Humble beginnings: the original Boeing HQ – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
I was very lucky to get a ticket to this year’s Aviation Geek Fest Seattle from April 8th to 10th. As one of the biggest AvGeeks on the planet (or so I wrongly thought…), I had been savoring the prospect of flying to the US west coast to visit Seattle, and Boeing’s spiritual home, since the ticket had come through.
Double trouble (the good kind) – Photo: Future of Flight/Boeing
I opted for a London to Seattle direct flight with one of British Airways’ own Queen of the Skies — the 747. I flew in her World Traveller Plus (premium economy) cabin and the flight was surprisingly empty, which suited me fine and dandy. It was a peaceful flight and a Thursday lunchtime arrival into SEA, a day and a half before the event, gave me a chance to check out the city.
If you tallied up the number of flight reviews on this site, you will notice that the majority of them are for business and first class. It turns out that premium cabins are just more interesting than economy, with all the fancy lie-flat suites, and butler service in your private bedroom. More often than not, economy is, well….boring. But sometimes it can be pretty exciting — depending on what kind of plane you are flying.
That’s the position I found myself in recently when I flew back to the 1990s on board KLM’s Fokker 70 and Boeing 747-400 “combi.” Both aircraft types have become exceedingly rare, and I jumped at a chance to fly them between Hamburg, Germany and New York, via Amsterdam.
Iron Maiden’s custom Boeing 747-400 takes off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Bands customizing big transport jets for tours is nothing new. For instance, Alice Cooper, the Allman Brothers Band, Deep Purple, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, and Peter Frampton all made use of The Starship (a Boeing 720) back in the 1970s. Legendary metal band Iron Maiden has turned the volume up to 11 with their custom-liveried “Ed Force One” — named after their evil mascot, Eddie.
The long list of cities on the tour is a cool addition to the livery.
What makes Iron Maiden’s tour planes even more unusual is that they’ve been piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who holds a transport pilot license. Iron Maiden’s last tour made use of a customized 757-200.
After the band’s April 11 show in Tacoma, WA, they made the short hop up to Paine Field in Everett, WA on April 12 for a VIP tour of their bird’s birthplace, the Boeing assembly plant, before leaving the same day for their next tour stop in Denver (Editor’s note: I got to see the beautiful #EdForceOne fly over my Denver office on departure!). Before they left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was able to be there, on the ground, and get some up-close photos of the plane.
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
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!