Qantas Once Flew A Boeing 707 With 5 Engines

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In a previous article, we discussed how Qantas once flew a Boeing 747 with five engines. However, this was not the first time the carrier attempted this, with records showing that Qantas regularly attached fifth engines to Boeing 707s back at the dawn of the jet-age in 1959.

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A Qantas 707-138 at Sydney in 2007. Photo: YSSYguy via Wikimedia Commons.

Why attach an extra jet engine to a wing?

There is something special about four-engined aircraft like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380. As they have four powerful engines they actually have an incredible carrying capacity.

This makes them perfect for carrying heavy devices like aircraft engines using the extra thrust capacity to lift these heavy components. Alas, the flaw is that jet-engines don’t fit onboard and inside these aircraft (unless you hire bigger jet aircraft to carry the engines as like with the Boeing 777X). Perhaps there was some way to carry the new engine on the outside of the plane…

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A Qantas Boeing 707 carrying a fifth engine on its delivery flight. Photo: Qantas Roo Tales

Interestingly, not only was Qantas the first airline to transport a jet engine on the wings of an aircraft, but notably, the may have been the reason why the technology was developed in the first place.

Why did Qantas use the Boeing 707?

Qantas was the first airliner outside of the USA to put the new Boeing 707 into service on July 29th 1959. The Boeing 707 for Qantas was actually specially-built and a shorter variant than the ones being bought by US airlines.

Qantas took ownership of its first Boeing 707 back on June 7th 1959 but wouldn’t fly it for two weeks. This was because Boeing was using the aircraft to develop the tech to transport a fifth engine on the wings. When finally complete, Boeing would deliver the 13 Qantas 707s that were ordered. Each with an extra engine attached.

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These extra engines would be used for spare parts and engine replacements to keep the red kangaroo flying.

Why was the Boeing 707 a game-changer for Qantas?

The Boeing 707 had huge advantages over other propeller based aircraft at the time and was a game-changer for the trans-pacific route between Australia and the United States.

Not only did it greatly reduce travel times (the aircraft was twice as fast as the Lockheed Super Constellation), it opened up air travel to the common man through the inclusion of more economy seats than first-class seats.

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Business cabin with Qantas on the Boeing 707. Photo: Qantas

Back in the 1950s, it would take the average Australian a year to save up for the flight to London. Then with the launch of the Boeing 707 that price plummeted to 32 weeks of savings by 1960 (one year after the 707 entered service). Five years later, by 1965, it would fall to only 22 weeks. This changed the public consciousness from only dreaming of a European holiday to something that you could actually do with far less planning.

Qantas would register the 707 as the first civilian jet aircraft in Australia and would mark the beginning of a fantastic journey to bring the world closer to Australia.

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