Boeing's 'Wonder Wall'

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The finished products of any company form its outward face to the world, but it is the rarely seen unfinished designs which really tell the full story behind the evolution of that family.  As one might expect, the development path of the combined Boeing and Douglas jetliner series is littered with ‘what if’ concepts that never saw the light of day. Many have been kept out of sight behind closed doors for years, tucked away in the depths of Boeing’s vast archive collection in Bellevue, Washington. But now the dust has been blown off the model collection and, thanks to an imaginative display, the design DNA of the combined Boeing and heritage Douglas line is now magnificently portrayed in the lobby of the company’s Product Development group offices in the Bomarc Building at Everett. 


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Moving chronologically from the dawn of the commercial jet age and Boeing’s self-funded 367-80 jet transport prototype of the early 1950s to the 787 of today, the display includes every commercial 7-series and Douglas/McDonnell Douglas. However it is the unusual models of design iterations, and steps along the way to the final designs that really catch the eye. Here and there are models of designs that simply never even got close to the Authority To Offer (ATO) stage, or one-offs like the specially developed Boeing 747LCF Dreamlifter for the 787 assembly logistics system. Here are a few of the classics.

 
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‘Dash 80’, 707 and 720 along the top, DC-8 in the middle and early design iterations for the 727 including, at the bottom, a four-engined version. The tails of the production trijet 727 and T-tail DC-9 twinjet are to the right.

 

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Three 747 progenitors – including two full double-deckers and the infamous ‘anteater’ single deck, droop snoot concept.

 
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Looking forward in time from the 1970s through legions of single and twin-aisle family lines. The 747 dominates the central theme with the DC-10 and MD-11 beneath.

 

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One of many ‘7X7’ concepts – a distant four-engined (CFM56) precursor to the 767, and ultimately the 777.

 
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The early 1970s spawned some highly novel concepts including this 747-derived dedicated air freighter and the area-ruled TST transonic transport. Features from this latter design re-emerged 30 years later during the genesis of the 787 when the idea of a semi-conventional area-ruled design was revisited as Project Glacier (Sonic Cruiser) began to morph into Project Yellowstone (7E7/Dreamliner)

 
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Trijets and T-tails. More 7X7 concepts in the 767 family tree included the 7X7/767-100, a twin-engined, semi-widebody T-tail design and the L-1011-like trijet S-duct 7X7 concept of the early 1970s. Note the overwing engine mounted, blown-wing concept immediately aft of the 767-100.

 
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Boeing and Japan co-operated closely on the 7J7 development which, had it gone ahead, would have pioneered several key technologies such as fly-by-wire, propfans (open rotors) and large-scale structural composites.

 
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In the early days of what would later become the 777, Boeing looked at several options for increasing the capacity of the 767 including this rather bizarre 767X concept which grafted a section of 757 fuselage onto the aft upper section of the 767. Nicknamed the hunchback of Mukilteo it was quickly sidelined under the ‘if it doesn’t look right it won’t fly right’ category.

 
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With interest in very large aircraft growing in the early 1990s, particularly amongst trans-Paciifc carriers, Boeing steered away from double-deckers like the competing Airbus A3XX (later A380) and looked at this enormous single-deck, high-wing New Large Airplane (NLA) concept. The Product Development team cast around for ideas on areas such as systems integration and landing gear, even examining the design of the C-17 which, at that time, was still a McDonnell Douglas product. Beneath the NLA  is the MD-12, a radical Douglas design aimed at virtually the same market niche as the upcoming 777X.

 

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Another view of the amazing V-tailed NLA and the MD-12. Interestingly the split winglet design of the MD-12 has been resurrected and will fly on the 737 MAX.

 
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Studies in speed. Boeing’s canard configured High Speed Research (HSR) supersonic design for a NASA-led SST project overcame many of the design issues that plagued the still-born Boeing 2707 SST of the 1960s and early 1970s. In the center is the famed transonic-capable Sonic Cruiser which was abandoned in favor of the 7E7 (later the 787).

 

 

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