With the inauguration of Boeing 707 jet service between New York and Paris by Pan American World Airways on October 26, a new era opened up for commercial aviation. This means that the commercial airlines are faced with a virtual revolution in their financial and mechanical operations. With no previous experience, airlines will have to use cut-and-try methods to find out how to live with the new situation. The airlines were already having trouble financing jet aircraft now on order, since current Civil Aeronautics Board restrictions make it hard for them to attract venture capital. Early in 1958, the CAB allowed a six per cent fare increase, the first in some 10 years. For jet operation, however, many felt this wasn’t enough. Braniff, for example, requested permission to impose a 15 per cent premium charge for jet flights. The airlines tried to solve some problems among themselves by lease arrangements, such as the one agreed upon by Pan American (PAWA) and National Air Lines (NAL). In this case, PAWA uses the jets during the summer for its European runs and turns them over to NAL for use on the New York-Florida route during the winter slack season.
All of these factors tended to put a damper on new orders for jets and turboprops. Thus, to obtain new orders the plane manufacturers had to agree, in some cases, to take back the used piston-engine planes currently in operation. As a result, the backlog of new planes has increased by only about 15-20 per cent since 1956. For the medium- to long-range planes, current backlogs are: Douglas DC-8‘s, 140; Boeing 707′s, 160: Convair 880′s and 600′s, 73; Lockheed Electras, 161. Piston-engine production has almost ended, with a total of about 100 piston-engine planes delivered in 1958.
Looking beyond the jets, which will span the United States coast-to-coast in a little over four hours in 1959, such firms as Boeing disclosed that their advanced research sections were examining the possibility of designing transports to operate at speeds up to 2,000 mph and over, requiring a little over an hour to cross the United States.
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