Photos by Steve Shay
Nearly 30 Highline High Schoolers flew the maiden voyage of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 yesterday, May 6, one hour around Mount Rainier. Other passengers included King County Sheriff John Urquhart, pictured top, far right, and Highline High Scholl School Resources Officer with the Burien Police Department, Brian J. Barnes, pictured next to him. Pictured bottom, Captain Tom Rogers, right flew the aircraft.

Highline HS students take maiden voyage on Alaska Airlines' new 737

Nearly 30 Highline High School students were treated to the maiden voyage of a Boeing 737 yesterday, May 6, flying one hour around Mount Rainier, on the new Alaska Airlines plane. This was the first time some students had flown. Other passengers included two Scout troops, the co-ed Venturing branch, and Chief Seattle Council. Joining them were King County Sheriff John Urquhart, Highline High School Resources Officer with the Burien Police Department Brian J. Barnes, Veronica Asence, Miss Seafair 2012-13, additional SeaFair staff and others.

The skies were clear, and the jet took off at Boeing Field and landed at Sea-Tac Airport.

"We're here because the CEO of Alaska Airlines (Bradley D. Tilden) has taken delivery of the new plane (...) and we've been invited with Sheriff Urquhart to take a flight around Mount Rainier," said Barnes. "The students are from Highline High School, and some are with the King County Sheriff's Police Athletic Program."

"I think this is so exciting to see all these kids have the chance to go on a brand new airplane, and for the adults, too," said Sheriff Urquhart before boarding. "It's so cool that Boeing does this.

"You don't get a better officer than Brian," Urquhart said of Barnes, who was raised in Boston. "He's a perfect resource officer for all of us. Talk about 'Boston Strong', that's Brian."

"Boeing and Alaska Airlines have been longtime partners of Seafair," said Beth Knox, Seafair President and CEO . "Alaska Airlines is the title sponsor of the Torchlight Parade and Boeing is the sponsor of the air show. They strongly believe in supporting local community events. We have absolute fantastic partnerships with them."

She pointed out that that announcements about the Torchlight Parade will come later this week.

Flying the 737 was Alaska Airlines Captain Tom Rogers, pilot. "This is going to be a beautiful day for sightseeing," he grinned. "This plane has probably flown about 10 hours with Boeing, and Boeing has checked it out and made sure it was all safe. They then handed it over today to Alaska Airlines for the very first trip."

Rogers has been a pilot 34 years, about 24 of those with Alaska Airlines.

"This plane has an extended amount of seats, about 196 people, the 800 versions about 184, so a few more seats," he said. "It has all the new RNP (required navigation performance) equipment, GPS-based to fly greener skies, and other modern computer updates. It's a fabulous airplane. I'm very proud to fly these Boeing airplanes. I've flown a lot of different airplanes in my career and I really enjoy flying these.

"I am pumped up," exclaimed Highline High School sophomore Andre Bundalo, who plays soccer for the school. "The gum is for my ears," he said, chewing with purpose.

Senior Mariah Arbow said, I'm fine. I'm just nervous about flying."

Added her classmate Daisy, who appeared confident with the aircraft, "My dad worked on this plane. He's pretty proud of me. He just texted me."

"I actually went to Highline and I'm still there, waiting to leave after 30-some years," said the high school's academic dean, Royce Badley, of Normandy Park. "I know Brad Tilden. He was in my class at Highline. He was really smart, a studious kid. He was a nice guy. We just had a reunion and we said 'hi.' Officer Barnes has done a great job, doing a lot for our students in criminal justice."

Assistant Principal Paul Harvey added, "The students were selected either because they had aerospace interest or have done very well in school, so we have them coming as exploration and reward. We're trying to push the girls to do science and technology."

Several flight attendants were on board, including Susan Payne-Rao, whose name badge reads "Susan, committed to kindness."

"Boeing has provided lunches for the kids," she said, then quipped, "No martinis were being served on this flight.

"We will be walking around, talking to the kids," she added. "We are going to make sure their flight is safe and comfortable. It's like a brand new car inside. It's beautiful."

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