It is nearly 59 years since the celebrated Boeing pilot Alvin ‘Tex’ Johnston barrel rolled the precursor to the Boeing 707 (and KC-135 tanker) the Dash 80 low over the heads of potential buyers at a fair in Seattle, and perhaps the clearest individual photo of the startling event from inside the jet has emerged from the aviation mementos of the late Alan Terrell.
Captain Terrell was a distinguished Qantas pilot and a former general manager of operations.
Shortly before he died in March this year he bequeathed the photo, possibly given to him by ‘Tex’ Johnston and shown at the bottom of the page, to his friend and aviation historian and author and former director of public relations for Qantas, Jim Eames, who has permitted this reproduction of an astonishing split second in commercial aviation history.
This accurate entry of the barrel roll incident appears in Wikipedia.
As part of the Dash 80’s demonstration program, Bill Allen [then Boeing CEO] invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) to the Seattle’s 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on August 6, 1955. The Dash 80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnston instead performed two barrel rolls to show off the jet airliner.
The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, to which Johnston replied that he was simply “selling airplanes” and asserted that doing so was completely safe.
Only one Dash 80, as the Boeing 367-80 was known, was built, but it was the foundation for the great success of both the Boeing 707 and KC-135 lines, and is now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Air and Space Museum, which is where you can spend the most awesome day in your life as an aviation follower should you make the hike there from Washington DC.
The Dash 80 visited Australia once and flew right side up over the head of this school pupil kicking dust in the playground in, I believe, 1955, as it flew over Clovelly on its path down the coastline of Sydney, or possibly in 1956. Its appearance was in the same broad period as overflights by a Vulcan bomber, an incredible B-36, and a Comet demonstrator, promoting the 707 rival, the Comet IV, which stood no chance when Q.A.N.T.A.S. despite UK pressure, chose the American product.