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A Saha Air Boeing 707 in flight.

The Boeing 707 is a four-engine commercial passenger jet airliner developed by Boeing in the early 1950s. Its name is most commonly spoken as "Seven Oh Seven". Boeing delivered a total of 1,010 Boeing 707s, which dominated passenger air transport in the 1960s and remained common through the 1970s. Boeing also offered a smaller, faster version of the aircraft that was marketed as the Boeing 720 (originally marketed as the 717).

Although it was not the first commercial jet in service or the first to be commercially successful (both titles going to the DeHavilland Comet and Tupolev Tu-104, respectively), it is generally credited as ushering in the Jet Age in the West. It established Boeing as one of the largest makers of passenger aircraft, and led to the later series of aircraft with "7x7" designations. The type's passenger-carrying career ended after nearly 55 years when Saha Airlines, the last commercial operator, ceased operations in 2013.


The 707 was based on an aircraft known as the 367-80. The "Dash 80" took less than two years from project launch in 1952 to rollout on 14 May 1954. This was powered by the Pratt & Whitney JT3C engine, which was the civilian version of the J57 used on many military aircraft of the day, including the F-100 fighter and the B-52 bomber.

The prototype was conceived for both military and civilian use: the United States Air Force was the first customer for the design, using in the KC-135 Stratotanker midair refueling platform. It was far from certain that the passenger 707 would be profitable. At the time, Boeing was making nearly all of its money from military contracts: its last passenger transport, the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, had netted the company a $15 million loss before it was purchased by the Air Force as the KC-97 Stratotanker.[1]

The 132 in (mm {{{4}}}) fuselage of the Dash 80 was only wide enough to fit two-plus-two seating (in the manner of the Stratocruiser). Boeing soon realized that this would not provide a viable payload, so decided to widen the fuselage to 144 in (mm {{{4}}}), the same as the KC-135 Stratotanker, which would allow six-abreast seating - and the shared use of the KC-135's tooling.[2] However, Douglas had launched its DC-8 with a fuselage width of 147 in (mm {{{4}}}). The airlines liked the extra space, and so Boeing was obliged to increase the 707's cabin width again, this time to 148 in (mm {{{4}}}).[3] This meant that little of the tooling that was made for the Dash 80 was usable for the 707. The extra cost meant the 707 did not become profitable until some years after it would have if these modifications had not been necessary.

The first flight of the first production 707-120 took place on 20 December 1957, and FAA certification followed on 18 September 1958. A number of changes were incorporated into the production models from the prototype. A Krueger flap was installed along the leading edge. The height of the vertical fin was increased, and a small fin was added to the underside of the fuselage, and acted as a bumper during excessively nose high takeoffs.[4]

While the initial standard model was the 707-120 with JT3C engines, Qantas ordered a shorter body version called the 707-138 and Braniff ordered the higher-thrust version with Pratt & Whitney JT4A engines, the 707-220. The final major derivative was the 707-320 which featured an extended-span wing and JT4A engines, while the 707-420 was the same as the -320 but with Rolls-Royce Conway turbofan engines, in response to a request from Air Canada.[verification needed] British certification requirements relating to engine-out go-arounds also forced Boeing to increase the height of the tail fin on all 707 variants, as well as add a ventral fin.

Eventually, the dominant engine for the Boeing 707 family was the Pratt & Whitney JT3D, a turbofan variant of the JT3C with lower fuel consumption as well as higher thrust. JT3D-engined 707s and 720s were denoted with a "B" suffix. While many 707-120Bs and 720Bs were conversions of existing JT3C-powered machines, 707-320Bs were only available as new-built aircraft as they had a stronger structure to support a maximum take-off weight increased by 19000 lb (kg {{{4}}}), along with minor modifications to the wing.

The ultimate 707 variant was the 707-320C, (C for "Convertible") which was fitted with a large fuselage door for cargo applications. This aircraft also had a significantly revised wing featuring three-section leading-edge flaps. This provided an additional improvement to takeoff and landing performance, as well as allowed the ventral fin to be removed (although the taller fin was retained). 707-320Bs built after 1963 used the same wing as the -320C and were known as 707-320B Advanced aircraft.

Production of the passenger 707 ended in 1978. In total, 1,010 707s were built for civil use, though many of these found their way to military service. The purpose-built military variants remained in production until 1991.

Traces of the 707 are still found in the 737, which uses a modified version of the 707's fuselage, as well as essentially the same external nose and cockpit configuration as the 707. These were also used on the previous Boeing 727, while the Boeing 757 also used the 707 fuselage cross-section. The Chinese government sponsored development of the Shanghai Y-10 during the 1970s, which was a near carbon-copy of the 707; however, this did not enter production.

Operational history[]

The first commercial orders for the 707 came on 13 October 1955,[2] when Pan Am committed to 20 707s and 25 Douglas DC-8s, a dramatic increase in passenger capacity over its existing fleet of propeller aircraft. The competition between the 707 and DC-8 was fierce. Several major airlines committed only to the DC-8, as Douglas Aircraft was a more established maker of passenger aircraft at the time. To stay competitive, Boeing made a late and costly decision to redesign and enlarge the 707's wing to help increase range and payload. The new version was numbered 707-320.

Pan Am was the first airline to operate the 707; the aircraft's first commercial flight was from New York to Paris on 26 October 1958 with a fuel stop in Gander, Newfoundland. American Airlines operated the first domestic 707 flight on 25 January 1959. Airlines which had only ordered the DC-8, such as United, Delta and Eastern, were left jetless for months until September and lost market share on transcontinental flights.

The 707 quickly became the most popular jetliner of its time. Its popularity led to rapid developments in airport terminals, runways, airline catering, baggage handling, reservations systems and other air transport infrastructure. The advent of the 707 also led to the upgrading of air traffic control systems to prevent interference with military jet operations.[5]

As the 1960s drew to a close, the exponential growth in air travel led to the 707 being a victim of its own success. The 707 was now too small to handle the increased passenger densities on the routes for which it was designed. Stretching the fuselage was not a viable option because the installation of larger, more powerful engines would in turn need a larger undercarriage, which was not feasible given the design's limited ground clearance. Boeing's answer to the problem was the first twin aisle airliner - the Boeing 747. The 707's first-generation engine technology was also rapidly becoming obsolete in the areas of noise and fuel economy.

Trans World Airlines flew the last scheduled 707 flight for passengers by a US carrier on 30 October 1983,[6] although 707s remained in scheduled service by airlines from other nations for much longer. For example Middle East Airlines (MEA) of Lebanon flew 707s and 720s in front-line passenger service until the end of the 1990s. Since LADE of Argentina took its 707-320B from regular service in 2007, Saha Airlines of Iran is the last airline to keep 707s in scheduled passenger service. Saha's 707-320C is listed for the nightly domestic flight between Tehran and Kish Island as well as a weekly flight between Tehran and Mashhad on Friday morning as of February 2008.

In 1984, a Boeing 720 that was flown by remote control was intentionally crashed at Edwards AFB as a part of the FAA and NASA Controlled Impact Demonstration program. The test provided peak accelerations during a crash.[7]

Honeywell operated the last Boeing 720 in operation in the United States, flying out of Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. The aircraft had been modified with an extra engine nacelle to allow testing of a turbine engine at altitude, operating on special certification allowing it to be used for experimental use. The aircraft's experimental flight certification was set to expire in 2008, and the 720 is being replaced by a Boeing 757.[8] This 720B was scrapped on June 21 and 22, 2008. [9]



The 707's engines could not supply sufficient bleed air for pressurization without a serious loss of thrust, so the aircraft instead used engine-driven turbocompressors to supply high-pressure air for this purpose. On many commercial 707s the outer port (#1) engine mount is distinctly different from the other three, as this is the only engine not fitted with a turbocompressor. The Boeing 707 was the first commercially successful airliner to use podded engines.


The 707 wings are swept back at 35 degrees and, like all swept-wing aircraft, displayed an undesirable "Dutch roll" flying characteristic which manifested itself as an alternating yawing and rolling motion. Boeing already had considerable experience with this on the B-47 and B-52, and had developed the yaw damper system on the B-47 that would be applied to later swept wing configurations like the 707. However, many new 707 pilots had no experience with this phenomenon as they were transitioning from straight-wing propeller driven aircraft such as the Douglas DC-7 and Lockheed Constellation.

On one customer acceptance flight, where the yaw damper was turned off to familiarize the new pilots with flying techniques, a trainee pilot exacerbated the Dutch Roll motion causing a violent roll motion which tore two of the four engines off the wing. The plane, a brand new 707-227 N7071 destined for Braniff, crash landed on a river bed north of Seattle at Arlington, Washington, killing four of the eight occupants.[10]

In his autobiography, test pilot Tex Johnston described a Dutch Roll incident he experienced as a passenger on an early commercial 707 flight. As the aircraft's movements gradually became more severe, he went to the cockpit and found the crew frantically attempting to resolve the situation. He introduced himself and relieved the ashen-faced captain who immediately left the cockpit feeling ill. Johnston quickly stabilized the plane and later, even landed it for the crew.

Upgrades and modifications[]

JT8D engines[]

Pratt & Whitney, in a joint venture with Seven Q Seven (SQS) and Omega Air, has developed the JT8D-219 as a re-engine powerplant for Boeing 707-based aircraft, calling their modified configuration a 707RE.[11] Northrop Grumman has selected the -219 to re-engine the United States Air Force’s fleet of 19 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (E-8 Joint STARS) aircraft, which will allow the JSTARS more time on station due to the engine's greater fuel efficiency. NATO also plans to re-engine their fleet of E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft. The -219 is publicized as being half the cost of the competing 707 re-engine powerplant, the CFM-56, and is 40dB quieter than than JT3D engines that are being replaced.[11]



  • 367-80 (Dash-80): The original prototype jet transport layout. Used to develop the 707, it was fitted with four Pratt & Whitney JT3C engines producing 10000 lbf (kN {{{4}}}). First flight was 15 July 1954.
  • 707-120: 69 of the first production 707s were built, with a longer fuselage and greater wingspan than the original Dash-80. A full set of rectangular cabin windows was included for the interior, which was capable of a seating 179 passengers. The version was designed for transcontinental routes and often required a refuelling stop when used on the North Atlantic route. It was fitted with four Pratt and Whitney JT3C-6 turbojets, civilian versions of ofte military J57 model, which produced 12500 lbf (kN {{{4}}}) each, allowing a 257000 lb ({{{3}}} {{{4}}}) takeoff gross weight. First flight was on 20 December 1954. Other major orders were the launch order for 20 707-121 aircraft by Pan American and an American Airlines order for 30 707-123 aircraft. Pan Am service began the 707 career on 26 October 1958.
  • 707-138: Qantas has been assigned the Boeing customer number of 38. The 13 -138 were based on the -120 but had a 10 ft (m {{{4}}}) reduction to the rear fuselage and were capable of increased range.
  • 707-220: Designed for hot and high operations with powerful Pratt & Whitney JT4A-3 turbojets, only five of these were ultimately produced. All were for Braniff International Airways and carried the model number 707-227. This version was made obsolete by the arrival of the turbofan-powered 707-120B.
  • 707-320 Intercontinental: A stretched version of the turbojet-powered original model, powered by JT4A-3 turbojets producing 15,800 lbst each. The interior allowed for up to 189 passengers due to a 100 in (mm {{{4}}}) stretch, while a longer wing carried more fuel, increasing range by 1600 mi (km {{{4}}}) and allowing the aircraft to operate as true transoceanic aircraft. Takeoff weight was increased to 316000 lb (kN {{{4}}}). First flight was on 11 January 1958, and 69 turbojet -320s were produced.
  • 707-120B: The first major upgrade to the design was a re-engining with JT3D-3 turbofans, which were quieter, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient, producing 18000 lbf (kN {{{4}}}) each. The aircraft also received extra leading-edge slats, and the tailplane was enlarged. A total of 72 of these were built, and many more were converted from 707-120 aircraft, including Qantas' aircraft, which became 707-138B aircraft upon conversion. The first flight of the -120B was on 22 June 1960.
  • 707-320B: A re-engining of the stretched version was undertaken in parallel with the -120B, using the same JT3D-3 turbofans and incorporating many of the same airframe upgrades as well. Takeoff gross weight was increased to 335000 lb ({{{3}}} {{{4}}}). 175 of the 707-300B aircraft were produced, as well as upgrades from original -320 models. One of the final orders was by the Iranian Government for 14 707-3J9C aircraft capable of VIP transportation, communication, and inflight refuelling tasks.
  • 707-320B Advanced: A minor improvement made available to -320B aircraft, adding three-section leading-edge flaps. These reduced takeoff and landing speeds, and also altered the liift distribution of the wing, allowing the ventral fin found on earlier 707s to be removed. The same wing was also used on the -320C.
  • 707-320C: A convertible passenger/freight configuration which ultimately became the most widely produced variant of the 707, the -320C added a strengthened floor and a new cargo door to the -320B model. 335 of these variants were built, including a small number with uprated JT3D-7 engines and a takeoff gross weight of 336000 lb ({{{3}}} {{{4}}}). Despite the convertible option, a number of these were delivered as pure freighters.
  • 707-420: A version of the 707-320 originally produced at specific request for BOAC and powered by Rolls-Royce Conway 508 turbofans, producing 17500 lbf (kN {{{4}}}) each. Although BOAC initiated the programme, Lufthansa was the launch customer and Air India was the first to receive a 707-420 on February 18 1960. A total of 37 were built to this configuration.
  • 707-700: A test aircraft used to study the feasibility of using CFM International's CFM56 powerplants on a 707 airframe and possibly retrofitting them to existing aircraft. After a testing in 1979, N707QT, the last commercial 707 airframe, was refitted to 707-320C configuration and delivered to the Moroccan Air Force as a tanker aircraft. (This purchase was considered a "civilian" order and not a military one.) Boeing abandoned the program, since they felt it would be a threat to the Boeing 757 program. The information gathered in the test led to the eventual retrofitting program of CFM56 engines to the USAF C-135/KC-135R models, and some military versions of the 707 also used the CFM56. Ironically the Douglas DC-8 "Super 70" series by Cammacorp did develop commercially, extending the life of DC-8 airframes in a stricter noise regulatory environment, so there are today more DC-8s in commercial service than there are 707s.
  • 720: Originally designated 707-020 but later changed for marketing reasons, was a modification of the 707-120 designed for medium-range operation from shorter runways. It was lighter and faster than the Boeing 707 and had a simplified wing design. This model had few sales but was still profitable due to the minimal R&D costs associated with modifying an existing type. At one point in the promotion stage to airlines it was known as the 717, although this was the Boeing model designation of the KC-135 and remained unused for a commercial airliner until it was applied to the MD-95 following Boeing's merger with McDonnell Douglas. [12] The 720 was used before the Boeing 727 replaced it in the market. First flight was on 23 November 1959, and 64 of the original version were built.
  • 720B: The turbofan-powered version of the 720, with JT3D-1-MC6 turbofans producing 17000 lbf (kN {{{4}}}) each. Takeoff gross weight was increased to 235000 lb ({{{3}}} {{{4}}}). 88 of these were built in addition to conversions of existing 720 models.[13]


Main article: C-137 Stratoliner

The militaries of the United States and other countries have used the civilian 707 aircraft in a variety of roles, and under different designations. (Note: The U.S. Air Force's C-135 Stratolifter is not a 707 variant, but was developed in parallel to the 707 from the original Boeing 367-80.) There were other variants built. They were theBoeing E-3 Sentry, Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, Boeing E-6 Mercury, Boeing E-8 JSTARS (Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS).

Main article: Air Force One

The VC-137C variant of the Stratoliner was a special-purpose design meant to serve as Air Force One, the secure transport for the President of The United States of America. These models were in operational use from 1972 to 1990. The two aircraft remain on display: SAM 26000 is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio and SAM 27000 is at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.


Template:Seealso Although 707s are no longer employed by major airlines 63 aircraft remain in commercial use, mainly with air cargo operators.

In the 1980s, the USAF acquired around 250 used 707s to provide parts for the KC-135E Stratotanker program.[14]

After Saha Airlines, the last commercial passenger operator, ceased operations in 2013, no 707s remains in commercial passenger service, though some are operated as cargo aircraft and private jets.[15] American actor John Travolta owns, and is qualified to fly as second in command, an ex-Qantas 707-138B, registration N707JT.[16]

The list of customer codes used by Boeing to identify specific options and trim specified by customers was started with the 707, and has been maintained through all Boeing's models. Essentially the same system as used on the earlier Boeing 377, the code consisted of two digits affixed to the model number to identify the specific aircraft version. For example, Pan American Airlines was assigned code "21." Thus a 707-300B sold to Pan Am had the model number 707-321B. The number remained constant as further aircraft were purchased, thus when Pan American purchased the 747-100 it had the model number 747-121.

Accidents and incidents[]

As of May 2007, the 707 has been in a total of 166 hull-loss occurrences[17] with 2,733 fatalities.[18]

Notable accidents[]

  • On 15 February 1961, Sabena Flight 548 crashed while on approach to Brussels Airport, Belgium. A total of 73 people were killed, including the entire United States Figure Skating team.[19]
  • On 1 March 1962, American Airlines Flight 1 crashed into Jamaica Bay after taking off from Idlewild Airport (now JFK Airport) while heading for Los Angeles International Airport All 95 people on board died.
  • On 22 May 1962 a bomb destroyed Continental Airlines Flight 11, killing everyone on board.
  • On 8 December 1963 Pan Am Flight 214 crashed outside Elkton, Maryland during a severe electrical storm, with a loss of all 81 passengers and crew. The Boeing 707-121, registered as N709PA, was on the final leg of a San Juan - Baltimore - Philadelphia flight.
  • On 24 January 1966, an Air India 707-437 flying Flight 101 crashed into Glacier des Bossons on the SW face of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. All 106 passengers and 11 crew were killed.
  • On 6 March 1966, BOAC Flight 911 broke up in flight due to severe turbulence and crashed into Mount Fuji.
  • On 3 November 1973, Pan Am Flight 160, a 707 crashed on approach to Boston-Logan. Smoke in the cockpit caused the pilots to lose control. Three people were killed in the hull-loss accident.[2]
  • On 22 April 1974, Pan Am 707-321C crashed into a mountain while preparing for landing after a 4 hour 20 minutes flight from Hong Kong to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. All 107 people on board were killed.[3]
  • On 20 April 1978, Korean Air Lines Flight 902 was shot down by Su-15 interceptors after unintentionally penetrating Soviet airspace and made an emergency landing on a frozen lake near Murmansk, USSR. Two passengers were killed due to rapid decompression in the fuselage.
  • On 13 October 1983, a Bolivian 707 cargo jet crashed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia killing 91 (88 were killed on the ground when it crashed into a practice football game).[20]
  • On 29 November 1987, Korean Air Flight 858 exploded over the Andaman Sea by a terrorist attack. All 115 people on board died.
  • On 8 February 1989, Independent Air Flight 1851, a Boeing 707, crashed into a hill on approach to Santa Maria, Azores. All 144 people on board were killed.
  • On 25 January 1990, Avianca Flight 52 crashed after running out of fuel in Long Island, New York. The 707 was delayed numerous times because of a blizzard at New York. A total of 73 people died.
  • On 23 October 1996, a 707 belonging to the Argentinian Air Force crashed shortly after failing to achieve take-off speed in EZE (Buenos Aires International Airport).[21]

Aircraft on display[]

  • N70700 Model 367-80 (Prototype) previously at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington; now at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Washington, DC.
  • N751TW Model 707-720, in storage, Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, AZ.[22]
  • VH-XBA Model 707-138B (No. 29) one of the first 707s exported (sold to Australian airline Qantas in 1959) is on display at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum in Longreach, Queensland, Australia.
  • F-BLCD Model 707-328B (No. 471) is on display at the Musee de l'Air, Paris, France.
  • 1419 Model 707-328C (No. 19917) South African Air Force is on display at the South African Air Force Museum - Swartkops Air Force Base, Pretoria.


720 (707-020) 707-120B 707-320B
Passengers 140 110 (2 class)
179 (1 class)
147 (2 class)
202 (1 class)
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) 222,000 lb (100,800 kg) 257,000 lb (116,570 kg) 333,600 lb (151,320 kg)
Empty weight 103,145 lb (46,785 kg) 122,533 lb (55,580 kg) 146,400 lb (66,406 kg)
Takeoff run at MTOW 8,300 ft (2,515 m) 11,000 ft (3,330 m) 10,840 ft (3,280 m)
Landing run 5,750 ft (1,740 m) 6,200 ft (1,875 m) 10,840 ft (3,280 m)
Operating range (Max Payload) 3,680 NM (6,800 km) 3,680 NM (6,820 km) 3,735 NM (6,920 km)
Cruising speed 540 kn (999 km/h) 540 kn (1000 km/h) 525 kn (972 km/h)
Length 136 ft 2 in (41.25 m) 144 ft 6 in (44.07 m) 152 ft 11 in (46.61 m)
Wingspan 130 ft 10 in (39.90 m) 145 ft 9 in (44.42 m)
Tail height 41 ft 7 in (12.65 m) 42 ft 5 in (12.93 m) 42 ft 5 in (12.93 m)
Fuselage width 12 ft 4 in (3.76 m) 12 ft 4 in (3.76 m)
Powerplants (4 x) Pratt & Whitney JT3C-7:
12,000 lbf (53.3 kN)
Pratt & Whitney JT3D-1:
17,000 lbf (75.6 kN)
PW JT3D-3:
18,000 lbf (80 kN)
PW JT3D-7:
19,000 lbf (84.4 kN)

Sources: Boeing 707 Family, Boeing 707, Boeing 720


 1994   1993   1992   1991   1990   1989   1988   1987   1986   1985   1984   1983   1982 
1 1 5 14 4 5 0 9 4 3 8 8 8
 1981   1980   1979   1978   1977   1976   1975   1974   1973   1972   1971   1970   1969 
2 3 6 13 8 9 7 21 11 4 10 19 59
 1968   1967   1966   1965   1964   1963   1962   1961   1960   1959   1958   1957   1956 
111 118 83 61 38 34 68 80 91 77 8 0 0

Popular culture[]

The 707 is mentioned in the songs "Boeing Boeing 707" by Roger Miller; "Jet Airliner" performed by The Steve Miller Band and written by Paul Pena; and "Early Morning Rain" by Gordon Lightfoot; [verification needed].

The aircraft also has major roles in the Airport and Airplane films.

See also[]

  • Aircraft in fiction, Boeing 707

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists

  • List of jet airliners



  1. Gamble in the Sky, Time, 19 July 1954.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bowers, 1989, pg. 433.
  3. Irving 1994, pp. 194–197.
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Bowers434
  5. Jets Across the U.S., Time, 17 November 1958.
  6. Farewell Flight, Time, 14 November 1983.
  7. Flight test experience and controlled impact of a remotely piloted jet transport aircraft, NASA-TM-4084, NASA, 1 November 1988.
  8. Goleta Air & Space Museum
  10. Accident details on Aviation Safety
  11. 11.0 11.1 [1],Flug Revue, 12 May 2002]
  12. "Historical Perspective, Start of a Proud Mission." Boeing Frontiers, July 2006.
  13. Boeing 707/720 Short History Official website.
  14. Global Security's KC-135E article.
  15. Flight International, 21-27 August 2007.
  16. FAA Registry: N707JT
  17. Boeing 707 Accident summary,, 5 May 2007.
  18. Boeing 707 Accident Statistics,, 5 July 2005.
  19. Sabena Flight 548 accident summary,
  20. 707 crashed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
  21. Argentinian Air Force crash info
  22. AeroWeb: 707 at Pima Museum



  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing Aircraft since 1916. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1989. ISBN 0-85177-804-6.
  • Irving, Clive. Wide Body: The Making of the Boeing 747. Philadelphia: Coronet, 1994. ISBN 0-340-59983-9.
  • Wilson, Stewart. Airliners of the World. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd., 1999. ISBN 1-875671-44-7.


External links[]