Seattle’s Museum of Flight successfully completed the final journey, Wednesday, of the first Boeing 727 ever built.
The iconic aircraft flew from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, where, for 25 years workers have been slowly restoring it in hopes of eventually flying the jet about 30 miles south for display at the museum.
After a special permit was granted by the Federal Aviation Administration, a flight crew of four strapped themselves in: Capt. Tim Powell, co-pilot Mike Scott, flight engineer Ralph Pascale and restoration manager Bob Bogash.
The 727 pushed back from its stand at 10:30 a.m. for a ceremonial fire department water cannon salute after an engine start-up.
The aircraft deafeningly roared down runway 16R to the delight of the crowd at 10:50 local time.
One of its three engines experienced a noticeable backfire.
Though the Boeing 727 is considered obsolete today, the technology used to promote this specific plane’s final flight certainly is not.
Social media channels were very active.
On Twitter, followers used the hashtag #727FinalFlight.
Users watched live streaming videos of the takeoff and landing via different Periscope and website feeds.
As the trijet soared into the sky for the last time, a trail of black smoke emanated from its three Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7s engines.
During the entire flight, the plane’s landing gear remained down.
On the wings, flaps were deployed.
As a precaution, the 727 was escorted by two chase planes.
The plane touched down at Boeing Field at 11:07. Total time: 17 minutes.
Former test plane
The route is not one unfamiliar for this aircraft.
It was once a test aircraft for Boeing, completing its first flight in 1963.
After the aircraft’s time with Boeing on the flight test certification campaign, the 727 was delivered to United Airlines in 1964, where it spent its entire 27 years flying as a passenger airliner.
Over the course of its career, registered as tail number N7001U, the plane carried around 3 million passengers and generated an estimated $300 million for United.
In 1991, United retired the plane by flying it from San Francisco to Seattle/Tacoma airport.
It was repainted in the original 1960s United livery and flown to Everett as a donation to the Museum of Flight.
Massive volunteer effort
This flight has been 25 years in the making, as volunteers have spent thousands of hours along with blood, sweat and tears during that time restoring this first of its kind airliner.
It is the beneficiary of many donations of parts from FedEx and airlines throughout the world over the years as they retired the iconic 727 from their fleets.
The final push came in May 2004, when FedEx donated another 727 that was destined for retirement.
The 727 will be on temporary display in the Museum of Flight’s airpark through the summer.
Then, it will be placed inside a new covered aviation pavilion, which will also include a 1960s-era VC-137 Air Force One, the first Boeing 737-100, the first 747-100, the third Boeing 787-8, a Concorde supersonic jet and many other historic aircraft.