GE Aviation’s original Boeing 747-100 flying testbed has made its final flight. The aircraft, N747GE (c/n 16951) departed from the company’s Flight Test Operation Centre in Victorville, California for the last time on November 15 and flew to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
It was the oldest 747 still in active service, rolling off the assembly line in October 17, 1969 and entering service with Pan American World Airlines (Pan Am) five months later. GE Aviation acquired the jet in 1992 and at the end of its final flight it had amassed 90,000 flying hours and 19,251 cycles.
The transformation from passenger aircraft to a flying testbed required significant modifications, including removing all the seats, strengthening the port wing and tail for flight testing and installing data systems. The testbed provided critical flight information on more than 11 engine models during its career including widebody powerplants such as the GE90, GEnx, the Engine Alliance GP7200 as well as the CFM56 and LEAP. It retired from test flying on January 25, 2017 and has been in storage at Victorville since then.
Its role has been superseded by a 747-400 that GE acquired from Japan Airlines in 2010 and was converted into a propulsion test platform. The newer aircraft offers better capabilities and improved integrated systems compared with the older aircraft. Airteamimages.com/Serge Bailleul