Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Look at Aviation Then and Now

At Pheasant Ridge RV Resort, Wilsonville, Oregon...

Yesterday was almost an overload of information and nostalgia as we toured the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field and the giant Boeing assembly plant in Everett.

The Museum of Flight is a large first class facility where you can view almost any kind of airplane from a Piper Cub to the SR-71 spy plane. Here are a few photos and a brief commentary:

I was surprised to see the SR-71 spy plane (the long sleek one on the floor in the above photo). Flown by the USAF from 1964 to 1994 on countless spy missions over hostile territory, not one of these stealthy airplanes was ever touched by a missile or enemy fire. Why? Flying at 80,000 feet and 2,000 mph, nothing--including a missile--could catch it! An engineering marvel, for sure.

An exact replica of the Lockheed 10 in which Amelia Earhart and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

A Lockheed Super Constellation sat outside the museum. An airplane like this was the first large transport airplane that I flew. It was 1968, and the airplane belonged to a travel club, having been retired from airline service years before. It was antique technology back then, even though it was a queen of the skies in its day. I loved the airplane; it was fun to fly, and I thought it was a beautiful and graceful design. The big R-3350 radial engines were pretty temperamental, though. The flight engineer was always busy tweaking them, as I recall.

The original Air Force One of the jet age was interesting to see and walk through.

More amazing was a tour through the huge Boeing assembly plant in Everett, Washington, where we viewed the B-777 and 787 production lines. It seems odd that I spent quite a few years flying Boeing airplanes, yet didn't get to see the factory until after I retired from flying. Oh, well; better late than never.

We were not permitted to take any photos in the plant, but it was an experience hard to forget. The advancements in aviation technology just in the time since I last flew big airplanes is breathtaking. For perhaps the first time, I felt like a dinosaur; today's airliners seem to be more like video games than the ones I flew. I take some consolation in believing that we old pilots actually flew the airplanes rather than watching them fly themselves. The tour is very well done, and if you ever get the chance to go, you should.

This photo doesn't begin to capture the vastness of the Boeing complex; there is actually more of the facility outside of the camera's view than inside it. The building on the left encloses the B-777 and B-787 production lines as well as others. The buildings on the right are the paint shops.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I do not appreciate it enough every day.

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