At one time, the Boeing 727 tri-jet was an extremely common sight at airports around the world. Over 1,800 were produced, making it an icon of commercial air travel in the 1970’s and 1980’s (one even appeared on the Beastie Boys album cover Licensed to Ill). Now, the first 727 ever made is being readied to blast skyward once again.
Satellite image of Paine Field in Everett, WA, just north of Seattle.
After sitting idle at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, parked outside and exposed to the Pacific Northwest elements for nearly 25 years, you would expect any airplane to need some special attention if you planned on flying it again. The plan to restore this 727, which has been underway intermittently since 1997, will conclude with a final flight from Paine Field to nearby King County International Airport (also known as Boeing Field) where it will be displayed at the Museum of Flight.
Satellite image of Boeing Field/King County International Airport, just south of Seattle.
The Museum of Flight had to be convinced that the original 727 could be flown the roughly 30 miles between Paine Field and Boeing Field, instead of broken apart and trucked through Seattle to its new home. Fortunately, the effort to renew the historic aircraft has enjoyed a great deal of support from the larger aviation community. FedEx, which retired its last 727 from service in 2013, donated new engines and many other parts to assist in the project, and many other donors have contributed to see the jet fly one last time.
The aircraft, wearing tail number N7001U, first rolled out of Boeing’s factory in nearby Renton, Washington on November 27th, 1962, back when John F. Kennedy was President and relations with Cuba were a far cry from where they are today. It was first flown in 1963 and then entered service with United Airlines until returning to Paine Field in 1991. Estimates suggest the aircraft carried as many as 3 million passengers during its service life, generating over $300 million in revenues over its lifetime.
N7001U photographed in 2011 while parked at Paine Field in Everett, WA.
While there isn’t a firm deadline to complete the aircraft’s rejuvenation, the hope is that the final flight can be made sometime in October of this year. Preserving this very historic jet is a great testament to the skilled labor and engineers who originally designed it a half-century ago and will certainly be an important addition to the Museum of Flight’s massive collection.
Photo credit: Top shot - Dmitry Avdeev/Wikicommons, N7001U engine close-up - Clemens Vasters/Wikicommons, Satellite maps via Google Earth
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