Museum of Science & Industry

May 13, 2021

CHICAGO — The popular Boeing 727 at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) reopens in a new exhibit that celebrates the historic United Airlines plane and explores how the airline industry connects people around the world.  

More than 25 years after MSI first unveiled Take Flight, the new exhibit invites guests aboard a commercial airliner that made history during the early age of jet travel.

“United’s 727 airplane, dramatically positioned high above the Museum’s main floor, has been a one-of-a-kind sight that has amazed millions of guests. We’re excited to showcase the plane in a new way that highlights modern advances in aviation,” said MSI President and CEO Chevy Humphrey. 

The project involved restoring and highlighting the plane’s interior and creating brand-new interactives to bring flying to life. Guests will discover what made the airliner soar, explore changes in the airline industry, and understand the science of flying.

The plane’s fuselage bears the name of Captain William Norwood, the first African-American pilot for United, whose story is featured in the exhibit. A 150-foot display takes guests on a behind-the-scenes journey from aircraft assembly to takeoff, showcasing the variety of careers and people working in aviation. This spectacular wall reveals the complex systems that help people build new planes, manage airport operations and track flights and passengers all around the world.

“As pioneers and innovators in commercial aviation, United Airlines is proud of the relationship we’ve shared with MSI and its guests over the last 35 years,” said Suzi Cabo, managing director of global community engagement for United Airlines. “MSI has done a remarkable job reimagining the Take Flight exhibit showcasing some our talented United employees and sparking curiosity, discussion and education about science and aviation.”

Exhibit highlights include:

  • Aviation history: See a section of the 727 as it looked on its first flights in 1964 and imagine being one of its first passengers. Outside the plane, suspended above the balcony is a “flock” of models of 25 influential airliners from 1911 to futuristic concepts that make flying more sustainable and comfortable.
  • How it works: We peeled back the skin of the airplane to show mechanical, electronic and hydraulic systems. Guests can see wings, engines, landing gear, lavatories and even the fabled black box. A glass floor shows the cables and pulleys used to steer the plane, while a media presentation demonstrates the 727’s technology in action, from takeoff to landing. The newly conserved cockpit explains how pilots communicate, navigate and fly.
  • Your body during flight: Learn about the science behind side effects passengers may experience at high altitudes, like turbulence and dehydration, and ways to overcome them.

Guests can talk to United Airlines pilots who volunteer at the exhibit, sharing stories about their career and answering questions about how planes fly. 

The Boeing 727 memorably landed at Meigs Field on September 28, 1992 on a runway not built for jet airliners. The plane was taken apart – and one of the Museum’s columns was removed – so that it could be moved inside while a crowd of thousands watched. The original Take Flight exhibit opened in 1994 and was visited by over 30 million guests before closing for renovation on Oct. 5, 2020.

“Boeing is proud to support the Take Flight exhibit that gives visitors a unique and inspiring perspective on the history and science of flight,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief engineer, executive vice president of engineering, test and technology, and MSI board member. “We hope MSI visitors for years to come will enjoy learning about the pilots, engineers and mechanics who make air travel possible.”

Take Flight is included in Museum Entry.

Take Flight is supported by Boeing and United Airlines.