Boeing 727 is a landmark aircraft design, often called 'The DC-3 of the Jet Age' because of its versatility and performance," said Gerard Arpey, American's president and chief operating officer. "The 727 served American's customers dependably and comfortably throughout our system for many years. We salute the retiring 727 for its contribution to American's success."
American is replacing its 727s with a newer Boeing -- the 737-800 twin- jet. This "New Generation" 737-800 flies approximately the same number of passengers farther and higher, yet consumes about 60 percent less fuel per passenger than the 727 tri-jet it replaces. The 727 is the last aircraft in American's fleet to require a three-person flight crew. Automation on newer airliners replaced the necessity for the flight engineer position.

American Airlines 727 Facts

At its peak, AA operated 182 Boeing 727s -- the largest fleet of 727s in the world.
AA introduced its first early model 727 in 1964 (long since retired) and was among the first 727 operators.
AA operated two models of the 727: the original shorter 727-100, configured for 118 passengers in two classes when it retired in 1994; and the "stretch" 727-200, currently configured for 138 passengers in two classes. 
AA's 727-200 is being replaced by new, twin-engine Boeing 737-800, that can fly approximately the same number of passengers farther, more quietly and burn much less fuel. For example, the 737-800 burns about 60 percent fewer gallons of fuel per passenger per hour than the 727.
727 is AA's last three-engine airplane, its last three-person cockpit airplane, and the only aircraft AA operated that was fitted with "hush- kits" to meet noise standards. All AA jets today have two engines. None requires a flight engineer on the crew. And all meet stricter noise standards without hush-kits.
727 was revolutionary, "the DC-3 of the Jet Age." It was the industry workhorse for years, flying AA and the industry to deregulation.
727 brought economical jet service to smaller communities for the first time, thanks to its ability to use shorter runways than first-generation jetliners, like the larger 707 and DC8.
727 allowed American to become an all-turbine airline in 1966 (pure jets & turboprops), and all pure jet in 1969.
The 727 was versatile. AA's shortest scheduled 727 flight was Boston-Providence, at 49 miles; longest was Chicago-Los Angeles, at 1,744 miles.
The last original --100 model of the 727 retired from AA in 1994. All remaining 727s are the -- 200 "stretch" models.
AA has eight 727s remaining in service, all retiring from passenger service April 30.
TWA retired its last 727 in 2000, operating a maximum fleet of 100 727s.

FMI: www.amrcorp.com

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