Browsing Tag: Aviation in Seattle

Aviation in Seattle is always fun!

Aviation in Seattle is always fun!

Attention Seattle peeps: This is a good weekend for aviation. There are two aviation-themed events going down that you might want to check out:

In honor of our WWII Veterans, this tour features the iconic B-17 Flying Fortress, the only fully restored and flying B-24J Liberator and the legendary P-51 Mustang. You have the ability to tour the inside of the aircraft and even get a flight. You can explore the inside of the aircraft for $12 ($6 for kids) or you can hitch a 30-minute ride for $425. Want to take full control? You can get a little “stick” time with the P-51 mustang for $2,200 for 30-min. Probably not something most people can experience, but if you have the means, what an experience. The tour will be at the Flying Heritage Collection at Paine Field from 2pm today until June 20th. After that, they will be hanging out down at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field from June 24-26th.

This is a free helicopter static display aviation event paired with the Code 3 Career Fair, a public service employment recruiting fair complete with vehicles for a hands-on experience for all ages that is located at the Museum of Flight going on this Saturday June 18th from 10a-3pm.

This 13th anniversary event, held June 18-19, 2011, will feature tactical demonstrations including the U.S. Air Force’s A-10 West Coast Demonstration Team! Also visiting for the first time is the Commemorative Air Force’s B-17 Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey, and the B-25 Mitchell Maid In The Shade. Tickets are only $12 if purchased online or $15 at the door.

Helicopters and old war birds, how can you go wrong? Have I said recently how much I love living in Seattle?

This is just one half of one of the hangars at the Museum of Flight's Restoration Center at Paine Field.

This is just one half of one of the hangars at the Museum of Flight's Restoration Center at Paine Field.

A while back I had the opportunity to check out the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field (KBFI), just south of Seattle. They have an amazing collection of aircraft and any aviation geek can find something of interest. They have vehicles on display that are covered in fabric to being found in space. Creating such an amazing collection doesn’t come easy and it takes an enormous amount of work to get old airplanes to museum quality. Where many visitors (and locals) will check out the Museum of Flight, many don’t get the whole story. A visit to check out the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, housed at Paine Field (KPAE), is a must for any aviation enthusiast.

The restoration work is mostly done by volunteers who use their time, skills and rarely even their own money to help restore the museum’s aircraft. These are people with a true passion for aviation and talking with them about their work is more exciting than viewing the actual airplanes. The facility employs only two staff, but has a roster of about 75 volunteers. The entire Aircraft Collections Department in Seattle and Everett, has a staff of three and over 125 volunteers. Volunteers will be broken up into teams and assigned to work on an aircraft. Director of Aircraft Collections and the Senior Curator will determine what needs to be done and work with the volunteers on the proper methods to do it. Since many parts can no longer be found or are too costly, in many cases, they end up making their own.

Restoring an airplane is difficult enough, but keeping it in good shape is a whole other ballgame. Most of the aircraft at the Museum of Flight and the Restoration Center are housed inside, which makes keeping them in prime condition easier. The challenge becomes the ones that live outside in the punishing Seattle weather. The Museum of Flight is in process of creating an indoor airpark to house the airliners that are outside now and the others (ie Comet, 1st 727 and Constellation) waiting to be put on display.

The Comet 4C sticks her nose into the hangar and begging to be checked=

It becomes a challenging juggle between man-power, resources, money and time to keep such a large collection in pristine condition. The Restoration Center’s goal is not to get the aircraft to flying condition, but in a condition that they preserve the history of the aircraft type and of the individual plane.  If the plane has damage on it, that can tell a story. They might not fully repair it since it is a part of the history of the aircraft.

Probably one of the most difficult tasks at the Museum of Flight or the Restoration Center is having to tell someone, “no,” when they have an aircraft that they want added to the collection. Boeing Field, where the Museum of Flight is located, is crowded and very expensive. Although the Restoration Center has been successfully expanding their hangar space at Paine Field throughout the years, it is becoming more difficult with the increased popularity.

Walking into the main lobby of the Restoration Center, you will find aviation related items almost everywhere. Although the lobby has some interesting things, it doesn’t compare to what you will find in the main hangar. When first entering the hangar, I had to pause and absorb everything. From old war birds, to military jets, to the front end of a Comet 4C sticking inside the hangar — I knew this was going to be a great visit. I am glad I had Tom Cathcart and TC Howard there to keep me on track or I might have just endlessly been wondering around the facility.

There are many wonderful planes with interesting stories (see all the photos), but here are three of my favorites:


I have seen the rear end of this plane sticking out of the hangar for many years, but had never made it inside. It is quite the site to see half the aircraft in the hangar and the rear half sticking out. This of course has caused some issues with the front being protected and the rear half being exposed to the elements. They are in the process of putting up a protective cover for the rear of the aircraft. This will make the view from outside less exciting, but it will keep the plane from deteriorating — which is well worth it.

The wonderfully restored cockpit of the Comet 4C.

The wonderfully restored cockpit of the Comet 4C.

Stepping inside the Comet was like traveling through time. As I climbed on board, I tried to imagine what it must had been like for passengers to fly on a Comet for the first time. The Comet was the first production jet airliner and was a huge difference from their prop counterparts. What excitement passengers must have felt flying on a new generation or airliner. Yes, the Comet had some “breaking up in midair” issues at first, but by the time the Comet 4C came around, they had that sorted out.

This aircraft is being restored from the front to the back, which provides a nice insight on the process. The lavatory looked almost brand new and it was surreal seeing the photo on the wall showing what it looked like when they got the aircraft.

This exact aircraft (C/N 6424) had her first flight on October 31, 1959 and was delivered to Mexicana in July of 1960. The airplane was abandoned at Paine Field in 1979 before it was taken by Everett Community College for their students to work on. The problem was, it was a British aircraft and provided little help for American students learning how to work on American aircraft. Here is some more to explore:

* My photos of the Comet 4C during my visit
* More about the Comet 4C on the Museum of Flight’s website
* Some photos of the Comet’s restoration on Bob Bogash’s page

The Wildcat where you can see the new skin they put on versus the original on the wing.

The Wildcat where you can see the new skin they put on versus the original on the wing.


The Wildcat is one slick plane, but I was mostly fascinated with how they have been restoring it. Like many of the other planes the Restoration Center receives, the plane wasn’t in the best of shape — it has been sitting at a park for many years. Since parts are difficult, expensive and time consuming to come by, 60% of this aircraft has been re-done in-house. You could see how some of the old skin on the aircraft remained, but much of  is has been recently re-fabricated and placed on the aircraft.

On a work table there was a drawing, a paper mock up and a formed wood piece all made to re-make a part of the wing. The volunteers working there are a very creative and motivated group of people.

Ah, the first aircraft of a particular aircraft type is always a fun find. The Boeing 727-100 housed in the back of the Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center is N7001U and was the first 727 ever produced. After completing her flight testing, she served a long career with United Airlines. Unlike most other Boeing test programs, there was no dedicated test aircraft for the 727 program. The first one built was used for testing and then put into service.

The interior of the 727 looks almost like it did when it was delivered. Can you see the obvious difference?

The interior of the 727 looks almost like it did when it was delivered. Can you see the obvious difference?

The plane was delivered to United on October 6, 1964 and after her long career, was delivered to the Museum of Flight in January 1991. Between that time, the aircraft flew almost 65,000 hours, made over 48,000 landings and few about 3 million passengers. The plane was configured to have the same livery and interior it had when it was first sold to United in 1964. At the time, the aircraft was gorgeous and still flight worthy. Unfortunatly United ended up removing many parts needed to keep the aircraft airborne and the Restoration Center has been working since to get this beauty back in the air.

That’s right. The goal is not to just to keep the aircraft in good shape, but also to get it where she can be flown from the Restoration Center at Paine Field, south about 30 miles to Boeing Field. It is a race against time to put new parts on the airplane while making sure it stays in good condition. In the past five years they have gotten parts donated from Clay Lacey’s old Boeing 727-200 (the cockpit is on display at the Future of Flight) and from Marcella, the Eastern Air Lines turned FedEx Boeing 727-200, whose front end is housed at the Future of Flight.

Much like walking into the Comet, the interior of the Boeing 727 takes you back in time. The colorful seats, the brown wallpaper and of course that very colorful carpet on the bulkhead. The cockpit looked like she was ready to fly and hopefully someday she might get that chance. Here is some additional information and photos of N7001U:

* My photos of N7001U inside and out
* Photos and information on the first 727 on the Museum of Flight’s site
* Additional information from Bob Bogash’s site
* Photo of the 727 in United Airline Tulip Livery
* Photo of the 727 in United Friendship Livery

The Restoration Center is not just a great place to visit, but to also learn how the restoration process works. I know many of you that read this blog have skills that could be very useful with many of their projects. If you are looking for something to do to keep you busy and you want to help out with history, the Restoration Center is always looking for dedicated people to help out. Otherwise, you are always welcome to visit (it only costs $5) to see the restoration process for yourself.

If you want more eye candy, be sure to check out the additional photos. This review will be added to my Aviation in Seattle page.

One large hangar holds all the airplanes in the Flying Heritage Collection

One large hangar holds all the airplanes in the Flying Heritage Collection

Around the world there are a lot of old war birds on display for many to enjoy. However, there aren’t too many that are kept in original condition and are still flyable. This is one of the things that makes the Flying Heritage Collection (FHC) stand out from others. Recently I was able to take a visit to the facility to check it out — sadly I had never been.

One of the first things I noticed when going inside the old hangar, housing the aircraft, was the smell. This is something that will not come through in the photos, but it is an important part of the experience. You can smell the fluids of the aircraft. When visiting most museums there is no smell since the aircraft have not flown in years. It feels like you are walking into a full operational hangar — and in a way you are.

Of course the smell is not the only special part of the facility, you have got to love those planes. At first site, it might seem the Flying Heritage Collection is about showing off a very slick collection of aircraft, but it is not only about the story of the planes, but also the story of technology. Finding any of these aircraft is a hard thing to do, but to find them in flying form is extremely rare. The FHC works hard to refurbish the aircraft with as many original parts as possible. Somethings like wiring needs to be updated according the FAA, but they will re-wire the plane and wrap them all in the original fabric to keep to as close to rolling out of the factory as possible.

There are two aircraft in the collection that are flyable, but are not flown. The Focke Wulf D-13 Dora and the Nakajima Ki-43-1B Hayabusa Oscar are the only examples of their kind left. The FHC doesn’t want to fly them for fear that they might be damaged or even worse crash and then there would be none left for the world to enjoy.

It is a bit surprising, when first walking into the hangar, you do not see planes, but tanks. These are a new additions to the collection and just like the airplanes, they both work. These are a new addition to the facility and were added last Memorial Day. The Soviet T-34 and a German Jagdpanzer 38(t)  obviously aren’t planes, but they help to tell the story of updates in technology produced through war. Just like the airplanes, these tanks are fully functional and are able of shooting.

The Flying Heritage Collection is located at Paine Field in Everett, WA

The Flying Heritage Collection is located at Paine Field in Everett, WA

Taking a look at the airplanes is quite exciting, but the FHC does a good job putting the aircraft into perspective. As you would expect in a facility like this, every airplane has a place card explaining the basics of the aircraft, but they also give a history of that individual airplane, which was quite interesting. On the walls around the facility are story boards about how each country interacted with the aircraft and gives a bit more historical significance. Hanging from the ceiling are banners that explain when new technologies were discovered. For example, there was a banner that explained in 1942 ejection seats were invented and increased the odds of a pilot’s survival. It is interesting to compare the dates from the banners with the dates the aircraft were produced.

When I asked about how much each aircraft cost, I was told “a lot.” I would imagine that “a lot,” might be an understatement, it can’t be cheap to keep the planes in the condition that they are. Cost of the aircraft really isn’t a huge issue, since the facility is owned by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and chairman of Vulcan. On top of giving a lot of his money away for good causes, he also has a lot of fun toys. Luckily for us, he has decided to share his collection of warbirds with the public through his non-profit organization, Friends of Flying Heritage that supports the collection.

The oldest aircraft they have is the Curtis JN-4D Jenny - and it still flies.

The oldest aircraft they have is the Curtis JN-4D Jenny - and it still flies.

The collection was open to the public in 2004 and was housed in Arlington, WA (about an hour north of Seattle, WA). In 2008 they moved to their current facility right on Paine Field. Right now there is only one more slot left for another plane and I was told they might have to start storing aircraft in Arlington and rotate them through the collection. Although it would be better to see all the collection at any given time, this also means you might be able to catch one flying between the two airports, which is always a good thing.

If you haven’t done so already, head on over to the Flying Heritage Collection and check them out. Tickets are only $12 and less for kids and seniors. Also be sure to make it to Paine Field for their Free Fly Days when you can watch them fly for free over the summer. They will fly the planes 10 different days over the summer, kicking it off during General Aviation Day.

I will be adding this write up in the Aviation in Seattle page, it should make a great addition. A special thanks to the Flying Heritage Collection and Snohomish County Tourism Bureau for setting up my visit.

* 29 Photos of my visit to the collection
* See photos of the planes flying from Liz Matzelle (be sure to catch the one with 787 ZA005 and the spitfire)
* Flying Heritage Collection Facebook page
* Build your own warbird on their website
* Photos of the tanks firing at Paine Field last year from the SEattle PI

I have grown up in the Seattle area and have made great use of all the aviation-related things around town. I have been lucky enough to experience quite a bit of aviation awesomeness and wanted to share what you might want to do if you come to visit Seattle (or if you live here). If you ever are going to visit or live in the area and ask, “What aviation stuff can I do in Seattle?” hopefully this an help provide you with some answers.

This is just a partial list and I am only adding things that I have been able to check out first hand. I will continue to grow this list and add more over the coming months. No, I am not getting any kick-backs from any of these places, I just want to share some of these great experiences with other aviation like-minded folks.

Although I am writing this as a blog, I will permanently have an Aviation in Seattle page linked on the left side of the blog.

If you have a suggestion I haven’t covered yet, please contact me and let me know.

LOCATION: Mukilteo, WA (map)(website)
BASIC INFO: Learn about aviation’s past, present and future. There is a Beechcraft Starship hanging from the roof, a Boeing 747 tail and entire Boeing 727 cockpit you can play around in. After checking it out, be sure to go on a Boeing tour since they share the same building.
TIP: Don’t miss the roof top Strato Deck where you can get amazing photos and videos of brand new Boeing airplanes taking off. Check to time your visit to watch something exciting like a Dreamlifter or new Boeing 747-8 taking off or landing.
REVIEW: To learn more and see photos, check out my full review of the Future of Flight done in November 2009.
LOCATION: Mukilteo, WA (map) (website)
BASIC INFO: This is a must see. Go inside the Boeing Factory and see where Boeing makes their new 747-8, 787, the 777 and 767. From being in pieces to rolling out of the factory doors, see planes in all phases of being built. Unfortunately Boeing does not allow any cameras on the tour, but it gives you more opportunity to absorb everything.
TIP: Stay close to your tour guide. They are a wealth of information, challenge them with your most difficult questions.
PHOTOS: During Aviation Geek Fest for 2009 and 2010 Boeing took photos inside the factory for us. Feel free to use these to show your friends & family what you got to see: Aviation Geek Fest 2009 or 2010.
LOCATION: Tukwila, WA (map) (website)
BASIC INFO: The history of flight, information and artifacts on Space, a section about World War I and II aircraft and tons of amazing aircraft on display is what welcomes you at the Museum of Flight. You will definitely need to take at least half a day, maybe a full day to enjoy everything available.
TIP: Do not miss the Air Park outside which houses the first Boeing 747 (The City of Everett), a Concorde, an old Boeing 707 AirForce One and more.
REVIEW: Check out my review of the Museum of Flight from September 2010.
LOCATION: Seattle, WA (map) (website)
BASIC INFO: Getting an aerial tour on a helicopter of Seattle is a great experience. From buzzing downtown to hovering at Snoqualmie Falls, you won’t regret this tour.
TIP: If you fly when it is warm, they can take off the doors and you get a real sweet ride.
REVIEW:  This is my review of Seattle Helitours Seattle area tour done in March 2010.
LOCATION: Seattle, WA (map) (website)
BASIC INFO: Kenmore Air runs the second largest seaplane operation in North America and the biggest in the US. Although they have scheduled flights all around the northwest, they also offer a special scenic flight around the Seattle area. Definitely do not miss this unique aerial tour of Seattle.
TIP: Passengers are able to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. Ask your pilot if you can sit up front and bring your camera.
REVIEW: I was lucky to take this seaplane tour on a sunny day in February 2010.
LOCATION: Seattle, WA (map) (website)
BASIC INFO: If flying around Seattle is not good enough for you, take it to the next level. Enjoy a sea plane ride up to the San Juans and make an amaing weekend or just fly up to Friday Harbor, walk around for the day and fly back.
TIP: You can fly a land aircraft one way and seaplane back as I did, but I suggest going seaplane both ways since you fly lower. Like with the Kenmore Seattle tour, try to sit up front in the co-pilot’s seat.
REVIEW: Take a look at my flight on Kenmore Air up to the SanJuans and back in August 2010.
Location: Everett, WA (map)
BASIC INFO: What better place to spot than Paine Field? Check out a new Boeing 777, 747-8, 767 or 787 Dreamliner take off for the very first time. You might also get to see the unique looking Dreamlifter take off or land (but there is normally at least always one there parked). It is exciting to see these large aircraft wait their turn while smaller Cessna 172’s take off and land. You can drive around Paine Field and get quite close to different aircraft in different locations. The best part is this is totally FREE.
TIP: Make sure you get up on the Strato Deck at the Future of Flight to get a great view. It is important to stay off Boeing’s property. There are lots of places to get photos and view the planes up close without getting a visit from Boeing Security.
MY VISITS: Although I have been to Paine Field so many times and only live minute away, it never gets old. Going up to check out a special event or just to hang out to see what is new is always a fun time. Check out some of my visits and photos of Paine Field.
Alaska Airlines DC-3, Lear Fan 2100 hang from the ceiling, while an SR-71 and United Airlines Boeing 80A-1 hang out on the ground at the Museum of Flight

Alaska Airlines DC-3, Lear Fan 2100 hang from the ceiling, while an SR-71 and United Airlines Boeing 80A-1 hang out on the ground at the Museum of Flight

Over the past ten years I have (almost) consistently lived no farther than 30 miles away from the Museum of Flight (MoF) at Boeing Field in Seattle. However, I haven’t visited once in that last ten years. Being so close has been the problem. I have always thought, “well, I can go next weekend,” but I haven’t. I took such a wonderful aviation museum for granted and never went to re-discover what they have.

Well, I got sick and tired of hearing about all the cool new things they have and decided to go check them out myself. I was lucky to have Ted Huetter, Public Relations and Promotions Manager, show me around the place. Ted might work in PR, but there is no question he is an aviation nut and knows his stuff!

Last time I visited the MoF, they had a bunch of hanging airplanes (which don’t get me wrong are cool enough) and the old red Boeing barn. Today, not only do they have all that cool stuff still, but also their airpark, World War I and II displays and lots of nifty space stuff.

Lunar Rover on the left. Space station module on the right. Awesomeness all around.

Lunar Rover on the left. Space station module on the right. Awesomeness all around.

The MoF started in 1964 when a small group of people set about wanting to maintain the history of aviation. The first aircraft obtained was displayed in the Seattle Center, where the Seattle Worlds Fair occurred in 1962. In 1975 the Port of Seattle leased the land the museum is currently on for 99 years (so better hurry before 2074). The Red Barn, which is the birthplace of The Boeing Company, was saved from demolition on its original location on the Duwamish River, and floated by river-barge to its current location.

The museum has a mission to “acquire and conserve a valuable collection of artifacts relating to air and space history and technology.” But they also want to ensure that the public can get access. This is a difficult mixture, since people are destructive. Not just the hooligans who literally cause damage, but just breathing and touching items or even air and sunlight can be very destructive over time. It is a hard balance of what aircraft to give patrons access to versus which ones must remain off-limits to keep them in tip-top condition over time.

The Personal Courage Wing had much more than just airplanes. Really makes you feel like you travel back in time.

The Personal Courage Wing had much more than just airplanes. Really makes you feel like you travel back in time.

Even before I was able to make it into the lobby I was presented with eye candy outside. First they have a few aircraft on display, second you are right on Boeing Field, where the new test Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 747-8Fs are being housed, and lastly there were three Boeing 737-800 fuselages that were sitting on a train just outside the museum coming from Kansas and on their way to Renton, WA to be assembled.

After making it into the lobby you not only see aircraft hanging from the ceiling, but a vast gift shop with lots of great aviation related items (Even though Visa really wanted me to visit, I stayed away). They also have a theater off the lobby with great short movies, that you could probably just sit and watch all day without going through the rest of the museum.

When you first walk into the main “admissions only” area, you can’t help but get goose bumps. There are so many amazing aircraft hanging from the ceiling and on the ground for you to check out. From the SR-71 Blackbird to a DC-3 with Alaska Airlines livery. If you like aviation, you are going to love the collection of commercial and military aircraft they have on display.

British Airways Concorde G-BOAG in the airpark

British Airways Concorde G-BOAG in the airpark

Off from the main floor is their Rendezvous in Space area and what a cool section. From a lunar rover to a full mock-up of a space station module that you can go inside of. The module is very interesting because there is no obvious “up.” Since there is no gravity, there is no floor and the signage for the buttons reads in different directions.

The way they have the area set up, it really puts you in a space-like setting, which makes the experience all that much more enjoyable. The museum is currently working to bring one of the space shuttles to their facility. You can sign a petition or donate to help their efforts and help Seattle get a Space Shuttle — and what city wouldn’t want to get a Space Shuttle?

After checking out Rendezvous in Space, it was off to the Personal Courage Wing that looks at the history of World War I and II. This is a new addition to the museum with two stories of history. They not only display amazing aircraft from both wars, but also share much more history about the time period and really put the aircraft into perspective. Even if you don’t like airplanes, but enjoy history, you will love this section of the museum (double bonus if you like both).

You are able to walk around the first ever Boeing 747, the City of Everett

You are able to walk around the first ever Boeing 747, the City of Everett

My guide, Ted, told me that people always ask why World War II aircraft are downstairs (where you enter) and WWI are upstairs. He explained that it was all about weight. The aircraft from the earlier time period were much lighter than those from WWII, having it make more sense to store the lighter aircraft upstairs.

Now, it was time to head outside to their airpark to check out some pretty sweet airliners. First we went inside British Airways Concorde (G-BOAG). This was my first time inside a Concorde and it looked brand new still. The windows were super small and it was a little cramped, but not as bad as I expected. You are able to see in the cockpit and the few hundred fuses they have on the wall.

Having one of the remaining super-sonic airliners that is in such great shape is pretty exciting. Upon exiting, it was time to check out old Air Force One 707-120 that replaced Eisenhower’s Super Constellation. Ted explained that flight engineers, who used to work on the plane, recently came for a visit and they said the plane smells exactly the same as it did back in the day. Now, that is preserving history!

Inside the Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight

Inside the Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight

Even though the Concorde and Boeing 707 are in pristine condition and you can go inside, the jewel of the airpark (in my opinion) is the first Boeing 747 (N7470). It is named the City of Everett after where it was built at Paine Field, located in Everett, WA. It first flew on February 9, 1969 and later served as a testbed for 747 systems improvements and new engine developments for other Boeing commercial jets, including the Boeing 777 engine program. She is not in the best shape, but that is something the Museum of Flight hopes to work on.

If you are into researching about planes, the MoF also has a public archive and library that you are able to visit. If you are in the Seattle area on October 9th or 10th, make your way to the Library and Archives Building, because they will be having a sale of a bunch of old aviation related books and other goodies.

There is so much more to explore at the MoF, an aviation nut could easily spend a few days there. For those of you who are local, it might be time to re-discover the Museum of Flight. For those of you that don’t live in the Seattle area, make sure to put this on your “must do” list and if you love aviation, you have to make it out to Seattle sometime to check out all the cool things we have to offer.

* 91 Photos I took during my trip
* Video with Harrison Ford (he loves aviation) promoting the Museum of Flight
* They have a vast collection of airline logos
* Friend the Museum of Flight on Facebook
* Follow them on Twitter