Introduction by David: We have been excitedly following the progress of preparing the first Boeing 727 for its final flight. We took a look at it being painted, got an update with the JT8D engines, and even did a tour of the cabin. I have been very impressed with how many other people are also excited about the aircraft. More people have emailed me directly to share their own personal stories of the 727, which I have loved.
One person that reached out was Captain Tim Powell. Not only does he currently fly the 727 (you read that right), but he also is set to be one of the pilots who will fly the final flight of the 727. I welcomed him to share some of his thoughts about his experience and being an AvGeek in the left seat…
Story, told by Captain Tim Powell: I have been an AvGeek for as long as I can remember. I was the 10-year-old kid standing outside the airport fence watching airplanes taxi by, hoping that maybe someday someone would ask me to go up for a flight. They NEVER did.
When I got the opportunity to attend Parks College of Aeronautical Technology of St. Louis University (the oldest aviation school in the country) I was thrilled to be finally getting into aviation.
While earning an undergraduate degree in Aeronautics, I taught guitar lessons at a local music store and sold women’s shoes to finally start taking flying lessons. I distinctly remember walking down the railroad tracks in Cahokia, Illinois to Parks Bi-State Airport to try and master the venerable J-3 Cub. I did eventually earn my Private, Commercial, and Flight Instructor ratings before graduation.
After graduation I was offered a position with The Boeing Company in Flight Crew Training, teaching customer airline crews 707/727 systems and operating procedures. Marvin (Schully) Schulenberger, the Chief Flight Engineer at Boeing at that time (1970), saw to it that I got rated as a Flight Engineer on the 727.
1971 was the year that they wrote “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights,” due to the large downturn at Boeing. I left the aerospace company in 1971 and accepted a position as a 707 First Officer with one of their customers: Royal Jordanian Airlines.
My airline career spanned 34 years, which included: Royal Jordanian (B707), North Central Airlines (CV-580), Airclub International/AeroAmerica (B707/720), Alaska Airlines (B727), Bangaladesh Biman Airlines (B707), Egyptair (B707), South Pacific Island Airways (B707) and finally 28 years at Western/Delta Air Lines (B727, B737, MD-80, B757, and B767) from which I retired in 2005.
For the past 10 years since my retirement, I have been flying Corporate/VIP Boeing 727s in international worldwide operations. I have also helped companies test and take delivery of 727, 757 and 767s. I even returned to Boeing/Alteon (flight crew training) for a short stint as a 777 instructor. Then I was offered a position as a VIP Boeing 727 pilot and I couldn’t turn down returning to the sky as opposed to the simulator. The 727 has always been one of my favorite aircraft, and I feel privileged to be still flying it.
The upcoming delivery flight of the first 727 (E-1), to the Museum of Flight’s main location at Boeing Field, will be a very special occasion. As an AvGeek, a pilot, and someone who still flies the 727, it is extremely exciting.
However, it is hard for me to explain in words how honored I am to be the guy chosen to be in the left seat during the first Boeing 727’s last flight.
I checked out originally on the second 727, in 1970 at Boeing. I knew Lew Wallick and Schully Schullenberger, the original flight test crew, so it is really a special honor for me after almost 50 years to do this last flight.
For my part, I plan to dedicate the flight to Lew Wallick, Dick Loesch, and Schully Schullenberger, the United Airlines pilots that flew the airplane thru the years. Also to Bob Bogash, T.C Howard, and all the dedicated people at the Museum of Flight that made it possible.
Even today, whenever an airplane flies over, I still have to look up… and hope I always do.