EVERETT — Boeing’s prototype 727 made its final flight Wednesday, a short hop from Paine Field to Seattle, where it will be on display.
The historic airplane turned onto the airport’s main runway, pointed its nose into the south wind. Its three Pratt &Whitney JT8D engines roared to life as it raced down the runway.
The 727, dubbed E1 by Boeing, leapt into the air. The sun found a hole in the gray clouds and glinted off the airplane’s wing as it flew away from Paine Field with its flaps and gear down, as required by the special flight permit issued by federal authorities.
A few minutes later, the plane landed at Boeing Field in Seattle, greeted by a crowd at the Museum of Flight.
The plane last flew in 1991, when it arrived at the museum’s Restoration Center at Paine Field. Museum volunteer Bob Bogash had persuaded the plane’s owner — and 727 launch customer — United Airlines to donate it. Restoration work progressed slowly before picking up pace in the past decade.
Boeing developed the 727 to serve smaller and less-busy airports. It complemented the company’s first jetliner, the 707, which was larger and could fly farther.
The smaller tri-jet first flew Feb. 9, 1963, taking off from Renton, where Boeing assembled the plane, and landing at Paine Field. Boeing delivered the prototype, bearing tail number N7001U, to United in October 1964. During its more than 25-year career, the 727-100 carried about 3 million passengers and spent more than 64,000 hours in flight, Bogash said.
Boeing sold 1,831 727s before ending production in 1984. The bigger version, the 727-200, was especially popular; 1,260 were sold. It was the first Boeing plane to break 1,000 sales.
Some 727s are still flying today, though the number is dwindling. In 2015, 69 of the tri-jets were registered with airlines, down from 109 two years earlier. Most of those are 727-200 freighters, according to Flight International’s annual airliner census.
The restored prototype was painted to match classic United livery on its last passenger flight. The interior has been restored to match, as well.
The plane’s interior will be open to the public this weekend. However, the Museum of Flight does not have sufficient climate control equipment to have it permanently open, a museum spokesman said.