A Cessna completes a touch and go at RNT

A Cessna completes a touch and go at RNT

Runt. That might be what you think of when you see the IATA code — RNT — of Renton Municipal Airport (aka Clayton Scott Field). Yes, it might be small compared to many other airports, but it has a huge impact on the global aviation market.

The airports in the greater Seattle area can be confusing. I find that many are aware that all Boeing commercial aircraft are made in the Seattle area (and Charleston), but it is not so clear how the airports play such different roles. RNT’s big claim to fame is that every Boeing 737 is built at the Boeing facility next door, and every 737 has made its first flight from there (even the P-8 Poseidon). If you were following the first flight of the Boeing 737 MAX, that was RNT.

The first 737MAX sits on the flight line in Renton

The first 737MAX sits on the flight line in Renton

I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Jonathan Wilson, RNT’s Airport Manager, to learn more about their operations and future. Not everyone that I meet in aviation is an AvGeek, but Jonathan definitely is one. We ended up talking airlines, airports, and of course RNT. Then we loaded up in one of their sweet trucks and drove around the airport!

Three airports, all close together in south Seattle - Photo: GoogleMaps

Three airports, all close together in south Seattle – Photo: GoogleMaps

First, let me clarify a bit about the three airports that are south of Seattle. The map above shows Boeing Field [aka King County International Airport] (BFI), which is green; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which is orange/yellow; and Renton Municipal Airport, is blue. Not shown on the map is Paine Field (PAE), which is located about 35 miles north of SEA in Everett, WA, where Boeing builds the 747, 767, 777, and 787.

Of course, RNT is where the planes are built and fly away from, then BFI is where they land and are prepared for delivery, and finally SEA is a commercial airport that flies many 737s for different airlines (including Alaska Airlines, which is based there).

Like Paine Field (which is owned by Snohomish County), RNT is not owned by Boeing — it is owned by the City of Renton. The majority of traffic is made up of single-engined piston aircraft and each year, it sees about 112,000 operations (takeoffs/landings). That is quite a bit, considering it only has one runway that is 5,382 feet in length.

Lake Washington is just to the north, also where the seaplane base is located.

Lake Washington is just to the north, also where the seaplane base is located

On the north side of the airport is the Will Rogers – Wiley Post Memorial Seaplane Base (W36), which offers a floating dock and ramp. This means seaplanes can fly in on the water, be towed up on land, have some wheels slapped on, and take off on the runway (or visa-versa).

Statue of Clayton Scott

Statue of Clayton Scott at the airport

Although many people still refer to the airport as “Renton Municipal,” its name was changed to Clayton Scott Field in 2005. Clayton Scott was an amazing aviator, who had a long career (and life) in the Seattle region. He was born in 1905 and started flying at an early age. In the 1930s, he ended up meeting William Boeing (the founder of Boeing) by chance and they became friends. At first, Scott ended up becoming Boeing’s personal pilot and then he worked as the chief production test pilot, on both commercial and military aircraft, until 1966.

He unfortunately ended up passing away at the age of 101 in 2006. The airport had its name changed during Scott’s 100th birthday as a celebration of his accomplishments.

The airport currently covers 170 acres, and due to its location there isn’t much opportunity to grow. However, they are in process of re-organizing space to allow additional 737 MAXs to be stored before the first delivery next year.

BONUS: Photo Tour of the Boeing 737 Factory in Renton

Some 737s lined up at RNT

Some 737s lined up at RNT

You might have heard someone say that a 737 can take off from the airport, but is not able to land. Honestly, when I went on my tour, I wasn’t 100% sure if that was true (okay, I totally thought it was true). It turns out that it is false. Over the years, there have been a number of 737s that have landed — even larger aircraft with no problems.

BONUS: TO THE MAX! The Boeing 737 MAX That Is

727 Renton Flightline in 1966 - Photo: Boeing

727s lined up at the Renton Flightline in 1966 (I know, this is the fourth time we have used this photo in stories, but it is so freak’n rad!) – Photo: Boeing

The airport has built much more than 737s. This was also the birthplace for every Boeing 707, 727, and 757 built (not to mention some military aircraft, like the B-29 and C-97). Think of all the different aircraft that have taken off from RNT and flown millions of passengers around the world for decades.

IMG_6251

The weather was nasty and gray at first, but started improving during the driving tour of RNT

Probably by “acre per impact on aviation” (I don’t think that is a real metric), it would be hard to find an airport that has done more than Clayton Scott Field / Renton Municipal Airport. With the 737 MAX production likely to continue for decades, the airport will keep influencing the future of air travel. Next time you take a flight on a 737 or 757 (or the very rare 727), you can think of the little RNT that has made a huge mark on aviation.

You can check out the rest of my Renton Airport photos on our Flickr account.

Related AirlineReporter Posts

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

http://www.airlinereporter.com
PHOTOS: Iron Maiden’s “Ed Force One” 747 Rocks Seattle!
15 Comments
Joe Cullen

Hi David,

Thanks for the photo tour around Renton’s airport. I used to work for Boeing in Renton when the 727-200 Advanced was being designed. Since we were the aeronautical engineers we were up on the top floor of the engineering building where we could see all the new jetliners leaving for Paine Field. Sometimes they did come home. Production of 727’s and 737’s was in a slump in late 1969-1972 and the facilities at Renton were being used to refurbish some airplanes. I seem to recall that Frontier Airlines was trading in some of its 727’s for 737’s around this time. The 727 was their first jet and I think Boeing sold them 727’s with the understanding that they could be traded in later when 737’s were available. The ex-Frontier 727’s came to Renton where they were repainted in Braniff Jelly Bean livery. The 727 had no problem getting into Renton’s 5000-ft field!

Please do keep showing us the awesome, rad photo of the Renton flightline in 1966, because I know a lot of us love the livery on those beautiful girls. I think a lot of final assembly was being done outside in 1966 because so many 727’s were being produced around that time. I see a pretty baby-blue Braniff Jelly Bean in there that looks like it already has its engines installed. Imagine what the photo would look like with an American Airlines Astrojet added to the mix!

Airline Reporter had a story back in November 2014 about plane spotting at Renton. Many of your readers remembered when four of the flight test 747’s were flown to Renton to be refurbished for delivery to Pan Am and TWA. I was standing along the west edge of the runway on Saturday, December 13, 1969 when they brought in the first one, N732PA. We had to see this! Things didn’t go well the first time as the pilot didn’t quite clear the end of the runway and some damage was done to the plane’s starboard gear and nacelles. We had been at the ceremony the day before when Pan Am took delivery of its first 747 and this accident was sort of a counterpoint to the previous day’s festivities. I didn’t see the other three when they arrived, but I was told they made it in just fine.

By the way…I learned to fly at Renton! My instructor’s full-time job was as a 727 production test pilot. I was taxiing out for a practice flight one Saturday shortly after I soloed, and I was a little surprised to see one of those repainted Braniff 727’s moving along the east side, headed for the runway. Ground control asked me to wait for the 727 to take off, but the 727 pilot said he would wait for me to go first. It was my instructor and I think it made him proud to see one of his students joining him in the air.

Thanks for giving me another reason to blog (rave?) about my favorite airplane: Boeing’s wonderful 727!

Joe Cullen
Denver, CO

Hey Joe,

Thanks for the comment and for sharing your memories — those are awesome :)! I remember hearing about the 747 stuff long ago, but didn’t think to ask about it again. That airport has so much great history to it.

And a great place to learn how to fly. As you know Seattle is so beautiful in the air and the other airports can be a bit more intimidating. Plus you cannot beat your instructor seeing you off from the flight deck of a new 727!

David | AirlineReporter

Joe Cullen

Hi David,

I just noticed today that The Museum of Flight has arranged a Renton factory tour:

https://www.museumofflight.org/boeing-renton-factory-tour

I kind of imagine that you already know about this.

Joe Cullen

Phoenix

GREAT NEWS!!

except “*** Initial tours are Sold Out for this pilot program***”

Here’s hoping this goes beyond “pilot program”. (pun intended?)

Phoenix

Boeing needs to make a modern update of that Renton flightline photo… with UA and NH “invited” back (along with the other airlines’ contemporaries) with newer 737s… then we can safely retire this old photo!

(/puts on flame-proof jacket…)

Retire it — NO WAY :)! Although this is probably the last time I will use it for a while. The problem is there are hangars in the location now (northwest side of the airport) https://goo.gl/maps/uQWujpbxe2y. So it, would take a lot to re-create that photo, although it would be awesome!

David | AirlineReporter

Joe Cullen

Hi Phoenix,

I think the excitement surrounding the delivery of the 727 prototype to The Museum of Flight has temporarily infected a lot of folks with 727-Mania. I readily admit to having been infected with this disease many decades ago and I apparently can’t be cured. I do love this photo even though some of those 727’s still need their engines and that does detract a little from the photo.

It would be cool to have a similar photo with a collection of 737’s in colorful liveries. You probably couldn’t get that at Renton because most 737’s leave there in green without their airline livery. I think they get painted at Boeing Field where they operate the 737 delivery center. I don’t think Boeing ever delivered airliners at Renton and this 1966 photo shows a bunch of 727’s being completed and tested before heading north to Paine Field for production flight-test. They would all eventually end up at the delivery center at Boeing Field.

I think David may love this photo just because it is so beautiful. I am guessing this is late spring or early summer because I see a sky full of cumulus clouds. Look at how the bright, blue sky illuminates the neatly lined-up 727’s and how little clutter there is in the background. The photographer is looking north along runway 34 towards Lake Washington and Mercer Island. This would be just as beautiful if somebody could somehow line up a bunch of colorful 737’s in the same kind of locale. I’ll bet David would like to see this shot duplicated with 757’s! You can go to Boeing Field and admire the 737’s in their liveries, but I think you would have a very difficult time duplicating the backdrop in the photo. David is pretty handy with a camera, and maybe we should goad him into somehow arranging a similarly-staged collection of new about-to-be-delivered 737’s and get their portrait on a bright-blue summer day.

Joe Cullen
Denver, CO

Phoenix

Joe: the photo is indeed beautiful. I’m only half-joking when I say retire it 😉

Yes David is better with a camera than I’ll likely ever be, but a bit of Boeing’s assistance would go a long way. Staging those 737 (or whichever aircraft) will be a bunch of work. Keeping my fingers crossed though!

Thanks for the well-considered words.

Alastair Long

Super story, David. It was great to visit Seattle and a privilege to end up at RNT and Paine Field during last week’s AvGeek Fest, experiencing Boeing’s origins in person. I’m as fascinated by the company’s history as much as by its future.

It is a pretty impressive operation, that they make seem so easy!

David | AirlineReporter

Hi David! My dad actually works at Renton. They do family day open houses about everyother year. They’re only open to family and friends of Boeing employees due to security concerns. Also, the layout of the Renton plant would be nowhere near as well suited for yours compared to Everett. Maybe of you know someone who works there they’d let you go to family day eventually.

Aaron

Hey Aaron,

Every year I ask Boeing to do a story on family day, and every year I am told, “no.” They want to keep it a special day for the families and not a media event. I get that.

I have been invited by workers to attend, but that causes issues. I want to respect the media/versus non-media line and have not been. Hopefully someday :).

David | AirlineReporter

Hello David, Great story…I didn’t know the 757’s “best rocket ship ever with those RR power plants” were built at Renton.
Do they give tours at Renton facility like they do up in Everett? We’ve done the Renton tour several times – as well at the Museum of Flight. But we haven’t seen “inside” Renton.
If they don’t do the tours at Renton – wonder why not? Thanks.

Hey JH,

At the current time, they do not offer tours. It is something that they have thrown around. Issues are about the general public seeing the operations, and the tours interrupting the workflow (right now, there is not really a good place to do it without interrupting).

David | AirlineReporter

I remember as a kid at school in the sixties seeing the Ansett and TAA 727’s overfly my school here in Melbourne on their delivery flight to Essendon airport ..It was such an exciting time

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *