SEATTLE, WA – This month, 64 years ago, there was a Boeing test pilot who performed a barrel roll with the Boeing 367-80, known as the Dash 80. It’s incredible and surreal to see such a big airplane perform a barrel roll. This is the remarkable story behind the famous Dash 80 barrel roll.
The Dash 80 was an American quadjet-prototype aircraft built by Boeing to demonstrate the advantages of jet propulsion for commercial aviation. It served as base for the design of the KC-135 tanker and the 707 airliner.
On August 6, 1955 – as part of the Dash 80’s demonstration program – Bill Allen (Boeing President from 1945 to 1968) invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association and International Air Transport Association to the Seattle’s 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington.
The Dash-80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin ‘Tex’ Johnston decided to perform a barrel roll to show off the jet airliner. The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, Johnston’s assertion that doing so was completely safe.
On June 12, 1994 Boeing Chief Test Pilot John Cashman stated that just before he piloted the maiden flight of the Boeing 777, his last instructions from then Boeing President Phil Condit were “No rolls”.