Bigger Than Life

By Ryan Thurman

April 2016

I was born and raised in Tucson, Ariz. My dad was a private pilot and a complete airplane nut. I remember watching the development of the 747 from afar through articles in my dad's flying magazines. It seemed like an amazing airplane and I couldn't imagine how big it must have been.

One day, when I was about 9 years old, my dad came and got me, loaded me into the car and headed out to Tucson International Airport. He wouldn't tell me why we were going there. It was a surprise, he said. We got to the airport, pulled into a lot next to the general aviation ramp, and there, bigger than life, was the first 747. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember seeing "City of Everett" painted on the side and wondering where the heck Everett was. I'd never heard of it.

I was so impressed with how big it was, and how graceful it looked. The Boeing employees who were there with the airplane were standing at a fence bordering the parking lot talking about how fast it was, how far it could fly and how many people it could carry. It was all amazing. What an airplane and what a time my dad and I had looking at it.

Years later, I grew up and entered the workforce. Eventually, I wound up getting a job with Boeing in Renton, Wash. My first opportunity to work a weekend as a Boeing employee in Washington, I was assigned to go work in the old "B-52 building" at Boeing Field. As I walked into the building for the first time, I came across that same first-of-its-kind 747 that my dad had taken me to see all those years before. I got to walk up under it this time, and I was able to actually touch it, something I hadn't been able to do that very first time. I can't even describe the thrill of that moment, and how it took me back to a very special day that I shared with my dad.

When I got home from work that night, I called him on the phone and told him about seeing that same airplane again. We had a great time reminiscing about that long-ago day in Arizona when we first saw the true Queen of the Skies. I now work in Everett and I see 747s every day, but I still get emotional about them and I am still in awe of them.