TWA’s StarStream Boeing 707

December 23, 2015

Boeing’s incomparable 707-300-series “Intercontinental” was the world’s first jet airliner to connect all seven continents with luxury airline service. Introduced by Pan American World Airways in 1959, the Intercontinental revolutionized air travel by effortlessly carrying 150 passengers for distances of up to 4,000 miles. Improved fan-jet engines made the 707 Intercontinental a superstar jetliner, giving Boeing a leg-up on rival Douglas for the very first time.

The second U.S. flag airline to fly the 707-300 was TWA, which hatched a brilliant marketing scheme calling their prized new 707-331B fanjets the “StarStream” Intercontinental. Taking a cue from their former flagship, the elegant piston-powered Lockheed 1649 “Jetstream” Constellation, TWA brought glamour to world air travel in ways no other airline could. For instance, the first inflight feature movies were introduced aboard TWA 707s.

Powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3 turbofan engines producing 18,000 pounds of thrust each, TWA’s StarStream measured 153 feet long with a wingspan of 146 feet. Its graceful swept tail fin was as high as a four-story building. Although the big jet weighed 335,000 pounds at takeoff, it used less runway than its predecessor, the turbojet-powered Boeing 707-131. It was as fast as an early-generation jet fighter, and cruised at 600 mph.

Flying westbound from Europe to New York non-stop now became routine, eliminating time-consuming fuel stops at Shannon, Ireland or Gander, Newfoundland. Moreover, passengers from the U.S. west coast cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco were now able to enjoy luxury non-stop service to Europe and beyond. By 1969, TWA’s StarStream 707s were carrying nearly 200,000 passengers across the North Atlantic every month!

In the ad pictured here, legendary illustrator Bob McCall renders the StarStream in his inimitable style. Using a dramatic combination of vivid cool and warm colors, McCall’s 707 blasts into the sunset with its gleaming metal skin all aglow. His technique was highly suggestive of every minute detail of the jetliner, but upon closer examination, those structural features are only loosely suggested. Such was McCall’s brilliance as an aviation artist.