End of an Era

 1944?  No - it's the year 2010

 

Early  Saturday morning in a rainy Seattle .  0300 hrs local time.  The  location:  Boeing's historic Plant II - about to be torn down after three  quarters of a century producing thousands of the most significant and historic  airplanes ever built.  In preparation for demolition, three airplanes  that have been undergoing Museum of Flight restoration in the factory's  assembly bays   will have  to be moved.  Just as in days past, with lights and images reflecting off  the wet pavement, the last three airplanes are rolled out.  The giant  hangar doors are raised, the tugs and towbars are hooked up, and with lights  flashing, they are moved out of the factory and onto the historic ramp.   Where so many have gone before.  Then across East Marginal Way and  out onto Boeing Field.

They are the last airplanes to roll out of these  doors.     Ever.

 

 


First  out isn't even a Boeing airplane - but rather a Lockheed Super G Constellation  that flew for Trans-Canada Air Lines.  The Connie is destined for the Air   Park , next to Air Force One, after a Plant II stay of 1 year and three  days.

Next  is a Boeing B-17 - especially heart-tugging as she is the last B-17 to roll  out of these doors.  Boeing built 6981 B-17s in this factory during WW  II, at a peak rate of 16 per day.  I guess you could say they built 6981  and rolled out 6982 - including this last ship - 65 years after her last  sister.

A poignant  moment in time

 

Museum  employee and good friend Evan Elliott, driving the tug, knows he has just  made history.

Finally,  a Boeing B-29 rolls under the raised hangar doors and out into the dark and  wet night.  The very last airplane that will ever roll from this  factory.

 

 

This  Boeing B-29 is the "last of the last."

 

The  now empty factory bays sit - silently awaiting their fate.

 

 

Everyone  present knew they were witnessing history unfolding in front of their eyes.  More than a few tears ran down more than a few cheeks, to mingle with the  soft Seattle drops of rain.

  A  Boeing Plant II Primer

The  ramp that these three historic airplanes roll across, and the building  they leave is one of the most historic aviation sites in the  world.

Here, in April 1944, are the 16 B-17  Flying Fortress bombers produced in this building - that day, and every  day!  Click here for a Personal Note about those  B-17s. http://rbogash.com/Connie/Roy%20Lundberg.html

In October 1944, the first  Boeing XC-97 rolled out of these doors - later to become the C-97  transport, KC-97 Tanker, and B-377 commercial Stratocruiser. (See  the camouflage on the roof?)

During WW II, the plant was  completely camouflaged to look like a residential area as protection  against possible Japanese air attack.

In the late 1940s and  early 1950s, myriad B-50 bombers and C-97 Transports are being produced  in this factory

On 12 Sept 1947, a radical new  airplane - the Boeing B-47 six-jet bomber Prototype is rolled out.   This airplane is the direct lineal matriarch for all the jet  airplanes Boeing has produced since.

In 1952, in the darkness  and wet of a Seattle night, the Prototype Boeing B-52  8-engine   Bomber is rolled out and across East Marginal Way .  She's  shrouded in secrecy and covered by canvas and tarps.  This amazing  airplane is still in front-line combat service to this day.

Here 277 B-52s are being  produced where the earlier airplanes once were assembled. 

And, in 1966, the first Prototype  Boeing twin-jet 737 was manufactured in this building and rolled out of  these doors on to this ramp.  This airplane (which I worked on -  then, and which I still work on - now,)  is in the Museum's  collection.  She's the first of more than 8000 737s built or  ordered since then.

  She, and 44  years later,  the Super Connie, are my bit of Plant II experience.

And so,  today - History meets History as the last three airplanes roll out of  these doors. Boeing's  Plant II is truly aviation Hallowed  Ground. THEY SAY ALL THINGS MUST END SOME DAY, AUTUM LEAVES!

 

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No words, just WOW!