In September 1956, Qantas became the first non-US airline to order the forthcoming Boeing 707. Boeing created a special version of the aircraft just for the Australian airline, which is a rare occurrence.

Over the years, the story has it that Boeing shortened it just for Qantas. However, that is not quite true, and the real story is a little bit more interesting than that.

A Special Version Of The 707 For Qantas

Boeing initially offered the 707 with a length of 128 feet 10 inches and this is what Qantas purchased. Under pressure from other airlines including Pan American and TWA to increase capacity, the Seattle manufacturer added 10 feet to the jet.

Unfortunately this destroyed the payload capacity on the Pacific routes for Qantas. After some negotiation, Boeing agreed to produce the original length version of the aircraft.

This became the Boeing 707-138, with the 38 at the end being the customer code Boeing assigned to Qantas. Quite soon after entering service, a new technology called the turbofan engine became available. These are more fuel efficient and offer increased thrust compared to the original turbojets. All passenger airliners use this type of powerplant today.

The original aircraft at Qantas had their engines modified and therefore they became the Boeing 707-138B. The full story of the fleet decision being made by Qantas at the time is detailed in this wonderful article by Dr. Ron Yates AM, who was closely involved in the process.

What Does A Boeing 707 Sound Like?

The very first Qantas Boeing 707-138 was restored to flying condition and flew back to Australia in 2006. Unlike the aircraft of today, those from the past are quite a bit noisier. Below is a video which shows this perfectly.

Looking resplendent in its original 1959 colour scheme, you can hear how different things sound. Today, this early Boeing lives at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum in Longreach, Australia.

Overall Thoughts

Qantas is celebrating their 100th anniversary during 2020, so I felt it was appropriate to look back at one of the first airlines to enter the jet age. A little known fact is that Qantas was actually the third airline to operate jets across the Atlantic, after BOAC and Pan American.

Today there are few Boeing 707s still flying. John Travolta owns one, which is actually the last Qantas Boeing 707-138B and that will fly to Australia to go to a museum this year. It is fitting that both the first and last of the -138s will be in Australia.

Did you know about this special version of the Boeing 707 that Qantas operated? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image from the Qantas Heritage Collection via
Qantas Boeing 707 on the flight line in Seattle by Boeing Historical Archives via AirlineRatings
First class cabin image by Victor Warren via VH-JET#1 & Her Sisters.
Seating plan from 1966 via VH-JET#1 & Her Sisters.