Museum of Flight Restoration
There's Plenty for the Plane Buff in the
This anonymous building
looks like an office, but it is the home of the Museum of
Flight's Restoration Center in Everett, WA.
Most aviation museums take
understandable pride in presenting their planes in as pristine
and original-seeming a condition as they possibly can.
But have you ever wondered how
the planes are so well finished? Many times they started
their new museum life as an incomplete, rusting, abandoned hulk on
the side of an airfield somewhere, forgotten and seriously
The Museum of Flight Restoration
Center allows you to see planes in the process of being
transformed from wrecks back to 'real' and many times air-worthy
and flyable planes. It is a fascinating chance to see behind
The Many Different Aviation
Themed Attractions Around Seattle
Seattle is one of the
birthplaces of the US aviation/aerospace industry, along with
obvious other places such as Kitty Hawk and some not quite so
obvious places such as Wichita.
Whether for this reason or
purely by accidental chance, the greater Puget Sound region has
a treasure trove of aviation themed attractions and activities.
This eleven part series details many of them.
0. Aviation Themed Attractions in the Seattle Area -
1. Museum of Flight, Seattle
2. Boeing Factory Tour & Future of Flight, Everett
3. Flying Heritage Collection, Everett
4. Historic Flight Foundation, Everett
5. Museum of Flight Restoration Center, Everett
6. Heritage Flight Museum, Bellingham
7. Fly in a glider/sailplane/balloon
8. Special Events
Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, OR
10. Other Regional
Museum of Flight Restoration Center, Everett
This is a complete contrast to the other collections of
airplanes around Paine Field.
Whereas the other planes are generally pristine, gleaming,
and in apparently perfect 'as new' condition in the other
regional aviation museums, the Restoration Center proudly shows
you planes in the very early stages of the restoration process,
and showcases the chaotic jumble of stuff and equipment used to
repair and restore their planes.
The rear of an F7U-3 Cutlass, one of the
Navy's less successful fighters. An
old airport fire truck can be seen on the
This 'behind the scenes' rather than polished and finished
approach flows through to the visitor experience too - and this
is not a criticism, but rather a positive comment. The
building is poorly signed, and you walk in to an empty reception
area. Only after wandering around the reception area
slightly nervously for a while do you notice an honesty box
encouraging you to make a $5 contribution in return for entry,
and after doing so, you simply walk through the doors at the
rear of the reception area, past some offices, and into the main
Planes and parts of planes are crammed in tightly together,
along with things that may possibly be engineering equipment to
work on the planes with, or possibly parts of planes themselves.
There are some other things too, like an old fire truck.
Visitors can more or less freely walk around the workshop, and
the all-volunteer staff who work there are all eager to talk to
people and share their personal passions and wealth of knowledge
about the planes they work on.
A range of various workshop
equipment in a relatively empty part of the
Indeed, for a person with extra time to spare, a relaxed
friendly chat with some of the volunteer restorers is probably
the most interesting and best part of the experience. One
suspects that the pleasure is shared by the volunteers too, who
seem generally very eager to stop and talk.
Of particular interest to me was an unusual sight at one end of
the workship. I could see half a passenger plane poking
through the hangar doors, with the other half presumably outside
the building. Could it be? Yes, it was. They
are working on restoring a de Havilland Comet - the tragic first
ever passenger jet that both saw the dawn of the commercial jet
age and simultaneously and almost singlehandedly killed off
Britain's commercial/passenger airplane building industry.
A look over to the front part of the de
Havilland Comet 4C; the rear is outside the
I hurried over to look at it, and one of the volunteer staff
came over, noting my interest. He offered to take me
through the inside of the plane - an unexpected treat and one I
accepted with alacrity.
The restored cockpit of the DH.106 4C Comet.
Although the plane will never fly again, they have spared no
effort to restore every part of it to as-new order, with a full
suite of all cockpit instrumentation and controls, down to the
I looked at the Engineer's panel. While it looked like a
complicated mess of gauges and switches, in reality it was
neither, and it was easy to comprehend how the trend towards
eliminating engineers, the same as, in the past, navigators and
radio operators had also already been eliminated, would follow.
Back then, planes had an Engineer - this is
the Engineer's workstation in the cockpit.
The Restoration Center had arranged with the company that
had originally made the fabrics for the interiors of the Comets
to make up new fabric so that they could accurately recreate the
cabin interiors. (The 4C version Comets were built in 1960
My volunteer guide proudly showing the newly
built first class seats in the Comet.
The first class seats didn't actually look that wonderfully
comfortable, and while moderately wide, didn't have a huge
amount of leg room either.
Coach class looked reasonably generic, with only the greater
thickness of the seats pointing to their older design.
But look at one thing in both these pictures - the minute amount
of overhead space in both first and coach class. No
bringing rollaboards onto a Comet!
A view back into the coach class
section of the Comet.
One last comment about the Comet - a plane which deserves
its own web page (or pages). It was at about the same time
I was touring this plane in Everett that the last Comets were
finally retiring from active service (in their Hawker Siddeley
Nimrod variant) with the RAF, over 60 years after the first
flight of the Comet (1949).
Once the plane surmounted its early problems, it gave sterling
and reliable service for decades, but rather like the DC-10, it
suffered from an unfair bad reputation that prevented its future
But, back to the here and now of the Museum of Flight
Restoration Center. I emerged out of the Comet and
continued enjoying the rest of this amazing collection of planes
and parts of planes, just as you will too on your visit.
The Restoration Center is open Tuesday - Saturday from June
through August, and for the rest of the year, it is open
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. If you have an
interest in the 'behind the scenes' aspects of airplane
restoration, you'll find this a compelling and fascinating
For more details, see their
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25 March 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020
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