Boeing test-flights 'Spirit of 12' over Walla Walla

The Space Needle under its tail, Boeing’s Seahawks 747-8 flew over downtown Seattle on Jan. 30. On Jan. 31 it flew in a “12” pattern over Eastern Washington to salute Seahawks fans. “Spirit of 12s/GO HAWKS!” is painted alongside the Hawks logo.

The Space Needle under its tail, Boeing’s Seahawks 747-8 flew over downtown Seattle on Jan. 30. On Jan. 31 it flew in a “12” pattern over Eastern Washington to salute Seahawks fans. “Spirit of 12s/GO HAWKS!” is painted alongside the Hawks logo.

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Boeing Co.’s flight-test teams on Jan. 30 unveiled a Boeing 747-8F cargo plane emblazoned with Seattle Seahawks lime green, navy blue and white, in honor of the Seahawks playing in the 2014 NFL Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Ben Mutzabaugh wrote a piece about the jumbo jet on Feb. 1 in USA TODAY. Unbeknownst to most of us, Boeing personnel flew the Seahawks 747 in a giant figure 12 over Eastern Washington, including the Walla Walla area, according to a map of the flight from Live Flight Tracker.

“The number 12, for non-Seahawk fans, is a reference to the team’s boisterous home crowd that makes Seattle fans a figurative “12th man” on the field at the team’s home stadium,” Ben wrote.

With GPS precision, the crew nosed the 747-8F over the state during a 51/2-hour flight at 15,000 feet and spanning 100 miles east, west, north and south.

They were inspired by the pending faceoff between the Seahawks and Denver Broncos. (The final score: Hawks 43-8, hoot.)

Boeing, one of the region’s largest employers, wanted to flight-test the aircraft, so they combined that with some of the statewide and regional Super Bowl hoopla.

“We had an opportunity to do this number 12 while we’re doing this functional check flight, so we blended the two together,” said Len Quiat, a Boeing flight test director. “We get the functional test flight done and we get to make it a little more fun because we get to fly a big number 12 at the same time — which everyone is pretty excited about here.”

They’ve done it before, taking a 747 test flight that traced “747” in the sky and tracing “787” and Boeing’s logo while test-flying the 787 Dreamliner.

Len said the flight plans achieve the company’s functional flight-test objectives. They also engage employees. “This just gives us a little change-up and makes it a little more exciting,” he said in Today in the Sky.

The Boeing team was particular that the number 12 was in the exact font used by the Seahawks.

Erick Hall, a Boeing flight operations dispatcher, helped coordinate the outing. He applied Boeing JetPlanner software, which “integrates the flight-planning engine that calculates flight plans and overlays them over aeronautical charts.”

He projected the 12 image to a certain scale over the northwestern United States, originally plotting a size that would take 61/2 hours and cover five states. “They were like, ‘No, no, we don’t have that much time.’ ”

“We finally scaled it down for just that space,” he said about the area in Eastern Washington. “It was on a pretty aggressive test schedule, so … time was a factor.”

And so, while we went about our business that Friday, the crew took off at 11:13 a.m. from Boeing Field International in Seattle on Flight 12 and lumbered around the sky carving out the letters while cruising at 358 knots or 411 mph. They returned to Snohomish County Airfield in Everett at 4:43 p.m. Check it out at Live Flight Tracker here.

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