Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Last Hurrah! Part 1 of my 747 Checkout

The Bruins Prevail!!

Welcome to my multi-part blogging attempt to bring you along on my 747-400 checkout. I'll try to condense what took nearly two months to complete into three or four blog posts. After 37 years of airline flying and enjoying some of the finest commercial jet airliners available, my number finally rose to the level of the Boeing 747.

As many of you know I'd received an advanced entitlement bid to fly the 747-400 out of DTW and anxiously awaited my class date of 27 March. But just before attending school in MSP, I flew a three day 757 trip with a long, downtown SEA layover. My goal was to visit the MUSEUM OF FLIGHT at Boeing Field and experience the number one B-747.

Here she is, Ship #1 and with the help of John Wegg at AIRWAYS MAGAZINE, I'd secured permission to have a cockpit tour of this historically significant machine. You've probably read about this in an earlier post, but I'm here with Evan Elliott, aircraft collections technician who rolled up the stairs and welcomed me aboard. How better to understand the historical significance of Boeings largest and most unique airliner, than to visit the actual aircraft that defined her lineage? 

I was privileged to have been given this honor as we sit in the cockpit of Ship #1, The City of Everett, that first flew on 2/9/69 marking the beginning of a long and glorious history of the B-747 line. I'm sitting in captain Jack Waddell's seat here and thought that this would be a great way to kick off my 747 adventure... and I was right. After a couple hours of exploration throughout this ship I returned to my hotel to rest up to fly my last 757 trip back to DTW. I'd flown my last 767 trip to Frankfurt just a week earlier.

747 #1  Serial # 001

The development of the 747, lead by project engineer Joe Sutter, had more than the usual problems to solve for a new aircraft type. Before the worlds largest passenger airliner could take flight, 780 acres of land needed to be purchased, cleared and paved; a railroad spur built and a hangar constructed to house this gargantuan project. A hangar so large in fact, it would become the worlds largest building by volume encompassing 472 million cubic feet or 98 square acres. 747's, as well as 767's and the new 777's and 787's are built in the Everett plant, which is open for tours daily. Here's a Discovery Channel video that should peak your interest in the Everett Plant.

With my last 757 crew on 21 March 2011 leaving SEA for DTW to end my eight year run on the 757 and 767. I've loved flying these airplanes and never dreamed of holding the 747 before retirement, but as I've learned over my long career, you just never know what will happen in a system bid. I'll be junior on the seven-four, giving up excellent seniority on the 757/767, but how could I pass up this opportunity?

Departing SEA for DTW on the red-eye.

My last 767 trip from Frankfurt just a week earlier

And just a week later I've arrived at the old NWA flight training facility, formally known as NATCO, to start a five week training program that includes ground-school and simulator training. I've entered this building many times over the years when I checked out as a captain in the DC-9, 727, A-320 and B-757, but I have a somewhat nostalgic feeling as I know that this will be my final airline checkout. My last great airline adventure so to speak.

Come on in as we stand by the door to classroom C211 where the adventure will continue. The date is wrong for my class and I have some jitters wondering if I'll have the stamina to complete this course... I'm not 35 anymore and these courses are fast and furious. But with the help of several good friends and a dedicated training staff, my concerns are unfounded. I just didn't know it yet.

To be continued.....

Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, 1970

But until I'm able to continue my story... GO BRUINS!


  1. Hi Rand, I'm looking forward to your checkout blogs. I'm the son of a Northwest captain who flew the 747 from it's introduction until his retirement in 1977. I also worked at Boeing in 1968 and helped build ship number one.


  2. Captain Peck, I have been awaiting an updated post on your new 747 adventures. Your posts always leave me wanting more, thanks so much for sharing. What were the differences you experienced flying the A320 compared to the Boeing&Douglas aircraft you have flown?

    Ron from Phoenix

  3. DB, I hope my accounts can live up to your expectations, but thanks, I appreciate your interest.

    Bill, I wish that I'd known your Dad but I was still several years away from NWA in 1977. Thanks for your part in creating the "City of Everett" I hope that you got a kick out of seeing her cockpit pics on my blog.

    Ron, As well, thanks for your interest in my writing, it's gratifying for a writer to know that others actually read his work.

    Although practically all of my airline experience has been spent in Boeing and Douglas equipment, the year that I spent as an A-320 captain was very enjoyable. It was my first glass experience, well introduced by an excellent training department. In fact, it was probably the best training experience of my career. Of course, the first difference is the side stick controller which took no time what so ever to feel comfortable with. It's intuitive and I'd like to see Boeing make the switch. The space saving and the pull out desk are wonderful. Another interesting aspect, and I've forgotten its designation, but after rolling into a turn, you can release pressure on the stick. The computer will hold the angle and speed indefinitely. Pretty neat! The cockpit was very comfortable, the lighting superb and temperature always perfect making for a great work environment. I was always less fatigued after finishing a long trip in the bus versus the DC-9 or 727. Although I'm an old school kind of guy, new technology has greatly improved safety and comfort in our cockpits.


  4. Love the flightdeck photo with the INS, navigation has come a long way..

    Joe, Claremont NH.

  5. Captain Rand,
    Wonderful,and congratulations again! We all look forward to updates on your future (and past) adventures.

  6. I too look forward to the checkout blogs! It's going to be interesting reading how the Queen compares to the other aircraft (of course aside being higher off the ground) but in performance, handling, etc.

    Keeping my eagle eye out.....

  7. Hey Rand,were you in ship #666 in dtw on tuesday morn? If not, I waved anyway. Mike V

  8. Great post Rand, looking forward to following along. I got into aviating at a fairly late age, relatively speaking, at 34 and just this summer secured my first real flying job, up in the NWT flying a C337. I suspect my career arc won't let my back dampen the sheepskins on the Queen of the Skies, but I can live vicariously through you!

    Oh, and my heartfelt Canadian apologies in advance for my Canucks taking Lord Stanleys mug back to Canada this year ;)

  9. You know, I was thinking...
    It's nice to see how, in spite of you being a captain on the most beautiful ship in one of the largest airline in the world, you kept this simplicity and humility in the way you tell us about your life on the line.
    Love it... :o)


  10. I'm looking forward to this tale, the pinnacle of your airline career. What a trip!

    And now I hear that NATCO itself is on it's last days. Delta is moving the facilities ( and whatever staff want to ) down south to Atlanta.

  11. Speaking of the Bruins, they've forced a game 7! Let's go B's!!! Hope Tel Aviv is great so far.

  12. Thank you all for your comments they're much appreciated. I'm certainly living my boyhood dream and have to pinch myself every time I climb the stairs to the upper deck to find the cockpit.

    Sorry Mike, not me, but I'm sure who ever was sitting in the seat appreciated your wave.

    Thank you DB; yup, my hat still fits!!

    Sarah, where you been? I think that we all knew that this day was coming, I may have enjoyed one of the last NATCO events before the lights are turned off. Our identity is nearly gone.

    5400 Airport Rd South, congratulations on landing a job flying in one of the worlds most beautiful areas, I passed through your neck of the woods not too long ago on my way to Narita. Now... about those Canucks... tonight is game seven!! We'll just have to wait and see. Go Tim Thompson!

    Hi Sam!

    I just arrived in New York after flying a trip in bound from Tel Aviv. This was my first trip after OE and my first visit to Tel Aviv, what a ball! Now I need to find a place here in NY that will air game seven. One more JFK-TLV roundtrip and I'll be home to start my training posts.



  13. Rand,

    Tel Aviv is great! Mazel-Tov! Looking forward to reading your -400 posts!