Up near Seattle, there’s a feast for the eyes of aviation geeks at Paine Field. It’s a small airport located next to the Boeing Everett factory, which is the primary assembly location for Boeing’s biggest jets, the 747, 767, 777 and 787.
It’s also the place where Boeing “delivers” its big jets to airline customers with great fanfare.
When you are dealing with flying behemoths like 747s it’s tough to keep secrets. But based on the photo above, which has been circulating in aviation circles for the past few days, it appears that Boeing has something under wraps.
What could it be?
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Clearly what we see in the photo is a Boeing 747-8, the only 747 variant that Boeing still manufactures at Everett. This one is the -8f meaning it’s a freighter vs the -8i for passengers. (You can tell by looking at the shorter, non-extended bubble.)
But why the brown paper wrapping? Is it a gift for someone? Perhaps a big new cargo jet appropriately destined for the United Parcel Service fleet?
I reached out to a Boeing spokesperson to inquire about this, and he said, “We are making some adjustments to our 747 Everett paint process, and this airplane has been partially painted and awaiting the next paint phase. The wrap is to protect the exterior of the airplane.”
Who’s it for, I asked. “We can’t disclose the customer,” he said.
So I asked Matt Cawby, who took the photo and put it on the PaineAirport.com website if he knew. His reply: “The airplane was in the paint hangar last, today it’s at the fuel dock. I have no idea why it is entirely masked off.”
In the end, it’s likely true that we’ve just caught a 747 in the middle of a paint job, but it sure makes you wonder!
— UPS Airlines (@UPSAirlines) July 13, 2017