Saturday, September 08, 2012

The world's No. 1 jumbo jet languishes, looking for a savior

Boeing's neglected No. 1 needs the community it helped define. 

By Ron Judd 

IT'S JUST an airplane.

That's what I was telling myself, climbing toward a piece of history I had admired since kindergarten.

My brain was grasping this, but my gut was having none of it. Just seconds before, taking the last few steps to one of the world's most famous jetliners, a flutter had gone through me, and I had to catch my breath.

It was embarrassing, in a hard-proof-of-your-airplane-geekdom way. But in hindsight, it's probably the very reaction many other Boeing brats would have if given the chance to poke around inside 747 RA001, or as a lot of us around Seattle have always known it, simply "No. 1."

As a Museum of Flight employee swung the thick forward door open, the 43-year-old behemoth's dim interior came into view, and I repeated the mantra.

It's just an airplane.

Except, of course, it isn't. And wasn't. And never will be.

It is a local treasure. Aside from the Space Needle, this jet, which revolutionized modern, long-distance air travel, is the most-iconic thing ever created in Seattle (yes, Everett and Renton, too), by Seattleites. Nothing says Seattle like a 747. Especially this big, once-beautiful, red, white and silver one.

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