EVERETT — Bob Bogash leaned over the flight engineer’s seat in the cramped Boeing 727 cockpit and switched on the aircraft’s electrical system. “Let’s wake her up,” he said.
The instrument panels lit up. The cabin lights came on. The equipment cooling fan whirred. The radio squawked with Paine Field air traffic control’s instructions for aircraft coming and going.
“Airplanes are alive,” Bogash said. “Look at it; listen to it. The lights are on. It’s making noise; it’s talking to us. And, it flies.”
He surveyed the well-worn flight deck of the very first 727 built by Boeing.
“But, I’m a romantic,” he admitted.
Bogash has had a 32-year affair with the airplane. He led the efforts to save her from the scrap heap, convince Seattle’s Museum of Flight to make room for her, and restore her to flying condition. This past Monday, the airplane stretched its legs for the first time in 25 years during a high-speed taxi test, reaching about 100 knots per hour.
This coming Tuesday, the plane is tentatively scheduled to make one last flight — from Paine Field to Boeing Field International in Seattle. From there, she will go on display at the adjacent Museum of Flight. (Bad weather could delay the trip.)
The Boeing Co. designed the 727 for fewer passengers using smaller airports. The three-engine plane was a mainstay on domestic air routes in the U.S., and became the first commercial jetliner to have more than 1,000 orders.
The 727 first flew Feb. 9, 1963, taking off from Renton and landing at Paine Field. After flight testing finished, Boeing delivered the prototype 727, known within the company as E1, to United Air Lines in October 1964.
That plane — tail number N7001U — carried about 3 million passengers during more than 64,000 hours flying for United, Bogash said.
When Boeing stopped 727 production in 1984, it had delivered 1,831 airplanes. The last one went to FedEx.
The trijet has been popular with many freight and shipping companies. Capt. Chip Groner, a longtime FedEx pilot, called the plane “one of the most dependable we ever had in our fleet.”
The plane “really put FedEx on the map as an overnight express carrier,” he said in a statement from 2013, when FedEx stopped flying the 727.
In 1984, Bogash was in charge of the Museum of Flight’s aircraft acquisition team, and approached United about E1. The airline agreed to donate the plane when it was retired. In early 1991, the plane made its last passenger flight — from San Francisco to Seattle.
The plane was later flown to Paine Field and parked at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center. However, the museum did not have clear plans for it, and United had stripped out any part that it could use on another plane.
Restoration work on E1 happened in fits and starts before picking up last decade. By then Bogash had retired from Boeing, and the plane had deteriorated after several years of sitting outside in all weather.
“There are a lot of people who thought this plane would never fly again,” he said.
Bogash and a handful of others, including former United mechanic Steve Huemoeller and project Crew Chief T.C. Howard, have pieced and patched the plane back together.
“The airplane is ready to go,” he said.
They are waiting for federal authorities to issue special permits for next week’s flight to Boeing Field.
After E1 lands in Seattle, the plane will be on display outside the Museum of Flight through summer. Then it will go on permanent display in the museum’s new aircraft pavilion. The museum is considering opening it to the public, but right now, it does not have the necessary climate control equipment, said Ted Huetter, the museum’s spokesman.
“A plane gets built. It flies off, it lands. The crew gets off, another crew comes on. Passengers come and go,” Bogash said in E1’s cockpit. “The one continuity is the airplane.”
They are meant to fly, he said.
He has mixed emotions about the coming week.
“It’s very bittersweet to see an airplane make its last flight,” Bogash said.