Three holer - Part II

The 727, nicknamed "Three holer", began to be replaced in the mid 1980's when Boeing introduced the 757 and Mc Donnell Douglas introduced the MD-80, both more efficient and quieter models. At the same time in Europe, Airbus Industries introduced the A320. The 727 was beginning to show its age, it was noisy and fuel thirsty. The last 727, a 200 Freighter, was built for Federal Express and it rolled out of the Boeing assembly line in Renton (WA) in 1984. Exactly 1831 units were built in total.

One of the great qualities of this aircraft was its ability to land on short runways; this was because the flaps were designed to be "triple slotted" so that the drag would increase while the lift factor would not decrease, so the aircraft was able to land on short runways even with a full load of passenger and/or cargo. This is why the 727 was until the mid 1990's seen a lot in NY La Guardia airport, until the 727 came no jet was allowed to be operated out of that airport.
An other quality of this aircraft was the comfort in the passenger cabin, even though the jet generated a lot of noise when full power was applied to the engines, the passenger cabin would still be quiet inside especially for the passengers not seated in the last rows of the cabin.

In the United States, the 727 disappeared from passenger service in the early 2000's as originally planned. The US major airlines were planning on phasing them out by 2005 at the latest but following the tragic events of September 11th 2001 and the rising of the fuel cost, the airlines accelerated the retirement of the type. Continental retired them in 1999 as originally planned. TWA and US Airways retired them in the year 2000 also as originally planned. United retired them by the end of 2001, American in 2002, this was when I took my last flight on that aircraft, flight AA765 from TPA to MIA, Delta and Northwest in 2003. By the end of 2003, no major airline had any 727 aircraft left in its fleet.

In Europe, the 727's were phased out more quickly even before the events of 9-11, this was probably because jet fuel was more expensive in Europe att hat time. Alitalia already got rid of them by the mid 1980's. Air France, Olympic, Lufthansa, TAP and Turkish retired them in the early 1990's while Iberia kept flying them until the end of the 1990's. Most former 727 operators in Europe now fly the Airbus A320 on short and medium haul flights.

Today (late 2000's), there are very few passenger 727's still flying with minor companies but many of them still fly as freighters with major freight carriers, Fed Ex and DHL being two of them. UPS doesn't have 727's anymore. Those freight companies complied with the Stage III nose regulations so the FAA and aviation authorities in Europe allowed them to continue operating the aircraft. Fed Ex has plans on phasing them all out by 2016 in favor of the younger 757. The "Three holer" has now graced the skies for more than forty years!

The author, sitting in the copilot's seat of the 727 after the last flight at American Airlines in 2002.
No posts.
No posts.