Boeing 727 Prototype Makes Her Last Flight

#727finalflight ( Photo via Museum of Flight)
#727finalflight ( Photo via Museum of Flight)
#727finalflight ( Photo via Museum of Flight)

The evocative and now sadly rare whine of three Pratt&Whitney JT8D engines ringing in close harmony echoed over Paine Field in Everett, Washington as the prototype Boeing 727 airliner made her final flight today; a short hop from the Museum of Flight’s restoration facility to the main museum site at Boeing Field in nearby Seattle. As most of our readers will know by now, the aircraft has been under preparation for this journey for some years now, with the museum deeming it more practical, and less expensive to fly the aircraft to her final home, than dismantle and move her by road.

727 Prototype under tow out for her final takeoff at Paine Field. Note the massive Boeing Dreamlifter in the background, a behemoth undreamed of when the 727 prototype first took to the air in February, 1963. (photo by Ryan Best)
727 Prototype under tow out for her final takeoff at Paine Field. Note the massive Boeing Dreamlifter in the background, a behemoth undreamed of when the 727 prototype first took to the air in February, 1963. (photo by Ryan Best)
The Boeing 727 Prototype taking of from pain Field ( Photo by Joe Kunzler)   #727finalflight
The Boeing 727 Prototype taking of from pain Field for her final flight. The former P-51 race-pilot and hydroplane champion Chuck Lyford and photographer Jim Larsen are in the Piper Aerostar chase plane. ( Photo by Joe Kunzler) #727finalflight

While the restoration has likely taken several million dollars to accomplish, the bulk of this has come from volunteer labor as well as in-kind donations from the likes of Boeing, United Airlines and Federal Express, meaning that actual financial outlay from the museum has been relatively low for such a massive endeavor.

The 727 nearing the end of her restoration in August, 2015, prior to the installation of her engines. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
The 727 nearing the end of her restoration in August, 2015, prior to the installation of her engines. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

It’s hard to imagine a more romantic way of sending the 727 to her new home either, and thousands of people were on hand to witness the take off and landing of this historic airliner, one of the most important transport types of all time. Amazingly, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the venerable DC-3 was exceeded in numbers on the civil registry around the world, and it was the 727 that accomplished this. The 727 had a long production run following her first flight on February 9th, 1963. The assembly line didn’t close until 1984. Very few operators still fly the 727, due to the much improved efficiency and quietness of more modern aircraft. The remaining examples operate mostly in air-cargo roles. FedEx was one of the last users of the type, and greatly assisted the Museum of Flight’s restoration, by donating parts and systems, not to mention more than half a dozen engines to rebuild three operable units for the final flight.

Some of the FedEx-donated spare engines used in rebuilding the airworthy examples for the 727 prototype's flight. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
Some of the FedEx-donated spare engines used in rebuilding the airworthy examples for the 727 prototype’s flight. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

Saving the 727 prototype was more or less a lucky accident. Retired Boeing engineer, and long-time Museum of Flight employee, Bob Bogash happened to see the aircraft from his seat upon landing at O’Hare International in 1984. The 727 prototype served its entire commercial life with United Airlines, who agreed to donate the airframe to the Museum of Flight when it’s flying days were over, so in 1991 they ferried her to Paine Field. Because the museum hadn’t got a hangar big enough to house the 727 indoors, she has sat outside since that time, which has presented considerable obstacles to her maintenance and preservation.

The 727 Prototype in the days leading up to her final flight. (photo by Craig Wall)
The 727 Prototype in the days leading up to her final flight. (photo by Craig Wall)
The 727 just before touch down.  (Francis Zera photo via The Museum of Flight)
The 727 just before touch down. (Francis Zera photo via The Museum of Flight)
727 Prototype arriving at Boeing Field, and taxiing under the honorary firehoses. (photo by Ryan Best)
727 Prototype arriving at Boeing Field, and taxiing under the honorary firehoses. (photo by Ryan Best)
Looking down the 727 fuselage from the gangway at Boeing Field (photo by Ryan Best)
Looking down the 727 fuselage from the gangway at Boeing Field (photo by Ryan Best)
Inside the Boeing 727 Prototype's cockpit... note the lights are still on! Ryan was one of many who helped get the 727 back in the air again. He has been with the project since 2009, and did a lot of the dirtiest jobs, such as cleaning out the fuel tanks! (photo by Ryan Best)
Inside the Boeing 727 Prototype’s cockpit… note the lights are still on! Ryan was one of many who helped get the 727 back in the air again. He has been with the project since 2009, and did a lot of the dirtiest jobs, such as cleaning out the fuel tanks! (photo by Ryan Best)

The Museum of Flight press release noted the following…  “The 727’s brief trip from Everett to Seattle was flown under a special flight permit, with only essential flight crew onboard during the flight: pilot Tim Powell, co-pilot Mike Scott, flight engineer Ralph Pascale, and safety officer Bob Bogash. Powell, Scott and Pascale fly 727s on a regular basis; airline and corporate pilot Powell has over 10,000 hours at the controls of various 727s. Bogash is the Museum’s 727 project manager.”

Now that the airliner is at Boeing field, she will remain on outdoor display for a few more months in the Air Park beside the main museum building until the new Aviation Pavilion is ready to take her in late summer. The 727 will then take pride of place alongside a number of other Boeing airliner prototypes, including the 737 and 747 Jumbo Jet! Bravo to all concerned at the Museum of Flight for ensuring that this jewel of an aircraft has been saved for future generations to come!

The new Aviation Pavilion at the Museum of Flight shown here while under construction last August. This is set to be the new home for the 727 prototype. As you should be able to see, the prototype 747 and 737 are already nearby waiting for their turn to enter the building too! (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
The new Aviation Pavilion at the Museum of Flight shown here while under construction last August. This is set to be the new home for the 727 prototype. As you should be able to see, the prototype 747 and 737 are already nearby waiting for their turn to enter the building too! (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

WarbirdsNews wishes to express much gratitude to Joe Kunzler, Dan Hagedorn, Michael Grant, who helped with this article, and of course to the many people at the Museum of Flight who helped make this monumental flight possible!

Boschung global

2 Comments

  1. Former P-51 racer and hydroplane champion Chuck Lyford and photographer Jim Larsen in the Piper Aerostar in the takeoff picture.

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