First Boeing 727 to fly one more time


I remember being sent from San Diego to Anaheim to visit my grandmother when I was a kid. I walked across the ramp at Lindbergh Field (The Spirit of Saint Louis was built in San Diego – I remember seeing the Ryan building from the freeway) and entering the plane from the rear stairs underneath the engines. I’ve always thought the 727 was a pretty aircraft.

Transport category aircraft tend to be worked to death and then scrapped. They get too expensive to upgrade and operate after a while, and they’re too expensive for private collectors to fly around. And so they’re relegated to the scrapyard, or put on static display. Though I live in Washington, I probably won’t get to see it fly in person. But I’m glad the first 727 will get to have one last flight.

I was working in the Renton factory when the last 727 was built. At the time I was working for Boeing Marine Systems building PHM’s for the Navy. Never realized then I would see a number of aircraft programs come and go at Boeing. In less than 2 week the first 737 Max loads in systems installations. With my planned retirement less than 2 years away, working on the 737 Next-Gen will be the last plane I work on. The only program I haven’t work on in my 35 years here at Boeing is the 767.

Pretty cool. Down here in MIA we see a few of them decked out as raggedy cargo airplanes or the very occasional shiny corporate / fatcat jet. And that’s in addition to the several just sitting around awaiting the chop shop.

But sadly I haven’t seen one in motion in a couple years. They’re always just sitting there baking in the sun.

My Dad worked on the 727 program. He’d flown on them for business trips, but he was so excited to take his family on a flight. My first one was in the late 60’s on a Western Airlines 727 from SEA to San Diego. I was only four or five years old, but I have distinct memories of it.

My first ride in a jet (and my second airplane ride ever) was in a 727, in 1972 when I was 15.

One of the more infamous incidents involving a 727 was of course the D B Cooper hijacking where he parachuted out the back stairwell while in flight (and with a lot of money). In the 90s the World Freefall Convention (the largest skydiving festival in the world) used to bring in a 727 and let us do a D B Cooper jump, out the back stairwell.

Here is my video from the second time I made the jump, in 1994. Apologies for the poor video quality but this was long before the days of GoPros and HD digital video. It was originally recorded on video tape, then converted to digital.

I rode in them a few times as a kid, but more often in the 707.

I flew them for about 1500 hours as a flight engineer and 3500 hours as a copilot. I always wanted to upgrade to Captain on them but we got rid of the last of them as my seniority was still approaching the cutoff for Captain. It was always a reliable beast & fun to fly. It was never in much of a hurry to take off or go uphill, but it excelled at going downhill and at stopping. And at converting vast amounts of fuel into equally vast amounts of noise.

It was widely renowned as a certified bitch to land well. Everybody could get OK+ at it; nobody could get & stay consistently excellent.

Ahhh, yes, the Goode Olde Dayes indeed.

Pedantry: Every plane that flew at least once had one last flight.

I was once aboard an Ozark Airlines 727 going to St. Louis. Sitting in the back. Engines noisy as hell. Then one of the engines got real loud as we neared St. Louis. The approach and landing was fast as the pilot put us into a deep dive straight to the runway, only lifting the nose up at the last minute so it wouldn’t have the nose wheels touchdown ahead of the rear wheels. We taxied to a spot on the tarmac away from the terminal and sat there for 30 minutes before being allowed to the gate. The pilot never told us why we were cleared to land so fast, nor the deep dive he took after one of the engines got very loud.

Considering Ozark Airlines ceased flying in 1986 (bought out by TWA) and I still remember the details should indicate the impact of the flight.

Beautiful, feminine form, the plane of my childhood (e.g., orange-and-yellow National Airlines from La Guardia to Fort Myers, IIRC).

I was excited to see the Mexican federal police force flying one at Mexico City airport recently.

I love the Dope…one of you folks used to actually FLY them, and another one of you jumped out of 'em!

One of us has common sense!

I won’t mention any usernames but his initials are LSLG.

I flew in one once, 9 years or so ago, from Madrid to Frankfurt; I don’t remember the airline name, but from some signs inside the plane I reckoned it was an ex-Iberia plane.
It was downright mangy on the inside, it seemed to had been last refurbished a decade before and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was soon to be retired.