What Happened To The First Boeing 747 Ever Built?
Boeing’s chapter with its iconic jumbo jet is officially closed. Earlier this week, the world witnessed the last Boeing 747 depart from Boeing’s Everett Plant and be delivered to its new forever home with Atlas Air. After more than five decades of production and design evolution, the Boeing 747 has come a long way since the first testbed rolled off production lines.
Speaking of, what has happened to the first-ever Boeing 747 built? While several retired jumbo jets have found new leases of life by being transformed into hotels or homes, flight simulation centers, and even rocket launchers, others haven’t been as lucky as they were scrapped in the aircraft boneyards without being salvaged. Fortunately, the first Boeing 747 still stands tall today in a place where you can see it in all its beauty.
The first Boeing 747-100: City of Everett
Tagged with the MSN 20235 and Line Number RA001, the first Boeing 747 ever built was a -100 variant testbed registered N7470. The jumbo jet prototype rolled off the production lines on September 30th, 1968, and was fitted with four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A high-bypass ratio turbofan engines.
Photo: Museum of Flight
Although the Boeing 747’s upper-deck hump was already what made it iconic, N7470 featured another symbolic reference. The aircraft featured a paint job of a simple white and red livery, and it also featured the logos of the numerous airline customers that placed significant orders for the Boeing 747.
These logos included Japan Airlines, Pan Am, KLM, Qantas, Trans World Airlines, Lufthansa, British Overseas Airways Corporation, Delta Air Lines, Scandinavian Airlines, American Airlines, Aer Lingus, United Airlines, and many more. And since N7470 was built and came out from the Everett production factory, Boeing found it fitting to give it the nickname ‘City of Everett.‘
Photo: Museum of Flight
Taking off for the first and last time
Although N7470 was shown to the public in September 1968, the prototype wouldn’t embark on its first flight until much later, on February 9th the following year. Piloting the first-ever test flight was Boeing Chief Test Pilot Jack Wadell, who was accompanied by Engineering Test Pilot Brien Singleton Wygle and Flight Engineer Jesse Arthur Wallick.
The Boeing 747 testbed would continue test flying as N7470 until July 1970, when Boeing re-registered the aircraft as N1352B as the manufacturer wanted to try it for several missions that were not part of its original design specifications. These missions were primarily military in nature and included using N1352B as a refueling tanker for the SR-71 Blackbird and the B-52 Stratofortress.
Unfortunately, the idea of using the Boeing 747 as a refueling tanker wasn’t ideal, and the aircraft manufacturer would re-register its first prototype to the original N7470. The aircraft would carry on to conduct more test flights with new engine programs and technological improvements for the Boeing 757 and Boeing 777 until it was about time for its retirement in 1993.
Photo: Museum of Flight
Donated to the Museum of Flight
After two decades of test flying, N7470 accumulated approximately 5,300 flight hours from completing about 12,000 flights for Boeing. Considering it was the first-ever Boeing 747 to be produced, the aircraft manufacturer felt that simply retiring it to the aircraft boneyard would be a complete waste.
So on April 6th, 1995, N7470 conducted its last-ever flight when Boeing officially donated the still test-configured prototype to the Museum of Flight in Boeing Field, Seattle. However, the aircraft would only sit fading and peeling in the museum’s open-air display lot, and the unkind Seattle weather conditions worsened matters as the looks of N7470 continued deteriorating.
Fortunately, the Museum of Flight was finally given the approval to restore the aircraft extensively in 2012. The organization immediately embarked on the two-year project of what would become one of the most significant aircraft restoration jobs ever attempted in the outdoors.
Completed in 2014, today, the refreshed N7470 looks brand-new at the same open-air display lot at the Museum of Flight. The organization even took to its liberty of including the same airline logos present when N7470 first rolled off the production line, an authentic tribute to how significant the first-ever Boeing 747 came to be.
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