Saturday, November 8th at the Museum of flight will forever be known as Dreamliner Day. This Seattle aviation museum is known for many examples of aircraft built in the Seattle area, such as the first 747, the prototype 737, and the only remaining Boeing 80A. But now the Museum has it’s own Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the first museum in the world to have such an aircraft.
When Boeing rolled out this particular 787, ZA003, it was destined for the test program. Once it had finished its time in the program, it was fitted with a full passenger cabin. This aircraft was also one that caused some original controversy on this blog due to the paint scheme. It was repainted from the Boeing Test livery (that is still being used on ZA004 to this day) to the “Dreamliner” livery, the same one used on the first 787. This was in preparation for the most famous piece of ZA003’s history, the Dream Tour.
ZA003 spent a good six months touring the world, visiting far away countries, touting the aircraft’s game-changing features, but also allowing the airlines to get their first glimpses of the aircraft they had purchased. The livery it wore for this Dream Tour is what ZA003 still wears, down to the tail logos of the airlines who purchased the aircraft at the time, all 56 of them. But ZA003 sat in storage in Moses Lake, WA, for quite some time, awaiting what could have been a sad, sad future – turned into scrap metal (well, mostly scrap carbon fiber). Then the aircraft was rescued – the final flight from Moses Lake back to Boeing Field would be the last-ever flight of this aircraft, as it flew to its new home just down the street from Boeing’s Flight Test Center.
Before 7:00 am on Saturday morning, ZA003 was towed down the taxiway at Boeing Field to the parking lot of the Museum of Flight. It was a foggy morning, and as the aircraft rolled in it was eeirly quiet, as though everyone knew this was an important, yet solemn occasion. ZA003 is the first of three aircraft being donated by Boeing to museums around the world (no other details unfortunately given, but I wouldn’t mind betting ZA001 will be heading to the Smithsonian Udvar Hazy Center at Dulles Airport). Currently, ZA001 and ZA002 are in storage at Palmdale, CA.
The aircraft was handed over by Boeing in a large ceremony attended by crowds of onlookers. Pieces of 787 memorabilia were brought off the aircraft by pivotal Boeing 787 program members and handed over to docents, staff, and volunteers of the museum, ready to be added to the collection. Senior Curator of the Museum of Flight, Dan Hagedorn, said that ZA003 is a curator’s dream. “An artifact is a man-made article of great historical significance,” he continued, “that (aircraft) outside is one of the finest examples of an artifact.”
The aircraft was opened for display, with the first person onboard being June Boeing, wife to the son of aviation pioneer William Boeing. As the public explored the aircraft, they could check out the business class cabin and a small economy cabin as well. This was also the first aircraft to have a full passenger fit out onboard, including the signature 787 grand entryway and LED lighting. The electrostatic window shades were also in operation so the public could see just how these unique windows functioned. At the back of the plane was a large open area, one that will be fitted to replicate the test equipment that was in place originally.
ZA003 is a unique aircraft, one that flew countless hours, not only as a test aircraft, but as a show piece for Boeing. This aircraft has now found a fantastic home at the Museum of Flight, and although it is being removed from public display from the 10th to the 21st of November, don’t worry – it will be back. After the 22nd of November, ZA003 is going to be put on permanent display, ready for generations of people to see just how amazing this game-changing aircraft really is.