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We mark the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing 747 with a member of that flight test team, now a docent at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. Also, the NTSB Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, the last commercial flight of the Boeing 727, Airbnb may be doing something with air travel, SFO’s new outdoor observation deck, two Virgin Galactic pilots earn astronaut wings, and the Collier Trophy nominees list is released.
Sean Mobley, Docent Services Specialist with The Museum of Flight joins us. Sean also hosts the Museum’s Flight Deck Podcast. In addition, Docent Thomas Gray brings us recollections of the Boeing 747 flight test program and the first flight, fifty years ago.
From 1968 to 1985, Thomas was a member of the Boeing 747 first flight test team. That airplane, the “City of Everett,” resides at The Museum of Flight. Thomas was also the lead instrumentation engineer when RA001 was later used as the flying test bed for the 757/767 engines.
Thomas graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1961. He served in the New Mexico Air National Guard as a Radio Technician for one year where he provided maintenance service on F-100 fighter aircraft radio equipment. After that, he joined the Washington Air National Guard until 1967 as a Radio Technician, providing maintenance service on the mobile teletype and cryptographic equipment.
Thomas was hired by Boeing as the Systems Test Engineer on the Dyna-Soar program. From there he moved over to the Flight Test organization as an Instrumentation Engineer for 24 years. Thomas worked on the 737, 747, 757, 767, the Boeing Hydrofoil Test Craft, and John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One 26000. He also served as the test engineer on the Space Shuttle Carrier aircraft during Space Shuttle Landing tests at Edwards AFB, California. Thomas then worked as a Commercial Sales Support Engineer for three years and worked seven years as a Customer Service Engineer until retiring in 1995.
Boeing 747 First Flight
The first flight took place on February 9, 1969 and we learn that the three initial flights were around Paine Field with a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and F-86 escort. It wasn’t until the fourth flight that the full crew was aboard and the plane was allowed to fly over populated areas.
Thomas helps us understand the mood at Boeing leading up to the B747 first flight, as well as his role as part of the first flight test team. He explains the 747 test Instrumentation, the telemetry system, and the ballast system that moved water between barrels to change the airplane’s center of gravity.
The first flight Boeing 747 is on display at The Museum of Flight in the test configuration. An excellent 3D tour of the plane is available from the Museum. See Aviation Pavilion Virtual Tour for that aircraft tour and others in the collection.
Videos of interest:
To learn more about upcoming activities, visit The Museum of Flight Calendar of Events. Be sure to look at Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission. This is an exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. This traveling exhibit comes to the Museum April 13th through September 2nd, 2019.
NTSB 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements
The National Transportation Safety Board (the NTSB) has issued its 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. The NTSB would like the FAA to close the gap in safety requirements between commercial airlines and those operating under Part 135. The NTSB argues that all flights should be safe, no matter the purpose of the flight or the type of aircraft. Most Part 135 organizations don’t have a safety management system (SMS), flight data monitoring (FDM), or a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) avoidance training program.
Boeing’s famous trijet 727 makes last commercial flight
In mid-January, 2019, a 38-year-old Boeing 727-200 owned by Iran Aseman Airlines became the last 727 on a commercial passenger flight. See the Boeing history page for more on the 727.
Airbnb Hires Aviation Industry Veteran to Lead New Transportation Division
Home-sharing service Airbnb has hired long-time aviation industry veteran Fred Reid to be the company’s global head of transportation. His task is “building partnerships and services that make travel seamless while delivering the kind of people-to-people hospitality Airbnb is known for around the world.” CEO Brian Chesky says, “I’m not interested in building our own airline or creating just another place on the Internet where you can buy a plane ticket, but there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the transportation experience for everyone.”
SFO unveils dramatic outdoor observation deck
A $55 million upgrade at San Francisco International Airport’s International Terminal includes a new, 3,000 square foot roofless observation deck on the Terminal G side. Since the outdoor lounge is behind security, only passengers using Terminal 3 (United) and the International G-side will have access to it. The deck offers a 180+ degree view of the ramp and runways on the north side of the airport.
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Pilots Awarded FAA Astronaut Wings
The two Virgin Galactic test pilots who flew the SpaceShipTwo “VSS Unity” into space on December 13, 2018, were recognized in a ceremony at the Department of Transportation in Washington, DC. Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow were awarded Commercial Astronaut Wings by the FAA on February 7.
Collier Nominees Released
The National Aeronautic Association announced that eleven aviation and space achievements will compete for the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy:
- Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System
- Bell V-280 Valor
- Boeing T-X
- Draken International
- Embraer E190-E2
- F-35 Integrated Test Force
- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
- NASA/JPL Mars Cube One
- Perlan Project
- Responsive Environmental Assessment Commercially Hosted (REACH) Project
- Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two Program
The Collier Trophy Selection Committee will meet on April 4, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia, and the recipient will be announced publicly the following day. The formal presentation of the Collier Trophy will take place on June 13, 2019, at a location to be determined.
“Evening With Enshrinees” Dick and Burt Rutan February 22, 2019
Two podcast episodes recommended by Max Trescott:
Call for Nominations for the 2019 Aerospace Media Awards
Outtro by Bruno Misonne from The Sound of Flaps.