AUBURN — The Lufthansa 747 jet never touched down at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, but it left quite an impression.
The jet, on its way from Germany to a Lufthansa facility in Mississippi, dipped low over the regional airport Tuesday morning as a show of respect and corporate goodwill to the co-workers on the ground who are rebuilding a historic Constellation aircraft housed at the airport.
"It was just for us," said Michael Austermeier, director of operations at the Lufthansa Teknik Group working in Auburn. "(The 747) is being retired. After 30 years in service, it's going to become scrap."
The local group is working to rebuild the 55-year-old Lockheed Super Constellation. When the job is done, sometime in 2013, the propeller-powered plane will be put into service for promotional and VIP flights.
Andreas Gherman, senior project manager in Auburn, had contacts with the flight crew taking the 747 named "D.A. Victor Bravo" to its final resting place in Mississippi.
After a stop in Bangor to refuel, the jet turned southward. The pilots and company officials got permission to do a fly-by at the Auburn facility and notified local airport officials about 15 minutes before the plane arrived.
The 747 circled the airport once, then came in low over runway 4-22 from the south, coming within 300 feet of the runway before zooming up and off again.
"It was just a visit showing how valuable this project is to the company, a sign of appreciation," Austermeier said.
Airport Manager Rick Cloutier said he received a few calls from neighbors wondering what was going on.
The airport's runway isn't long enough to handle such a large jet taking off and landing, but a runway expansion is proposed.
"We could land a 747 here if it had no passengers and was empty on fuel," Cloutier said. "We land 737 business jets here all the time."