GE’s Original ‘Classic’ 747 Testbed Takes One Last Flight To Her Resting Place

Photo by GE.

A former PanAm Clipper, one of the last flying Boeing 747 classic jets retired recently. Tail number N747GE which flew as GE’s flying testbed for its engine programs was the 25th Boeing 747 built. It first flew in 1969 and was later delivered to PanAm. The jumbo jet was sold to GE in 1992, shortly after the demise of PanAm World Airways.

Over the course of its 26 year career as a flying testbed, the jet flew nearly every engine that GE developed and maintained during the same period. The 747 most notably carried the now iconic GE-90 engine that would power a whole generation of long-range Boeing 777 aircraft. The jet also flew the GEnx engine which now powers the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

According to GE, “The transformation from passenger aircraft to a flying testbed required significant modifications, including removing seats, strengthening the left wing and tail for flight testing and installing data systems. The aircraft provided critical flight data on more than 11 distinct engine models and 39 engine builds, including widebody engines like the GE90, GEnx and the Engine Alliance GP7200, CF34 engines for regional jets, narrow body engines like CFM56 and LEAP, and the Passport for business aviation.”

GE’s Boeing 747 Testbed is taxied across a road to the Pima Air and Space Museum. Photo by GE

On November 15, 2018, the Boeing 747 lifted off one more time for its final flight from Victorville, California to Tucson, Arizona. It will be displayed at Pima Air And Space Museum. After landing at Tucson, the aircraft was towed to the museum. It will be on display at the museum yard, which now hosts a number of other historical aircraft including the YC-15, SR-71 Blackbird, and a number of rare World War II aircraft.

Being towed to her new home. Original Flight Test Operations pilot Gary Possert long hoped that the Queen of the Skies would be retired to a cushy museum gig, versus being scrapped. His wishes came true. Photo by GE

The last flight was a bit of a bonus flight for the elderly Queen of the Skies.  The trip to Pima wasn’t a guarantee. GE even produced a video of its expected last flight that took place earlier in January of 2018.  It’s great to see that the Queen of the Skies–one of the last non-military derivative ‘classic’ Boeing 747s–will have a long retirement ahead of her.