Seattle’s fond farewell to the first 727

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The world's first 727 (N7001U) makes its final taxi for takeoff from Paine Field. (Image by Chris Raezer Photography)

Fifty-three years ago, a passenger plane with the registration N7001U rolled off the line at the Boeing plant outside Seattle and changed the history of short- to medium-range aviation history. Between that day in 1963 and 1984, more than 1,800 copies of the Boeing 727 were built. While they mostly served as passenger aircraft in various configurations, many of these aircraft saw their lifetimes extended by serving as freighters, most notably as sturdy workhorses for express companies like FedEx and UPS.

After carrying more than 3 million passengers for United Airlines and racking up 64,495 flight hours, N7001U was retired in 1991 and donated to Boeing’s Museum of Flight. For the last 25 years, the 727-100 has been undergoing a painstaking restoration to its original condition and United livery. Earlier this week, on March 2, it was finally ready to make its final 15-minute hop from the Boeing plant in Everett to Boeing Field in Seattle to become an indoor museum exhibit.

As we head into the weekend, here are some images of the distinctive tri-engine narrowbody as it roared (and I do mean ROAR – those -100 models could really rattle the windows) into the sky, right past the offices here at Air Cargo World magazine. Many thanks to Boeing’s Chris Raezer (Chris Raezer Photography) and to AerCap’s Steve Adams for supplying the terrific images of this historic event.

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N7001U makes its last rotation alongside a nearby chase plane at Paine Field. (Image by Chris Raezer Photography)

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N7001U is airborne! (Image by Chris Raezer Photography)

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Final approach with Space Needle in background. (Image by Steve Adams)

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Touchdown at Boeing Field. (Image by Steve Adams)

And speaking of durable workhorses, there are still a few hardy 727Fs out there today hauling freight. Many of them are as sturdy as ever – much like the one seen below that flies for Asia Pacific Airlines. On Feb. 26, after making a training flight from the island of Guam, it returned to the airport with the pilots reporting that the nose gear would not deploy. After dumping fuel, the 727-200F came in for an emergency landing, with the pilots expertly touching the nose down without an injury or even a visible spark from the fuselage. In the end, it looked like there wasn’t a scratch on it.

That’s 727 tough.

Enjoy this video from USA Today and have a great weekend everyone.

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