GE Aviation’s original B747 Flying Test Bed is heading into storage and flew what most likely was her final flight on January 25 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.
After undergoing modifications like removing seats, strengthening the left wing and tail for flight testing and installing data systems, the Flying Test Bed began operations with GE in 1993 at its Flight Test Operation facility, which was then located in Mojave, California. The aircraft provided 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.
The GE90-115B engine, here attached to GE’s first 747 flying test bed, is the world’s most powerful engine. It generated 127,900 pounds of thrust. That’s more than the combined total horsepower of the Titanic (46,000 pounds) and the Redstone rocket (76,000 pounds) that took the first American to space.
As GE’s original B747 flying testbed takes its last flight, hear from the pilots who flew the aircraft for more than 25 years with 39 different engine builds.