Paine Field near Everett boasts several major aviation attractions such as the popular Boeing Tour at the Future of Flight and the vintage aircraft displays at Flying Heritage Collection and Historic Flight. A fourth, little-known attraction is the Museum of Flight Restoration Center and Reserve Collection on the southeast side of Paine Field.
Here vintage aircraft are authentically restored before they go on display at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. You’ll find several dozen aircraft in various stages of restoration by staff and a large crew of volunteers. The volunteers, many of whom are Boeing employees and retirees, put in thousands of hours each year to restore each aircraft to exhibition quality in the most historically accurate way possible.
During a tour of the 23,000-square-foot facility, you have the opportunity to talk to the volunteers and ask questions about the aircraft on which they’re working. They’re glad to explain the work in progress and significance of each aircraft. You’re sure to come away with an appreciation of how lengthy the restoration process can be to ensure historical accuracy.
For example, restoration of a 1933 Boeing 247D, the world’s first modern passenger airliner, took 16 years. The plane made its final flight from Paine Field to Boeing Field and the Museum of Flight this past April.
Currently you can watch the restoration of historic aircraft such as a de Havilland Comet, the world’s first passenger jet. Designed during World War II, the prototype de Havilland flew in 1949, and the Comet 1 flew the first passenger service on May 2, 1952. The 75-seat de Havilland Comet 4C currently being restored was Mexicana Airlines’ first plane. It flew between Los Angeles and Mexico City until 1970 and later was used for aviation mechanic training by Everett Community College before the Museum of Flight acquired it in 1995. It is the only plane under restoration you can go aboard to see the interior cabin.
You can also see a Piasecki H-21 Workhorse helicopter under restoration. Developed for arctic and high altitude rescue, the H-21 was built in 1952 and came complete with skis. It was nicknamed the “flying banana” because of its distinctive shape.
Nearly complete is a F2G Corsair fighter plane, often called “Super Corsair” because of its increased size and power over its predecessor, the F4U. Ordered for production in 1944 as the fighter plane to defend against kamikaze attacks, the Super Corsair never fought; Japan surrendered before the Allied invasion scheduled for November 1945.
On display is a Boeing 2707 Super Sonic Transport mock-up. The 2707 was more than 300 feet long and designed to carry 250 to 300 passengers – much larger than the Concorde. However, the SST program was canceled in 1971, and Boeing began huge lay-offs, resulting in the famous billboard: “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn off the lights.”
Restoration tours are currently available Wednesday through Sunday on the center’s summer schedule, so best to visit before the end of August. After Labor Day and through Memorial Day, the facility is open to the public just Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. year-round.
Admission is a real bargain: adults (age 18 +) $5, youths (age 5-17) $3, and children (age 4 and under) free.
If you’re intrigued enough to join such restoration efforts, the Museum of Flight Restoration Center always welcomes additional volunteers. The facility typically acquires two to four historical aircraft each year and so has ongoing restorations in many stages of completion. Contact the Museum of Flight Restoration Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vintage Aircraft Weekend
If you missed Paine Field Aviation Day in May, here’s another opportunity to see restored vintage aircraft fly again: the ninth annual Vintage Aircraft Weekend. Held over the Labor Day weekend – this year Sept. 2-4 – the event is hosted by the Historic Flight Foundation, its Paine Field Partners and the Snohomish County Tourism Promotion Area.
Vintage Aircraft Weekend draws more than 60 visiting pilots and their vintage aircraft from around North America, plus Historic Flight’s restored planes will be participating. The aircraft represent the three decades between Charles Lindbergh’s solo Atlantic Ocean crossing in 1927 and commercialized Boeing jet service on the same route in 1957.
The main day is Saturday, Sept. 3. You can see classic, vintage and “warbird” aircraft up-close as well as watch them take to the air in thrilling maneuvers. This family-friendly event also includes vintage automobiles, military vehicles, bicycles and clothing/uniforms on display, plus BBQ food and live music. On Sun, Sept 4, rides are offered in open cockpit biplanes and Historic Flight’s restored DC-3.
Cost is the same as regular Historic Flight admission: $15 for adults; $12 military/seniors age 65+, $10 youth age 11-17 and free for children age 10 and under.
Museum of Flight Restoration Center & Reserve Collection
Vintage Aircraft Weekend
— By Julie Gangler
Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.