Mouldering quietly on a forlorn corner of Boeing's field near Seattle, Wash., Boeing 747 RA001 is in need of a restoration. To the Washingtonians who built more than 1,400 of the humpbacked workhorses, seeing No. 1 in such a state of disrepair brings a touch of shame.

The 747 is the plane that revolutionized commercial jet travel, served as Air Force One, and carried a NASA space shuttle on its back.


In its heyday, the 43-year-old No. 1 completed more than 12,000 test flights, overcoming the doubts of many that a plane so huge would ever fly. When it rolled off the assembly line, there weren't engines powerful enough to bring its bulk to top speed. In the nick of time, Pratt & Whitney managed to goose a few extra horses out of its JT9D turbofan engines, bringing the plane's top speed up to its design spec 600 mph.

No. 1 has always been more or less an empty shell, save a tiny cockpit packed with antiquated analog gauges and manual flight controls and a workers' lounge sporting orange, ashtray-decked sofas. But over the years, Seattle's prolific rain and a number of homeless people who used the tail section as a toilet have brought the once mighty giant to a pathetic state.


Restoring the 231-foot-long aircraft's interior would cost $1.2 million, and bringing it back to flight-ready status a lot more. But the Museum of Flight's curator is hopeful that someone will step up to the plate and bring the old bird back to life before it's too late. It would be a shame to see such an historic plane fall prey to the same fate as Led Zeppelin's Starship.

Photo credit: Museum of Flight;

(Hat Tip to @bzrong!)