Remembering how Boeing helped bring The Beatles to America for their first-ever visit

Feb 5, 2024, 5:44 AM | Updated: 8:40 am

Boeing Beatles...

The Renton-built Boeing 707 that carried The Beatles on their first trip to America in 1964, seen one year earlier in Honolulu. (Courtesy Pan Am Archives)

(Courtesy Pan Am Archives)

Originally published February 7, 2022

When The Beatles came to America for the first time 60 years ago this week – on Feb. 7, 1964 – the four lads from Liverpool famously flew Pan American Airlines’ legendary trans-Atlantic “Clipper” service from London to New York.

The jetliner, which had the honor of carrying the mop-top quartet to the Big Apple for their triumphant appearance two days later on The Ed Sullivan Show was, perhaps not surprisingly, a Boeing 707. It was nicknamed Jet Clipper Defiance – with tail-number N704PA – and had been proudly built in the Pacific Northwest four years earlier, at the burgeoning civilian aviation giant’s historic Renton plant.

Sullivan’s “where-were-you-when” Sunday night variety program was broadcast live on Feb. 9 on the East Coast and in the Central Time Zone. Beatles fans in Seattle would have to wait a few hours to get their fix; the iconic show was seen via tape delay in Seattle at 8 p.m. Pacific Time on KIRO TV (and at the same hour via KVOS TV in Bellingham, and CBUT and CHEK in British Columbia).

And those same Seattle fans – and thousands of new ones – would have to wait even longer to see The Beatles in person. It would be another six months – and another trans-Atlantic flight – before the band returned to the U.S. and appeared at the Seattle Center Coliseum on August 21, 1964.

The Coliseum still stands, of course, though it’s been reimagined and transformed into Climate Pledge Arena. Jet Clipper Defiance, on the other hand, was not as fortunate. According to aviation blogger lore, after a decade and a half of peripatetic service for Pan Am and other airlines, the Beatle-bearing Boeing was broken up for scrap in Long Beach, California, in 1977. The band had been broken up for seven years by then.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks here.

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Remembering how Boeing helped bring The Beatles to America for their first-ever visit