Employment declined from the high of 909,000 registered in April 1957 to 752,400 on June 30, 1958. As of Dec. 1, 1958, the figure was estimated to be about 750,000. This is expected to be the minimum for the immediate future. As some of the present research and development programs advance towards production, some increase in employment might occur in 1959. However, this trend might be reversed if the large budget deficit influences government officials to try again to trim military expenditures.
The airlines have had difficulties in finding capital for new equipment. Airline representatives, in petitioning the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) for fare increases, pointed out that while prices for goods and services, including rail travel, had increased substantially over the past ten years, airline fares were actually the same or lower. Airline profits for the year, despite continued phenomenal increases in passenger load, were down 30-50 per cent compared to 1956. American Airlines officials stated that they were prepared to order at least 40 more turbojets — permitting the line to make a complete changeover to jet operation by the 1960′s — if the 12-20 per-cent fare increase requested by the airlines was allowed by the CAB.
On Oct. 28, 1957, the first of the new turbojet planes, the Boeing 707, rolled out. This plane, destined for Pan American Airlines, is scheduled to begin flight tests in Feb. 1958. Next in line is the first Lockheed Electra turboprop transport. Scheduled to come off the line in 1958 are the Douglas DC-8 and Convair 440 turbojets. The last two and the 707 will have top speeds of about 600 mph and will span the United States coast-to-coast in a little over four hours.
There was a marked slowdown in the number of new jet transports ordered during 1957, partly because the bulk of the orders had been placed the previous year. However, at the end of the year, the orders for new jets included: 44 Convair 440′s; 123 Douglas DC-8′s; 144 Lockheed Electras; and 151 Boeing 707′s.
A full-scale fuselage mock-up of the Douglas version of a jet transport is on display at the home plant of this company in Santa Monica, Calif. This plane is designated as the DC-8 and is powered by four turbojet engines, probably Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasps (J-57) rated in the 15,000-lb. thrust class. The wing span is 127 feet., length, 134 ft., and angle of sweepback, 35 deg. The fuselage diameter is a little more than 10 ft. The estimated cruising speed is 560 mph at 40,000 ft., and range, 2500 mi. The gross weight ranges from 180,000 lb. to 220,000 lb., for different versions. The seating capacity ranges from 70-120 persons. Douglas plans to spend $30,000,000 to $40,000,000 in developing this machine by 1958.
One of the most important military aircraft to be unveiled during 1952 was the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber, which now appears to be destined to play the role of the next intercontinental bombardment airplane to carry atomic bombs, or others, to distant targets. Although the place of the intercontinental bomber in our offensive strategy has been, for a long time, controversial in this era of atom-bomb-carrying guided missiles, the continuity of this type of combat aircraft has been maintained in the B-52. At the Boeing plant in Seattle, Wash., production preparations for this important aircraft are underway.
Although design details have not been fully released, it is known that the B-52 is powered by eight turbojet engines which are Pratt & Whitney J-57 power plants rated at approximately 10,000-lb. thrust, each. This new plane possesses the high sweepback characteristics of aircraft designed to approach or enter the transonic speed range. The angle of sweepback of the wing is about 35 deg. Wing span is 185 ft. and length, 153 ft. It is assumed that this plane will operate most effectively between 40,000 and 50,000 ft. The landing gear is of the four-wheel type with double wheels, making a total of eight. Provision has been made for assisted take-off and for a drag parachute to slow up the bomber in landings. In large quantities, the cost might be about $3,800,000 each.