The first pure-jets were primarily optimised for the glory long-haul routes. The only one suitable for short-haul services was the Sud Aviation Caravelle, but there was a large size gap between that and a 707 plus being of foreign design there was a reluctance amongst US airlines to purchase it. Eastern in fact, conservative as ever, opted for Lockheed's Electra rather than the Caravelle.
In the gap between the Electra and their ordered DC-8s Eastern had two options: Convair's sleek and fast CV-880 or Boeing's shortened 707 - the 720. The latter was a cost effective 2.73m shrink of the 707-120 with a wingroot glove and other minor modifications. It usurped the market Convair had been looking at with its superior fuel efficiency, 6 abreast seating and a cheaper purchase price than the 880. United, American, Braniff, Continental, Northwest, Pan Am, Western and Eastern all went for the 720 leaving only TWA and Delta with the 880.
In late 1961 Eastern began to take delivery of 15 Boeing 720-025s for short-range routes but soon realised that they were still too large for its needs and worked with Boeing on the specification that would become the 727. They also organised a deal with Boeing that would allow them to trade in their 720s for 727s. Still the 720s served for about eight years and were used on the Shuttle services before the 727s arrival. N8701E was exchanged back to Boeing in 1969 and joined TEA as OO-TEA in April 1971. She served with the Belgian carrier until November 1977 and was scrapped from October 1980.
The 720s main claim to fame with Eastern was that they introduced what became known as the 720 scheme. Eastern wanted to give their 'modified' L-188's a new look before re-entering service in 1961 but the 720's were soon to be arriving, so the new colors would be known as the '720 scheme'. They were updated in 1963 when the titles were shortened to just 'Fly Eastern' and all transitioned to the New Mark 'Hockeystick' scheme before disposal.
N8715E was the last delivered and one of the last six returned to Boeing. She was sold to Calair as D-ACIT and operated with them for just over a year until their bankruptcy. Sold to Air Rhodesia, despite UN sanctions, as VP-YNN ‘Manicaland’ in April 1973, she was transferred to Air Zimbabwe 7 years later as Z-YNN and was stored at Harare in 1985. She was sold to Air Charter Zaire who used her for spares only.
Unlike the majority of Boeing 720s Eastern's where not updated to B status by the replacement of their turbojet Pratt & Whitney JT3C engines with turbofan JT3Ds. The Aeroclassics mould is a good one however for the turbojet 720 the outer engine pylons are not correct - being a bit too short for the engines.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: