Boeing’s ‘remarkable’ Model 40C on display at vintage aircraft show

MUKILTEO — It was an airplane that helped keep the Boeing Co. going in its early years.

For Bill Boeing Jr., the son of man who founded the Boeing Co., the Model 40 also was first airplane he ever flew in.

“My first flight was 83 years ago,” Boeing Jr. said. He was five at the time.

Boeing Jr. spoke Saturday at the Vintage Aircraft Weekend event held at the Historic Flight Foundation site in Mukilteo. Boeing Jr. was one of several speakers at the event, where 50 vintage aircraft were on display. Several of those planes put on an aerial show in the afternoon.

Boeing’s father bid his Model 40 to the U.S. Postal Service for a contract in 1925. He lost that initial competition to Douglas Aircraft Co.

Two years later, Boeing revived the airplane and won a contract not only to supply the airplane but also to carry the mail. When his father bid for the contract, Boeing didn’t have the right to Pratt and Whitney Wasp engines that powered the Model 40 series, Boeing Jr. said.

“In less than six months, they had to build these planes and they had to test them,” he said.

Thanks to superb manufacturing, Boeing made good on his contract, keeping afloat the aerospace company that bears his name today.

Boeing added space to carry four passengers to the Model 40 that won the mail contract. Carrying passengers was the key to making that contract with the Postal Service a profitable venture, Boeing said. It also laid the groundwork for passenger air travel, which is what Boeing Commercial Airplanes specializes in today.

“We call them victims,” said Addison Pemberton, jokingly referring to the passengers. Pemberton, of Spokane, recently restored the world’s only Model 40C, which was on hand Saturday.

Pemberton and his family spent eight years and 18,000 hours restoring the aircraft. His Model 40C crashed in Oregon in 1929. The plane sat there for more than seven decades until Pemberton rescued it and began the process of returning the airplane to its original state.

“I was delighted when I found out that Addison (Pemberton) was restoring the 40,” Boeing Jr. said.

Pemberton estimates there’s a one in four chance that his restored Model 40 is the same one in which Boeing Jr. took his first flight.

“The airplane is a remarkable one — the Model 40 series,” Boeing Jr. said.

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