Sadly, of the first 17 'kickoff' customer airlines, 13 are no longer in
business, and 2 others have gone through
Bill Allen, addressing the assembled group of customers and workers
Stewardesses (they're Flight
Attendants these days), from the kickoff
customer airlines cracked champagne bottles across both her wing, and
her nose radome - I was there too (of course!)
After the formal
rollout, the airplane was taken across the street again and moved to
the Boeing flight line at the northwest end of Boeing Field.
There, final installations were made, systems tested, and fueling
performed. I moved again with the airplane, this time working
from a trailer behind the Flight Center with two old veterans, Al
Kernick and John Ramsey -- still on night shift. Since one of my
first jobs was writing the maintenance procedures for the new airplane
that involved, among other systems, the engines, I was there with a
Powerplant Staff engineer named Sid Kent on a sunny Easter Sunday, when
we started the engines of the new bird for the first time. Four
engine runs were done that day. As her systems came alive, and
she began operating on 'ship's power', she noisily shook in her wheel
chocks and truly became the living thing that an airplane - a product
of man's mind and hands - can become. Thirty six and one half
years later, on that same flight line, I started this great airplane's
engines for the last time, and after a run of 2 hours and 37 minutes to
nearly fuel exhaustion, sadly shut them down for the last time.
There for the first, and there for the last -- as linked by time,
heart, and history as one can be with what is -- at least to some
people -- just a machine.
On Saturday, April 8, 1967, high speed taxi tests were performed on
Boeing Field's 10,000 foot runway. Now moving under her own
power, she had truly become a living thing, like the Iron Horses of yesteryear.
And, on Sunday, April 9, 1967, after the last minute change of a balky
hydraulic pump, she began her first takeoff run down runway 13 to the
southeast. Sprightly, then as now, she accelerated quickly and
climbed out smartly for a 2 hour 30 minute first flight. After a
very successful first flight (some other Boeing first flights,
including the 757 and 767 being not nearly as smooth), she landed at
Paine Field in Everett, her test base until 10 hours flying time had
been accumulated, when she could return to Boeing Field.