Visiting the oldest flying Boeing airplane

Friday morning I had the extreme pleasure of spending some time with Addison Pemberton and his wife,Wendy, at Pemberton & Sons Aviation headquarters at Spokane, Washington’s Felts Field.

Spokane Felts Field Pemberton & Sons

Pemberton & Sons Aviation headquarters - photo: Harriet Baskas

Using many parts from the original aircraft, Pemberton, his family and more than 60 volunteers completely restored a 1928 Boeing 40C airplane that crashed into a mountainside in Canyonville, OR..

Spokane Pemberton Boeing Model 40

(Photo courtesy Addison Pemberton)

That restored plane took its first test flight on February 17, 2008 – Addison Pemberton’s birthday – and it is now the oldest flying Boeing airplane and the only flying Boeing 40.

(Photo courtesy Addison Pemberton)

When I arrived at the company’s hangar, Pemberton was just finishing up his lunch and making final arrangements to fly the plane to Concrete, WA to attend the North Cascades Fly-In. Yet he and Wendy were kind enough to show me around and then sit down and tell me about the history of the airplane, the details they’d discovered about the 1928 crash, the story of how the airplane’s remains were found, and how those remains were turned into the shiny, fly-able airplane out in the hangar.

Some remains of the Boeing Model 40 crashed in 1928

Remains of the Boeing Model 40 crashed in 1928

The story is quite amazing. And it is well-documented on the Pemberton’s website and in a variety of videos, including this Northwest Profiles feature from Spokane’s KSPS TV

At 1 pm, it was time for Pemberton to head off for the fly-in. But before he took off, he and Wendy let me climb up a ladder, look in the cockpit and sit in the passenger cabin, which has a telephone, a small desk and four seats.

Passenger cabin Boeing Model 40 restored

(Photo: Harriet Baskas)

Thanks, Pembertons, for saving this historic plane and for your generosity in sharing it with others.

(Photo by Pam Scott)

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