UPDATE: Consider this avgeek mystery solved. See the italicized text at the end for the thrilling conclusion.
I have an aviation geek (avgeek, for short) mystery on my hands. It’s this photo.
Believe it or not, that’s me. I’m pretty sure I’m 5 years old. I’m definitely making my first visit to Phoenix from Chicago. That’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. And, in a throwback to the days of Catch Me if You Can when airline pilots were semi-celebrities, I’m posing on the apron with the captain.
Now, here’s the avgeek mystery: What is that plane?
For the longest time, I thought it was a TWA 707. But I no longer think so. The red stripe is perfectly rectangular, where the TWA red stripe tapered. My best guess is that it’s a Western Airlines plane.
I’m also no longer sure that it’s a 707. First off, it doesn’t appear to have a tandem landing gear. Also, there are only two windows between the two doors, where I believe the 707 had three. That made the Boeing 727 my lead suspect.
But there’s also a ridge on the wing that I haven’t seen before on a 727, so I’m uncertain.
Is there an avgeek out there who can solve this mystery for me?
On a related note, how cool would it be if people these days still recognized the skills involved in flying a commercial aircraft full of paying passengers? I see way too many people saying stuff about how “these planes practically fly themselves.”
Yeah, right. I’d love to put someone in a 737 flight simulator and see if they could even manage to figure out how to start the thing up.
Update: I posted a link to this post in the Boeing Airplanes community on Google+. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable people there soon had me convinced that this was a 727. But what about the airline? It took this photo of a Western Airlines 727 at Sky Harbor to confirm for me that the 727 in my photo was a Western Airlines plane. Thanks to Henrik for digging up that photo on airliners.net. Great work, avgeek detectives!