As claimed in my previous post: I am an aviation enthusiast, or an #avgeek as we are called on Twitter. As a kid I had an aviation history book, with photos of all milestones until then. One of the last pages in that early 1970’s book showed pictures of the first flight of a revolution in passenger transport: the brand new Boeing 747. With its two-storey and double aisle design it was the first truly large capacity airliner, aptly named “Jumbo Jet”. An image that I remembered for the rest of my life. Years later I ended up flying many variants of the 747 as a passenger, from the early -100 to the stretched upper deck -300 and -400. A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend a day in Seattle, which I dedicated to finding this first Boeing 747, named “City of Everett”, after the home town of the Boeing company.
Original AP caption: “Boeing’s jumbo jet 747 leaves the ground on its first flight at the Boeing plant in Everett, WA, Sunday, 9 February 1969. The 747, powered by four jet engines and capable of carrying over 400 passengers, is the world’s largest commercial aircraft.” (AP Photo)
Finding the city of Everett is actually not that difficult at all. It is located about 40 kilometers north of the city of Seattle WA, halfway Seattle Tacoma International Airport and the Canadian border, in the upper northwest corner of the United States. It is hard to miss the largest building in the world at the Boeing plant (to the right in the photo).
The “Future of Flight” aviation center is part of the Boeing complex in Everett. It is a museum of the history and future of Boeing and starting point for the Boeing factory tours. The exhibit has prototype aircraft hulls and interiors, like this brand new Boeing 787 cabin mockup. Please note that this picture was taken in 2006, well before the Dreamliner prototype flew for the first time.
This Boeing 707 fuselage panel is a tribute to this important Boeing customer at the Future of Flight exhibit.
You cannot take pictures on the Boeing factory tour, but the grounds outside the visitor center offer a great view onto the Paine field runway, where brand new planes take off on its maiden voyage to its new owners. This brand new Boeing 777 performed a spectacular aborted take off while we were watching.
The “City of Everett” cannot be found in Everett anymore. After a long life of tests Boeing donated its prototype to another museum in the area. This means driving back to Seattle. Near the international airport is another major Boeing plant, located at King County International Airport, better known as Boeing Field. This airport is also home to the awesome Museum of Flight.
The main exhibit hall has many great planes, including this spectacular SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, the fastest piloted jet ever built.
The museum is housed in a beautiful modern glass-and-steel building, surrounding a much older wooden structure. This is the old Boeing plant, where the factory shop has been restored to its 1920’s glory. I am getting closer to finding my target for the day!
On the opposite side of the road is a small open area where a few large historic aircraft are parked, including this former British Airways Concorde. The aircraft here can be visited inside, so if you ever want to feel the sensation of being on board Concorde, this is the place to go!
Behind Concorde is this somewhat modest Boeing 737-100 in NASA colors. It is the famous NASA Langley Research plane, known to #avgeeks and #spacetweeps as NASA 515. Perhaps less well known is that this is the very first Boeing 737 ever built, taking off on 6 April 1967. Many thousands of this most successful airliner family ever would follow. The 737 is still in production today.
Next to the Langley 737 stands an even older jetliner. The Boeing 707 was Boeing’s first commercial passenger jet. This particular frame, the 1958 VC-137B SAM 970, served as “Air Force One” to several US presidents, including John F. Kennedy.
In the back of the exhibit I then finally find the aircraft from my book. Proudly painted in the Boeing factory colors of its days sits the “City of Everett”, registration N7470. Aircraft serial number 20235, line number 001 (also note the Boeing Variable Number RA001 on the nose gear door). It carries many markings of its first flight, including the large number 1 behind the top door.
The sign says it all. Or does it…?
The plane is no more than a shadow of its past glory. It looks to be in bad shape. Worn paint, fenced off landing gear, flat tyres, even removed engines. Of course the plane is in good hands here, but it is a bit of a poor sight…
It is great to see what a jet engine looks like from the inside, but not on this plane, in an outdoor display…
The cockpit still proudly bears the names of its famous first crew. The three brave men that took this giant into the sky for the first time, noting how easy it is to fly this beast really.
All doors are closed, and as one of the few planes here, it cannot be visited. The harsh Seattle weather doesn’t do a lot of good to the paint and cleanliness of the plane.
I hope that the great Museum of Flight will help keep the memory alive of this and all the other great planes it exhibits. This epic airliner marked the start of mass air transportation, triggering changes in tourism and global trade. It deserves to be proudly displayed, so many more little boys and old men like myself can enjoy its great stories.
At the end of my Boeing adventure I drove to Seattle city center to visit the old Pike Place Market. This happens to be the home of another ‘first’. This is the first Starbucks store in the world! Restored to its original 1971 livery, this is a pretty unique place to visit, whatever you think of Starbucks in 2014…