Boeing celebrates Seahawks with 12th Man 747

·Christy Karras

As Seattle’s beloved Seahawks football team heads into Super Bowl weekend, the 12th Man flag — a blocky white 12 against a blue background, representing the team's fans — is flying over office buildings, hanging from balconies and even tethered atop the Space Needle.

Denver is equally festooned, of course, with blue and orange horse images representing its Broncos team. But Seattle has one thing that Denver doesn’t: a giant airplane manufacturing business.

Airplane maker Boeing, which was founded in Seattle and is still the Puget Sound area’s largest employer, is celebrating the local team in its own way: It’s just unveiled a 747-8 in 12th Man livery.

The plane, a cargo version of Boeing’s largest aircraft and the largest plane built in the U.S., is decked out with the Seahawks logo across its side and that blocky 12 on its tail. Why the 12? The idea is that the fans, some of the NFL's loudest, are so helpful to the team that they're the equivalent of having 12 Seahawks players on the field during games rather than the usual 11. (Texas A&M, the first to widely use the term, still owns the copyright but allows the Seahawks to use it.)

Now being used for flight testing, the plane took off on its inaugural flight Thursday morning. and a special flight tracker allowed fans to follow online as the plane traced a 12-shaped route through the skies of Washington state. By late afternoon, the 12 was complete.

Boeing has long had a partnership with the Seahawks, so using the official logo was no problem.

"The Seahawks have been an inspiration to our entire community throughout this incredible season," Boeing commercial airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner said in a statement. "We're honored that we could join together two Northwest icons, the Seahawks and the 747, for this special salute from the entire Boeing team."

Among the Seahawks-related “fun facts” on Boeing’s website: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's longest pass this season, 80 yards (240 feet), was almost the same length as a 747-8 fuselage (243.5 feet). Wilson threw for 3,357 yards this season, similar to the runway takeoff distance for a 747-8. The release also points out that the infamously loud Seahawks fans' Guinness World Record for crowd noise is about 38 times louder than the 747-8’s engines.

Of course, fans of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would point out that no airplane in the world would need a long enough runway to match up to Manning’s 5,477 total yards this season.

Boeing is not the only travel-related company getting in on the action: For weeks now, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has offered priority boarding to passengers wearing Seahawks jerseys. Denver-based Frontier Airlines employees have been wearing Broncos jerseys to work at Denver International Airport.