Popular belief has it that Boeing shortened the 707 to suit the requirements of Qantas. Whilst this was the end result, things actually happened somewhat differently as related by Dr Ron Yates to a gathering at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum in Longreach on 7 April 2007.

Dr Ron Yates on the flight deck of VH-XBA at Southend on 6 November 2006.
(Photo: Norman King)

Ron Yates was the first aeronautical engineer employed by Qantas. His job interview was with none other than Arthur Baird, the doyen of Qantas engineers. When asked by the great man; "What sort of a tool box do you have?" Ron Yates replied; "I don't have a tool box. I have a slide rule." Although he didn't get the job as an engineer, he went on to greater things. When it came time for Qantas to enter the jet age, it was under Ron Yates' stewardship that the company made this great leap. While stationed in Seattle, he flew in the Dash 80 prototype and became intimately familiar with the aeroplane, negotiating the specification of the Qantas 707 on equal terms with the engineers at Boeing.

From the outset, it became clear that the performance of this first generation jetliner would be marginal on Qantas' long sectors across the Pacific. Indeed, it became necessary for Ron Yates to negotiate a special dispensation with Pratt & Whitney engineers to permit the operation of the JT3C engines at a higher temperature for a brief period on take-off from Nadi, Fiji. The representation of this dispensation on performance graphs became known as "The Nadi Bump".

With performance so finely balanced, every new issue of the aircraft specification was subjected to precise scrutiny. Therefore, it came as quite a shock when a revised specification arrived in the mail from Boeing revealing a dramatic increase in the empty weight of the aeroplane. Further examination revealed that this was a result of an increase in fuselage length! It later emerged that Pan American had persuaded Boeing to increase the length of the basic aircraft by ten feet to better suit their route structure. When advised by Ron Yates that Qantas could not operate the aircraft as per this revised specification and that it was effectively a "deal breaker", Boeing agreed to build the Qantas 707 to the originally specified length of 128 feet 10 inches. Thus it wasn't a case of Boeing shortening the 707 to suit Qantas but rather a case of lengthening it to suit every other customer!

Dr Ron Yates AM, BE, Hon FIE Hon FRAS Lond went on to become Chief Executive of Qantas, retiring in 1986. Today he is the highly revered Patron of the Qantas Foundation Memorial 707 Project.


Model Length (Imperial) Length (Metric)
367-80 127 feet 10 inches 38.96 metres
707-120 144 feet 6 inches 44.01 metres
707-138 134 feet 6 inches (Note 1) 41.00 metres
707-138B 135 feet 1 inch (Note 2) 41.17 metres
720 136 feet 2 inches 41.50 metres
KC-135A 136 feet 3 inches 41.53 metres

Note 1 A Boeing publication on the 707-138 dated May 1958 shows an Overall Length of 134 feet 6 inches and a Body Length of 128 feet 10 inches (nose to tailcone, excluding tail surface overhang). Ron Yates advises that in all discussions of aircraft length, he always used the Body Length of 128 feet 10 inches.
Note 2 Although the Body Length did not change with the 138B conversion, the Overall Length did increase by 7 inches by virtue of the "overhang" of the extended fin and tailplane. This figure is sourced from the Qantas 707-138B Operations Manual.
Source Unless shown otherwise, the dimensions quoted in the above table are sourced from "The Boeing 707 & 720" (Air-Britain 1972) and presumably originate from Boeing.


This drawing appears in a Boeing Manufacturing Training publication titled "707 Reference Guide" first published in May 1958 and reprinted in October 1960. Click on the drawing for a larger view with explanatory notes.

Redefined the Length Comparison table to show that the dimensions quoted are Overall Length as opposed to Body Length. Also added a dimension for the 707-138B. (Sadly the Ron Yates tick of approval does not apply to this amendment but I hope he would approve!)

Ron Yates advises that in all discussions of aircraft length, he always used the body length of 128 feet 10 inches. The above text has been amended to reflect this convention.

The Ron Yates tick of approval
Original issue.