The Trip Home for the Boeing 737 Prototype Airplane
by Bob Bogash

The Boeing 737 Prototype airplane was completed in December 1966.  It made its first flight on April 9, 1967 with Pilot Brien Wygle and Co-pilot Lew Wallick at the controls.  After completing its 737 developmental flying with Boeing, the airplane was sold to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on  July 26, 1973.  It had accumulated only 979 flying hours. NASA flew the airplane for about 23 years, and used it to develop many of the avionic, display, and control systems used on current jetliners.

On September 20, 1997, NASA retired the airplane and placed it with the Museum of Flight in Seattle.  It now had only a still very youthful 3297 hours total flight time.  It was flown to Moses Lake, Washington where a more benign climate would allow it to be stored  until it could be placed on permanent display at the Museum's main facility at Boeing Field in Seattle.

NASA 515

As a young Boeing engineer, I had been intimately involved in the design, manufacture, and flight test of this airplane.  I had spent much of my 30 plus year Boeing career similarly involved in every aspect of  its descendents'  history.  After the airplane was retired by NASA, I being likewise retired,  volunteered to be the caretaker of the airplane for the Museum.  The airplane was maintained in "active" storage, meaning it was kept airworthy and able to make the flight to Seattle with little advance notice or heavy maintenance required.  During the next six years, I made over 150 trips to Moses Lake (an 8 hour minimum round-trip drive), and with the help of many other volunteers, kept the airplane 'ready to go.'  During this period, much preventative maintenance, and some repair work was performed.  During full monthly operational checks of the airplane, I was privileged to have taxied the airplane some 600-700 miles - more than enough to have taxied to Seattle!

In 2003, the Museum decided to move the airplane to an area on the west side of East Marginal Way, across from the Museum, that had been donated by Boeing for large aircraft display.  In August 2003, a NASA team from Langley Research Center in Virginia inspected and tested the airplane to satisfy themselves that it was indeed airworthy.  (Of course it was!)  On September 21, 2003, having received authorization from NASA, the airplane made its final flight - 33 minutes - from Moses Lake to Boeing Field.  It parked on the Boeing flight line, across the ramp from the stall it had been parked in when it made its first flight 36 1/2 years before.  Brien Wygle, Captain on the first flight, was aboard for the last one.

The next day, I (with my colleague Steve Huemoeller) removed all the fuel.  Since we could not get the airplane de-fueled, we started the engines, and during a 2 hour 37 minute run, ran the tanks to near empty and shut them down for the last time.  (On Easter Sunday, 1967, I had participated in starting this airplane's engines for the very first time.  So, I guess, you could say I was there for the first.... and there for the last.)  We then sadly decommissioned her many systems on the Boeing flight line, after which the airplane was moved to an area adjacent to the main museum.  On Saturday, November 22, 2003, she was towed across East Marginal Way to join the first jet Air Force One, the 747 Prototype, Concorde, and other historic aircraft.  She is now a mere stones throw from the Thompson Site factory, from which she rolled out in December 1966.  With more than 14,000 airplanes sold, the 737 has become by far the best selling, most popular commercial jetliner in history.  Along with the notable developments made while in NASA service, this airplane is truly one of the most historic aircraft in the world today.  It has been an honor and a privilege for me to be Crew Chief and caretaker for this airplane.  The following pictures document some of the people and places associated with this last memorable flight.

Boeing 737 Prototype Airplane  --  NASA 515  - at Moses Lake

Steve H.      Crew Chief    The Deadly Duo
Steve Huemoeller - Mechanic Extraordinaire    Bob Bogash - Crew Chief      At Boeing Field after the flight

Flight Crew  Flight Crew of the Final Flight

Left to Right:  Mark Ranz - Co-Pilot;  Dale Ranz - Pilot;  Bob Bogash - Crew Chief;  Brien Wygle - Safety Observer and Pilot of First Flight

 Participants in Final Flight

L-R:  Bob Bogash, Dick Taylor (Retired Boeing Executuve and B-47 Test Pilot), Clayton Scott (Retired Early Boeing Test Pilot and personal pilot to Bill Boeing), Brien Wygle (Retired Boeing Executive and Test Pilot on First Flight of Boeing 737), Dale Ranz (Retired Boeing Test Pilot), Mark Ranz (Airline Pilot, volunteer), Jacob Ranz.  (Missing from photo: Jim Gannett (Retired Boeing Test Pilot who flew us over in his Cessna), Steve Huemoeller (Retired United Air Lines Mechanic, who was waiting at Boeing Field), and Jeff  Akridge (President and Owner of Columbia Pacific Aviation - FBO at Moses Lake, who provided most of my help - gratis - for the six years.)

Her Last Landing


On approach from the south, with Mt. Rainier in the background

Crossing the fence on short final for Runway 31L at Boeing Field - her Last Landing

Landing at KBFI 
Touching down at Boeing Field  3:11 PDT  September 21, 2003

 Rollout on Runway 31L

Arrival on Boeing Flight Line    Ground photos by
Steve Huemoeller
Arrival on the Boeing Flight Line

Close to the First Flight  stall.  As this "old" -100 arrives, Boeing 737-700's, -800's, and -900's are filling the same flight line.
36 years later and still going strong!

Crew Chief
 Bob Bogash -  Crew Chief  -  "One Proud Papa!"

My Favorite!

Next:  The Move to the Air Park

Photos by Bob Bogash, Steve Huemoeller, Dale Ranz, and Harold Isaacson.  

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Copyright 2003- 2017  by Robert A. Bogash.  All Rights Reserved

Last Revised:

28 Nov 2003
19 Apr 2006
04 Feb 2007
01 Nov 2010
8 Mar 2014

13 Mar 2017