Introduction

The reason why I have always been intrigued Boeing Factory is that I’ve always been a plane watcher.  Conveniently, I live right underneath the route of all domestic and international flights coming into San Francisco International Airport.  Thankfully, I am in a location where I can still see the iconic Boeing 747 planes. The sheer size, quad engines, and unmistakable hump to me, represent the pinnacle of commercial airline flying.

I have seen commercial flights quickly being replaced with smaller plans, more technology, more electronics, and to me, more gimmicks. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in the two most unique locations for commercial aircrafts.  Seat 1A in First class and the second floor of the Boeing 747.   Since the cockpit on a 747 is on the second floor, Seat 1A is the closest to the nose of the plane that you can possibly get. The view is not so great because of the severe tapering where the nose of the plane is, but to me it’s more of a novelty. The top floor of the 747 is just plain cool, knowing that you are sitting in that unmistakable hump that everyone sees from afar.

With airlines quickly decommissioning the 747s, I wanted to make sure I went to visit the Boeing Factory in Everett Washington before it became extinct. I believe it is a must visit for anyone interesting in travel or aviation, as it is a quick 25 minute ride from downtown Seattle. Tickets for the 90-minuted guided tour are easily reserved online at www.thefutureofflight.org for a mere $20 dollars. Tours are on the every hour/half hour and start at 9:00AM PST until mid afternoon.

Boeing Factory Tour

The Boeing Factory tour consists of:

  • a quick introductory video in a theater
  • Shuttling you to the actual factory
  • Free admission to the Future of Flight Aviation Center Gallery, which is an interactive exhibit where you can learn about airplane design, materials, and jet engines.

You can also get a panoramic view of the factory from the Strato Deck.

Factory Tour

The Boeing Factory claims the factory is the largest in the world.  It also has the largest mural in the world across its factory walls. The factory was built in 1967 to usher in the new era of commercial airline travel. It employs 30,000 employees in a 472 million cubic feet facility. I’ve seen pictures of the facility, but to see it is in person was simply amazing. The facility is so large that you can’t even see the entire factory with your normal field of vision unless you are at least a quarter of mile away from it. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed in the production facility.  We did guide a guided tour of select parts of the factory where we got to see the 747, 777, and 787 production lines.

It’s amazing how tight the fit is in the factory.  It felt like the edge of the wings were right up to the edge of the building. To my surprise, even on the weekend there were people working, most on the interiors of the plane.  We also got to see the planes being primed for painting.   One the way back we were fortunate enough to see a Boeing Dreamlifter, as there are only 4 of them ever made. The Dreamlifter is a heavily modified boing 747-400 that was designed to carry the components for the 787 plane. Interestingly enough, the tail and rear portion of the plane is designed to actually swing open to allow easy access to the cargo.

Future of Flight Aviation Center

Up next on the Boeing Factory Tour, I got to learn about engine design, going into details such as turbine design and shape.  Besides that, the aviation center had a cross section of a 787 to showcase the carbon ceramic fuselage. Next to it was an exhibit showcasing the new 777-X was also on display. Most noteworthy, the 777-X takes the learnings from the 787 Dreamliner and applies it to a larger aircraft. Instead of just flexing, the tips of the wings on the 777-x actual fold, taking only 20 seconds.

Learnings

Here’s a couple of interesting facts that I learned from the factory tour:

  1. You can recognize a Boeing 777 plane by it’s unique landing gear structure, where each one has six wheels, as opposed to the normal 4.
  1. The 787 wings are designed to flex up to 25 feet in the wake of turbulence.
  1. There is no air conditioning in the factory.  As a result, temperature is regulated through the opening of the factory panels and fans to cool it down.  Conversely, they use of light bulbs to heat it up.
  1. Boeing’s plane’s are always 3 digits and start and end with a 7 because in the late 1940s, each division had a different model numbers. (300s = military, 500s = turbine engines, 600s = rockets, 700 = commercial). Interestedly enough, Boeing’s marketing department didn’t feel that the name Boeing 700 sounded flashy enough.  As a result, they named it the 707 to make it sound better, and thus starting the naming trend.

As they say in the Boeing world,

“If it ain’t a Boeing, I ain’t a-going!”

Until next time,
Team GTE


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