An icon returns home
If there's one image that sums up my Alaskan memories, it's the 727 - stylish, noisy, rough-riding, hard-landing, smoke-belching, gas guzzling - and ubiquitous. It became the first airliner to sell more than 1,000 airframes worldwide. The last one was built in 1984, but there are still 69 in service.
Love it or hate it, it was perfect for Alaska. You could land it on very short strips, and take off as well (usually), leaving a cloud of spiffy black smoke in your wake.
Nowadays they measure runways by feet of asphalt, but back in the day I swear I remember 727s landing and taking off on gravel strips. You could take it far from civilization and land it hard - it had an auxiliary power unit and lots of extra structure. One pilot said: "these were built back when we were still afraid to fly."
It wasn't super-easy to operate, but pilots liked it. Up front they didn't have to listen to those screaming engines, and it flew fast and well. And if you had to, you could dial it down to 130 knots and still maneuver.
Boeing has rounded up the first one, and is putting it in a museum.