SEATTLE — On March 2 the Museum of Flight‘s recently-restored Boeing 727 prototype made its first flight in 25 years — the flight also marked the airplane’s last flight ever.
The Future of Flight at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., held a preflight ceremony while hundreds of fans and former 727 flight crew members awaited the plane’s arrival at The Museum of Flight. The plane received a heartfelt welcome at the museum when it taxied through the museum’s Boeing Field gate at 11 a.m.
The final flight from Paine Field to Boeing Field lasted less than 15 minutes. Upon landing it taxied directly into the museum’s parking area — through a celebratory arch of water created by water cannons on Boeing and King County firetrucks — where the engines were shut down for the last time.
After the ceremonies, the plane was opened to the public, where they were able to tour for the remainder of the day as part of their admission.
The 727 will also be open to the public this weekend, March 5-6, also free with admission (tours inside of the plane will only be available if it is not raining that day).
The 727’s brief trip from Everett to Seattle was flown under a special flight permit, with only essential flight crew onboard during the flight: Pilot Tim Powell, co-pilot Mike Scott, flight engineer Ralph Pascale, and safety officer Bob Bogash. Powell, Scott and Pascale fly 727s on a regular basis; airline and corporate pilot Powell has over 10,000 hours at the controls of various 727s. Bogash is the museum’s 727 project manager.
The 727 will be on temporary display in the museum’s airpark through the summer. It will be moved for permanent display in the Aviation Pavilion in the fall.
This jet has not been airborne since it was donated to the museum by United Air Lines in 1991, and has been under restoration ever since by volunteer crews at the museum’s Restoration Center and Reserve Collection at Paine Field in Everett, Wash.
History of the Boeing 727 Prototype
The museum’s three-engine, Boeing 727-100, N7001U, first flew on Feb. 9, 1963. Until the 777 in the 1990s, it was the only type of Boeing commercial jet with no dedicated prototype — the first airplane was not kept as a flight test airplane, but was delivered to the “kickoff customer” airline and went into regular service.
It was the first of 1,832 Boeing 727 Trijets built at Boeing’s Renton plant. The airplane was delivered to United Air Lines on Oct. 6, 1964, and remained with the company for its entire service life.
During its 27-year career the Trijet accumulated 64,495 hours, made 48,060 landings, and flew an estimated 3 million passengers. United paid $4.4 million for the airplane, which in-turn generated revenues of more than $300 million.
In 1984, the Museum of Flight’s Chairman of the Aircraft Acquisition Committee, Bob Bogash, approached then-United top managers Ed Carlson and Dick Ferris, and asked for the 727 upon its retirement. United agreed. On Jan 23, 1988 the airplane was present during an official museum ceremony a few years before it was retired.
On Jan. 13, 1991, the airplane — repainted in its original United colors — flew revenue trip 838 SFO – SEA, and was then ferried to Boeing Field for a final acceptance ceremony at the museum. It made one last flight to the Museum’s Paine Field Restoration Center. Bogash, a Boeing Company veteran of 30 years, became the 727 restoration project manager.
United removed many of the major parts on the airplane, to use as spares for its remaining fleet of 727s. The museum was left with a significant challenge with its goal to restore the airplane to airworthy condition. After a few idle years the restoration began in earnest, and grew significantly with the donation of two more 727s for parts. On March 6, 2004, Federal Express donated a 727-100 airplane to the museum, and in September 2005, Clay Lacey donated a 727-200.
For the past 25 years, dozens of volunteers have helped bring the plane back to life. FedEx has been a long-time partner on the project, and recently donated the engines that will power the plane on its final flight. The expertise and equipment for the project has been international and from all walks of life.