For the second year in a row, we held a SimAirline.net reunion in conjunction with the Airliners International Convention. This year’s convention was in Portland, Oregon, but Seattle aviation nearby drew us in for even better activities. Attending this year were Kyle Bjorklund, Stephen Wismark, and me. In addition to the photos shown here, you can view Kyle Bjorklund’s full photos from the trip here.
Next year’s reunion has been scheduled for 27-29 July 2012 in Memphis. Delta, FedEx, and Pinnacle all have significant operations there for potential visits.
SW: It had been sixteen months since SimAirline.net closed when we held the SimAirline.net Reunion 2011 in Portland and Seattle. It was another great event that Aaron has put together. I would like to thank Aaron for another great weekend—he even arranged for fantastic weather as well.
KB: Everybody arrived in Portland on the afternoon of Friday, August 26. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to be able to visit the convention this day, so once we all arrived, the group drove into Portland’s Chinatown area. We enjoyed good Asian cuisine and caught up on events over the past year since our last reunion. Once we finished dinner, we all adjourned to our hotel rooms to rest up after the long day of travel.
The plan for Saturday was ambitious. We began at the Airliners International Convention at 0900, as soon as the doors opened. Airliners International is an excellent venue for anybody interested in airline collectibles, and many of these spawned interesting conversations about our own interests in current airlines as well as airline history–everybody usually finds something of interest at this event.
SW: As with last year, there were lots of different collectibles related to the airline industry for sale. I bought some Aeroflot safety cards for the Tu-134 and Tu-154. I also bought a nice model of an Aeroflot Tu-154. These aircraft are being retired and I thought it would be nice to have a souvenir from them.
KB: At about noon, we departed Portland and started driving north to Seattle, and arrived around 1530, giving us about an hour and a half to spend at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. Of interest on the tarmac outside the Museum of Flight parking lot were the newest addition to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (a 767 AWACS) and the Turkish Air Force (a 737 AWACS), as well as a refurbished DC-2 owned by the Museum of Flight. The DC-2 was originally delivered to Pan American in 1932, and then went to the Douglas Historical Foundation until the merger with Boeing – it is now sporting TWA “The Lindbergh Line” colors.
Other exhibits of interest at the Museum of Flight were the first 747, an ex-American 727-200, the first 737-100 currently sporting NASA Langley Research Center colors, as well as 707-120 derivative VC-137B SAM970, which served as Air Force One. The interior of the museum provided many examples of interesting footnotes in the history of Boeing as well as aviation in general, as well as a mockup of the field’s control tower, which gave a great panoramic view of the airport and a live ATC feed.
Once the museum closed, we decided to take in the Seattle scenery at Kerry Park, which provides one of the best overlooks of the city. After a great photo-op, we went down to the docks to take in some of the famous seafood at Ivar’s Restaurant, famous for its seafood and seagulls. Once dinner was over, it was time for us to enjoy the fresh sea air, with a short ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island, which provided excellent evening and nighttime views of Seattle and Puget Sound.
Sunday was a busy day for us as well. Aaron was able to arrange a tour of the Delta maintenance base, generously hosted by 40-year veteran Duane Nelson. Mr. Nelson was kind enough to not only describe a typical day for a Delta mechanic in Seattle, but also to give us a very in-depth tour of the facility, including the catwalk and the roof of the hangar, which gave excellent panoramic views of the airport that are rarely seen. Mr. Nelson also pointed out the location where the Northwest 727 was parked when the D.B. Cooper plane flew into Seattle and the money exchange happened.
SW: We also discussed the merger with Northwest and how operations have since changed. Unfortunately there were no aircraft inside the hanger been worked on, but outside were a pair of 757s sitting cold and dark. Our guide pushed a set of airstairs up to one of the aircraft and in we went. He then turned on the APU so we had some light. We were shown the galleys and discussed maintenance inside an aircraft. After this Kyle and I were allowed to sit in the pilots’ seats and have a good look around.
For me this was a first and a dream come true. I bought the QualityWings 757 when it came out and have flown it quite a bit. I am happy to report that Boeing did a super job of placing all the gauges switches and buttons in the right place so that it looks just like the QualityWings 757!
We then went through the engine maintenance room and then into the main hangar. It is a very large building with lots of floor space. It was built with enough room for three A320-sized aircraft or two 757s/767s. We saw a DC-10 #2 engine hoist, which has not been used since Northwest retired them. We also saw the various types of jacking equipment and hoists as well as spare wheel and tires the Delta fleet use. After covering the floor space, we climbed up to the catwalk that spans the width of the building. When we got up, we had a great view of the whole floor space as and the indoor deicing equipment. From there it was up to the rooftop and fantastic views of the whole airport. Once we had seen enough from up top it was time to jump into a van for a drive around the satellite terminal that Delta uses and past the fuel farm and out the end of the runways, a great way to end the tour.
KB: Our reunion was rounded out with the famous tour of the Boeing plant in Everett. This 90-minute tour includes two scenic overlooks from inside the factory, including over the 747, 777, and 787 production lines. Also, if you look hard enough from the 747 overlook, you can see the 767 production line. Again, this afforded the group an opportunity to speculate about the new 747-8 and 787 and lines of aircraft, just as we had done on the SimAirline.net Message Boards in the past, and was a fantastic end to the official events for the reunion.
SW: We arrived in Everett just in time to see one of the 747 Dreamlifters taking off. The tour starts with a bus ride over to the main assembly plant, which is the largest biulding in the world by volume. For me just the sheer size of everything was overwhelming. After the tour and a quick stop at the gift shop, it was back to Seattle and then home.
I would like to thank the folks at Delta for allowing us to tour their facility and again thank Aaron who has put together another great trip. He has managed to take us places most people never get to see. I strongly recommend that if you can attend one of these weekend trips you come. You will not be disappointed. Aaron has the ability through his connections to take us places I thought I would never get to go. I hope we can do it again next July when the next Airliners International Convention is held in Memphis.