Meet The Man Who Saved An American Airlines 727-200 From Becoming Soda Cans

An American Airlines 727-200 will soon take to the skies again.  We sit down with the man who is bringing this jet back to life.

Avgeekery sat down with John Roper, the man who is leading the charge to bring an American Airlines Boeing 727-223 back to life. The aircraft is currently at the Boeing Frontiers of Flight Museum. He is working to return the aircraft to flying condition and fly her to the Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Here’s what we learned about John and quest to save the Jurassic Jet:

1.) Tell me about your organization and your background?

“The Airline History Museum has been around for almost 30 years now. It started back in 1986 with the acquisition of a Lockheed Constellation and return to flight. We now have a 30,000 sq foot hanger and 250,000 ft of ramp space.”

“The goal Airline History’s Museum is to capture the airline history specifically with a focus on aviation in Kansas City with the development of the B-25. We also have a TWA DC-3, a Martin 404, an L-1011, DC-8, Northrup Delta, and Falcon 20 that was once owned by Ewing Kauffman, the former owner of the KC Royals”

“The goal is to get the Constellation, the Martin 404, and the DC-3 on the airshow circuit to capture the vintage age of aviation. We want it to be a Grassroots tour.”

2.) What made you an AvGeek?

“I love it all, I’m an avgeek for sure. I love the maintaining, the flying, and the engineering sides of aviation.”

Aviation has always been in John’s blood. “Way back when before I was born. My mother was 19 and wanted to take flying lessons and that’s how she met her husband, he was her instructor. They fell in love and the rest is history.”

3) Switching gears, tell me about your quest to add additional vintage airliners to your fleet. How did you find out about this particular 727?

“It was really dumb luck. One of our members who works for UPS was up at Boeing Field. He went to the museum and heard that the American 727-200 was about to be scrapped by the museum because the museum had recently secured the original 727. The American 727-200 was no longer needed for their collection.”

The Museum of Flight owned it after AA donated it to the museum with all the records complete 13 years ago. The aircraft was in such good shape and the records were complete, so we accepted the donation from the Museum of Flight.”

4) What makes this 727 such a unique find?

“We really liked this one. First of all, it’s American Airlines. Being from Kansas City, it shares history with TWA. It flew with AA for 25 years, it has a complete interior. It has all the records. The jet was well kept with only one owner. Everything works…from the instruments to coffee pots, even 13 years after it last flew. American dropped off a complete airplane.”

5) Are they going to allow you to keep the airplane branded?

“We have reached out to AA and they have not discouraged us to keep everything as is and let us fly with the American branding. We hope AA will get more involved with us on this. We’ve got new stickers coming, we’re going to freshen up the livery, polish it out, put all new decals on it, and make it look shiny and new.”

6) What are your biggest challenges that you are facing with this particular jet?

“It’s really just going through the paperwork and taking care of all the miscellaneous issues there. The engines and the fuel tanks were my #1 concern, but they are in great shape. Once we crossed that hurdle, I knew we would be able to get this jet back in the air.”

7) What is the vision for this beautiful Boeing?

“The short term vision is to get it back to Kansas City and get it on display. We’re working with the local maintenance school and let them get some live activity on a transport category airplane. They can learn about the systems and potentially work with us to get the jet back into top shape. We also want to get HS kids on the plane to teach them about aviation.”

“Long term, we want to get it flying again on a regular basis.. However, we have a short window to make this happen. Realistically, the airplane has another 10-15 years max that it can fly. While the plane is well built, we know that parts will become very scarce and probably cost prohibitive down the line to keep the jet operational.”

8) Knowing that it’s expensive to get a dormant 727 back in the skies, have you set a budget yet?

“Not yet. We’ve got to get it back to Kansas City and talk to our local FAA reps. The first thing will be putting together an approved maintenance program and figure out exactly what it will take to get the airplane up to date and airworthy. We’re going to do it right even if it takes longer than we’d like.”

9) How can fellow Avgeeks get involved and help?

“While the jet is in Seattle, we’re trying to get out and get some work days on it and get Avgeeks involved. The plan right now is to fly it to Everett first where the future flight museum up there wants to use the aircraft for a series of events. We’ll be asking the AvGeek community to come out and help polish and do all the final preparations before the aircraft heads to Kansas City. Once it gets to KC, we’re going to be reaching out the all the Avgeeks in the Midwest area to help become caretakers for the aircraft. Support us on social media by following us on Facebook. Last, if you can’t help physically you can help us financially through our website here.

Thanks to John for the interview. Keep checking back at Avgeekery. We plan to announce additional collaborations with the Airline History Museum soon!