Boeing’s famous trijet 727 makes last commercial flight

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People gather for the first view of the new Boeing 727 jet airliner, developed for the short-to-medium haul market, on December 01, 1962 at Seattle, Washington. / AFP / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Air travelers will no longer be able to enjoy the Boeing 727’s distinctive design after the jet made its last commercial passenger flight.

Flying a domestic Iranian route, a 38-year-old Boeing 727-200 owned by Iran Aseman Airlines entered the history books in mid-January after a journey documented by journalist Babak Taghvaee on Twitter.

With a raked T-shaped tail and three engines, the 727 drew plenty of attention when it launched in 1962.

The design also served a practical purpose, with the mid-size plane aimed at smaller cities where airports had smaller runways that couldn’t handle the larger 707 jet.

“Its three, rear-mounted engines made it versatile for operators able to take off and land on short runways but still have the range for transoceanic routes,” Murdo Morrison, head of strategic content at aviation intelligence specialist FlightGlobal, told CNN via email.

Runaway sales

Boeing had initially planned to build 250 of the aircraft, according to the company website.

However, after a slow start, orders for the 727 went through the roof.

Before long the 727 became the first commercial jet design to sell over a thousand airplanes, and 1,832 were eventually built and sold, according to Boeing.

After starting life as a commercial airliner, the 727 has seen its role evolve over time.

“From the mid-1980s, when production ended, the 727 was seen as increasingly noisy and inefficient compared with some of its newer rivals, and many major airlines began phasing the type out from the 1990s,” said Morrison.

“However, it has enjoyed a long second life, with around 60 still operating as freighters, VIP transports or as research aircraft more than half a century after the type entered service.”

One 727 still in service is operated by a UK-based outfit called Oil Spill Response, which disperses oil slicks by dispensing petroleum-eating detergent while flying as low as 150 feet above the water.

Known as three-holers, airplanes with a triple engine configuration have a huge following among aviation enthusiasts. Another, the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 is still serving in cargo fleets operated by FedEx and Lufthansa.

While the 727 eventually proved to be a huge success for Boeing, it has also been involved in some interesting incidents.

In 1971, a man known as D.B. Cooper hijacked a 727 in the northwest United States before parachuting to the ground with $200,000 (worth $1.2million today) in stolen cash strapped to his body.

One of the most famous aviation crimes in the United States remains unsolved, and in 2016 the FBI closed its investigation.

The daring escape was only made possible thanks to another design quirk of the 727: a built-in staircase in the aft.

Boeing changed the design as a result of the intriguing episode, part of the fascinating history of a plane that was also used by US President Donald Trump as his private jet until he upgraded to a Boeing 757 in 2009.

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