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50 Years Ago, Pratt & Whitney Engines Helped Bring Beatles to U.S.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Four dependable Pratt & Whitney engines powered the flight that brought the British Invasion to America. Fifty years ago today, Pratt & Whitney JT4A engines provided the power as The Beatles traveled to New York aboard a Boeing 707-300 bound for their first live television and concert appearances in the U.S.

The Beatles' itinerary on Feb. 7, 1964 is well documented. Pan Am Flight 101 from London touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 1:20 p.m. John, Paul, George and Ringo were met by throngs of screaming fans and scores of reporters.

Photos and footage of the Fab Four offer clues about the aircraft that carried the band to the states. The aircraft's name – Jet Clipper Defiance – and its registration number – N704PA – are visible in many images from that day. Author Jim Winchester and a Logbook Magazine database of the Pan Am fleet identify that aircraft as a Boeing 707-331.

Jet Clipper Defiance was reportedly one of several 707s ordered by – but not delivered to – Trans World Airlines. The aircraft joined the Pan Am fleet instead. (Winchester, in his book, "Airlife's Classic Airliners: Boeing 707/720," identifies a delivery date of March 15, 1959. Logbook Magazine says March 23, 1960.) The 707-300 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT4A engines.

Pratt & Whitney turbojet and turbofan engines powered most models of the 707. The JT3C engine, a commercial version of the J57 military engine, powered the original 707-100. The JT4A, a commercial version of the J75, powered the -200 and -300. And the JT3D engine powered the 707-120B and -320B.

While in the U.S., The Beatles made two live appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (New York on Feb. 9; Miami Beach on Feb. 16) and taped a third performance for broadcast on Feb. 23. The group also performed at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C., and at Carnegie Hall in New York.

When the band returned to England on Feb. 22, 1964, Pratt & Whitney provided the power once again. Pan Am's N704PA – temporarily designated "Jet Clipper Beatles" – brought the group back to London. The scene was much the same as it had been in New York – with a crush of screaming fans and a huge press corps. On both sides of the Atlantic, it was Beatlemania.