Aug 23, 2017: GE Aviation’s original B747 Flying Test Bed is heading into storage and flew its final flight on at GE Aviation’s Flight Test Operation in Victorville, California.
The aircraft had a long history. It rolled off the assembly line in October 17, 1969 and made its first flight with Pan American World Airlines on March 3, 1970. Named the Clipper Ocean Spray, Pan Am flew the aircraft for 21 years, accumulating more than 86,000 flight hours and 18,000 cycles before GE acquired the aircraft in 1992.
Retired GE Aviation Chief Test Pilot Phil Schultz, commented, “I was part of the effort to get the airplane bought. I went through the whole process, Getting the airplane, selecting the airplane, outfitting the airplane, specifying what we needed and who did what from data system to engineering to how we would install the engines.”
The Flying Test Bed began operations with GE in 1993 at its Flight Test Operation facility, which was then located in Mojave, California after undergoing modifications like removing seats, strengthening the left wing and tail for flight testing and installing data systems. The aircraft offered critical flight data on more than 11 distinct engine models and 39 engine builds, including widebody engines likes 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. With GE, the historic 747 aircraft completed more than 3,600 flight hours and 775 cycles before its final January flight and it even got a new livery in 2015 replacing the old GE Aircraft Engines paint scheme with GE Aviation.
“We’ve done things with the 747 during flight test that nobody in his right mind would do with any airplane,” said Schultz. “We pushed engines to their limits—day after day, icing, high angle attack programs, terrible weather and operating conditions to ensure a pilot in any aircraft anywhere had the ability to push the throttle up at any time or in any weather condition to get what is needed.”
Gary Possert, retired Chief Test Pilot at GE Aviation, said, “The 747 is one of the best airplanes made in the history of mankind in my opinion. Very stable, easy to fly and extremely reliable. I will definitely miss the 747-100 Flying Test Bed.”