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High Winds Didn’t Deter Boeing Pilots From Flying The 757 For the First Time

Photo: Boeing

“Looks like you had a little bit of bumpiness there.” It was a gusty day in February.  Experienced Boeing test pilots didn’t flinch.

On Feb 19, 1982, N757A (Callsign: Boeing 757) took to the skies for the first time.  It carried Boeing’s hopes and dreams for a new era.  The 757’s first flight wasn’t easy though.  Winds were expected to be strong all day. The weather was within testing limits on departure from Renton Municipal though.  On the first flight, the jet took to the skies, cycled the gear, performed initial flap buffet testing, and came back to land.  On arrival, the winds grew stronger and gustier than expected.  Tower reported gusts up to 38 knots (that’s about 45 mph!)!  The experienced Boeing test pilots didn’t flinch.  With perfectly coordinated crosswind controls, John Armstrong and Lew Wallack guided the jet to a successful landing.

While 727 and 737’s had successfully plied the skies for the past 20+ years, high fuel prices and a stagnant economy meant that airlines were looking for a new fleet that was more fuel efficient and could open new transcontinental markets without the capacity of existing DC-10s and 747s. The Boeing 757 and 767 were game changers.  They represented a new generation of ‘glass’ cockpits with CRT panels instead of analog gauges and high bypass engines that ‘sipped’ fuel. The 757 had the ability to operate in hot and high airports just like the 727.

The certification of the 757 and 767 was the first time that Boeing attempted to build two jets under a common type rating. They succeeded. 1,049 757’s were delivered between 1982 and 2002.  15 years after production ended, most aviation analysts still wonder what will fill the gap between the larger 737 and A321s and the 767/787/A350 in airline’s lineups.

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