A lot of people got really excited when the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft took off from their testing airfield outside Seattle, Washington, on December 15, 2009.
But traveling to Tucson, Arizona, 11 days later (December 26), I spotted the Dreamlifter, or Boeing’s modified 747-400 large cargo lifter. It looks like a 747 (the largest passenger plane until the Airbus A380 came along) with a hunchback (or broad shoulders). I didn’t see it flying, but I saw it a couple miles away from a highway while it sat and waited for something at the Pinal Airpark. Pinal Airpark hosts a boneyard for unneeded airplanes; Northwest Airlines keeps many planes there (see photo at end).
The plane is unmistakable, even from a distance. Measuring perpendicularly from I-10 (going southeast), the runway is 2.6 miles from the road. I believe this plane sat about .2 miles closer, on the maintenance tarmac.
However, it’s more likely the Dreamlifter is waiting for a fixup at the on-site Evergreen Aircraft Maintenance Center. Evergreen International Airlines (unrelated to the Evergreen Group of shipping companies in China) operates the Large Cargo Lifters for Boeing. The Dreamlifter is named such because it typically carries parts from suppliers around the world to the Boeing assembly plant in Everett, Washington.
And not to be outdone, Airbus has a funnier looking plane called the Beluga.
A satellite photo from July 2, 2005, shows the many Northwest Airlines planes parked at the Pinal Airpark boneyard. Their red livery gives them away.