An American Boeing 727 Prepares to Fly to the National Airline History Museum

The former American Airlines B727-223, N874AA, at Boeing Field in Seattle, now owned by the National Airline History Museum, Kansas City, Mo.

In early 2015, in preparation for the construction of its giant new Aviation Pavilion, Seattle’s Museum of Flight moved its Boeing 727 (formerly American Airlines N874AA) from the parking lot on the west side of East Marginal Way where it had been displayed along with other large aircraft. Instead of being towed to the museum’s air park with the other planes, it was towed all the way across King County International Airport (also known as Boeing Field) to a parking stall. Rumors swirled that it was headed for a new home, an unnamed museum in the Midwest.

And there it sat, and sat. And sat.

NAHM Executive Director John Roper in the cockpit of the B727 his museum recently acquired from Seattle’s Museum of Flight

On March 3, the mystery was solved when John Roper, the executive director/board member of the National Airline History Museum (NAHM) in Kansas City, Mo., signed the transfer paperwork alongside Museum of Flight CEO Doug King and COO Laurie Haag, officially transferring ownership of the aircraft to the Midwestern museum.

The elderly 727 now has a dedicated Facebook page, and, as of this week, the electrical systems were in the process of being activated and checked in preparation for the aircraft being flown to its new home. Roper said that, as long as the engines are sound, his goal is to get the plane to its new home in Kansas City by May 1.

NAHM CEO John Roper secures access panels while inspecting his museum’s newly-acquired 727 at Boeing Field in Seattle

The 727 was originally purchased by American Airlines in 1978, and was placed in short-term storage in 2002. It was delivered to the Museum of Flight in February, 2003. Roper said the Museum of Flight took very good care of the aircraft and the interior is remarkably well preserved. He added that it is believed to  have been American’s last official 727 to carry revenue passengers.

The Museum of Flight kept the aircraft’s interior climate-controlled, which helped to keep the vintage aircraft in relatively good condition

Asked why this particular aircraft was selected to add to NAHM’s collection, Roper said, “About two years ago, we decided to expand our mission to cover more of the airline industry and the aviation heritage of Kansas City and the region. This aircraft in particular, the 727, was also used by TWA at our home base of MKC up until the airlines were relocated to MCI so the model has local history there.  The aircraft served it’s entire career from birth to retirement at AA, making it rare in that respect alone.”

Restoration plans also include the cleaning of the aircraft’s exterior and the refreshing of the classic American Airlines livery

As a bit of background for those not familiar with the NAHM, Roper said the museum got its start in 1986 when Larry Brown and Dick McMahon decided they wanted to restore a Lockheed Constellation to airworthy condition and take it to airshows. They teamed up with Paul Pristo from Mesa Ariz., who had just acquired a Constellation in an auction. The trio succeeded in getting the aircraft out of the desert and back to Kansas City for restoration.

Roper explained that once the Constellation was in Kansas City, many TWA employees (at the time, TWA’s largest hub was at Kansas City International Airport) helped to get it back into shape. After the restoration was complete, “the great people of TWA began to bring memorabilia down to the hangar, and then acquired a Martin 404 and DC-3 for restoration to TWA livery.” As the collection expanded, a hangar was acquired in 2001 and the museum was founded.

Th 727 seen in Miami in 1998 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

Once the 727 is ensconced at NAHM, Roper said that, in addition to being on public display, “it will serve as a tool for a local A&P school to perform engine runs and allow students to get some experience on heavy aircraft.”

There are even bigger plans for the old jetliner. “After a couple of years we hope to get it to a condition where it can be flown to some airshows and take some STEM programs on the road.”

AirlineReporter plans to follow the restoration and ferry flight, so stay tuned.

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