Employees tour retro aircraft before its final flight
By chance, Chicago O'Hare 777 First Officer Kim Kuyk-Novotny was assigned to fly the last Boeing 727 standard model aircraft on its retirement flight more than 20 years ago, so she was thrilled at the recent chance to tour another historic 727 – the first 727 United ever flew.
Twenty-five years after United donated is the aircraft to Boeing's Museum of Flight, a dedicated team has restored it to flightworthy condition, and a few lucky employees, including Kim, were able to take a tour of it.
"It's the coolest thing that's ever happened to me at United," Kim said.
That's high praise from a woman who joined United 38 years ago as a flight attendant when she was just out of college. But, after her first month on the job, she was convinced she wanted to fly as a pilot. "I started taking flying lessons, built up thousands of hours flying skydiving planes and did a stint at Trans World Express," she said. "United hired me as a DC-10 engineer, but my first flight seat was on the 727."
The 727 was the first Boeing jetliner to undergo rigorous fatigue testing, the first to have completely powered flight controls, the first to use triple-slotted flaps and the first to have an auxiliary power unit.
San Francisco 777 First Officer Kim Weinstein, another tour guest, was a flight engineer on the 727. "The interior and the cockpit brought back so many memories of how exciting that was," she said. "They found and restored every little gauge and switch, the fuel tanks and all the mechanical parts for the elevator, flight controls, fuel and electrical system for an aircraft that had been sitting out in the rain for 25 years. It was a labor of love."
"The interior and the cockpit brought back so many memories of how exciting that was."– 777 First Officer Kim Weinstein
London-Heathrow Station Operations Duty Controller Peter Barnes compared it to stepping into another time. "No inflight entertainment. The color schemes – gosh, were they really popular?" he joked. Peter jumped at the chance to tour the 727 restoration. "I do love my airplanes. I was very touched to be invited and I appreciate it very much."
San Francisco 777 Captain Tad Gordon, another 727 tour guest and who is headed to 787 training in a few weeks, said, "When I was a kid, the 727 was the latest and greatest technology – but the 727 technology and the DC-3s I flew in the military represent 1940s technology. Now, with the 787, we have ring laser gyros and liquid crystal displays. It's a great transition, phasing out a lot of the older technologies, and it's representative of the good, positive changes in our culture."
Boeing flew the 727 from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, to Boeing Field last week. The plane's flight is part of the museum's year-long recognition of The Boeing Company's centennial. The Museum expects to open the 727 to the public in the Air Park during the summer and then move it to the Aviation Pavilion in the fall, where it will join a prototype Boeing 737 and Boeing 747 for permanent exhibition.
Watch the video below featuring special employee behind-the-scenes tours of the aircraft, which took place two days prior to its final flight.