Boeing’s first 727 jet makes its last flight

Image: 727 arrival
Fire trucks greet the Boeing 727 at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

The final flight of the first Boeing 727 prototype jet ever produced was one of the shortest trips it’s made in its 53-year history: a 15-minute jaunt from a restoration hangar at Everett’s Paine Field to Seattle’s Boeing Field and the Museum of Flight.

But in another sense, it took decades to make the journey.

The three-engine jet was used as a test prototype when Boeing started flying the 727s in 1963, and was delivered to United Airlines in 1964. The plane put in nearly 65,000 hours of service with United, and made more than 48,000 takeoffs and landings.

The three-engine jet made its last commercial voyage in 1991, and then United donated it to the Museum of Flight. At the time, the museum couldn’t accommodate the plane in Seattle, so it was put into storage in Everett. Some of its parts were scavenged for other planes.

For 25 years, a volunteer team toiled to raise money, acquire spare parts (mostly donated by FedEx) and refurbish the plane for one more flight. Once the plane was judged airworthy, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a special permit to clear the way for the March 2 flight under visual flight rules.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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