The Northwest Boeing 747-200 taken at Kansai International Airport - Photo: Ken Fielding

Our Northwest Boeing 747-200 (reg: N642NW & name: Madison) taken at Kansai International Airport in 1999 – Photo: Ken Fielding

I have a soft place in my heart for Northwest Boeing 747-200s. My first time flying in a 747, my first time flying as an unaccompanied minor, and my first time being able to ride in the nose section was all on one of those birds. Even though that was at the age of five, it was very exciting and has stayed with me.

Anytime I see a photo of one of these aircraft, I wonder if it is the one that I flew on. I have no way of knowing, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to get to know more about the life of every Northwest 747-200 that I come across.

Taken in Aug 2004 - Photo: saku_y | FlickrCC

A photo taken of Madison in Aug 2004 – Photo: saku_y | FlickrCC

Not long ago, I documented the life of a Lockheed L1011 (which I named Martin). I have fun tracking down the lives (and often the deaths) of classic airliners and I enjoyed sharing Martin’s journey with you all (and many of you seemed to get a kick out of it as well). When I came across N642NW, a Northwest 747-200, I thought her history was pretty interesting and worth sharing.

I have decided to name this classic beauty Madison for two main reasons. During my trip (explained above), I flew from Seattle to Minneapolis to visit my uncles and we spent some time in Madison, WI. I might have also had a boyhood crush at the time on Madison from the movie Splash (played by Daryl Hannah). Either way, we can say that I like the name and I like the plane, so it works!

Now, let’s take a look at Madison’s birth, how she lived, and if she is still around today.

The Boeing 747-200 flying under Singapore livery ant reg 9V-SQQ - Photo: contri | FlickrCC

The Boeing 747-200 flying under Singapore livery and reg 9V-SQQ – Photo: contri | FlickrCC

Madison was Line Number 471 and was born at Boeing’s factory in Everett, WA (where every 747 has been built). She first flew on September 11, 1980 and was quickly delivered to Singapore Airlines on September 25th with registration 9V-SQQ. She served Singapore well for about 12.5 years before being wet-leased to Garuda Indonesia Airlines in April of 1994.

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This is not our gal Madison (it is reg PK-GSE), but this is how she looked in full Garuda livery - Photo: AeroIcarus | FlickrCC

This is not our gal Madison (it is reg PK-GSE), but this is how she looked in full Garuda livery. She kept the reg 9V-SQQ during her time with Garuda. – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

She was not the only 747 that Singapore Airline leased to Garuda. While she ended up with a full Garuda paint scheme, others had interesting combination liveries (and I always love those).

In May of 1996, Garuda returned Madison to Singapore Airlines and she was stored. Then in July of the same year, she was sold to Northwest Airlines.

Madison strutting her strut fairings in Amsterdam in 2002 - Photo: Ken Fielding

Madison strutting her strut fairings in Amsterdam in 2002 (pretty proud of that one) – Photo: Ken Fielding

Madison was painted in the “Bowling Shoe” Northwest livery, which I have always loved. The previous livery never made sense to me since it has a big blue cheat line that never makes it to the nose of the airplane. I liked the look of the last NWA livery (which Madison never wore), but it always bothered me (like a lot) that its tail and body had the “compass” pointing to the Northeast on the starboard side.

Our lovey 747-200 flew for Northwest for just over eight years before she was retired to the Arizona desert. When a plane goes to the desert, things normally do not get better from there. Would she live out her days in the sun; slowly die from being parted out; be destroyed and recycled; or be put into cargo service for a few more hard lived years before inevitably still ending up back in the desert? Luckily, none of the above for our Madison!

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She sat waiting for her destiny in the hot sun for three years before she was bought by Evergreen Aircraft Sales & Leasing. In December of 2007 she had a little (okay maybe big) nose job,  and her complete front section (Section 41) was carefully removed and shipped to the Tokyo Museum of Aeronautical Sciences, where she still lives today.

Museum of Aeronautical Sciences near Tokyo Narita

Museum of Aeronautical Sciences near Tokyo Narita – Photo: Alec Wilson
| FlickrCC

She was painted in the colors of the first Boeing 747-100, and is a much-loved exhibit at the museum. You can even see the classic Northwest logo right in the middle, above the 8th and 9th windows. How cool, right?

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Madison will live on and give happiness to those who visit her for many years to come. And when the museum is ready to sell her, there might be a crazy AvGeek out there (like me) who will want to buy her and bring her home. Although I might have a hard time getting HOA and (more importantly) wife approval!

I want to give a huge thanks to my pal Ken Fielding, who not only has a lot of amazing airline photos on Flickr, but for also providing so much detail about their history. He always inspires me to learn more about the aircraft that I love so much! 

the history of one boeing 747 200 named madison 8

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER – SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]