If you ever win the lottery and have a spare $300 million, I would highly recommend heading to Everett, Washington and visit the world’s largest building to feast your eyes on the variety of amazing works of art on offer. Located about 30 miles north of Seattle, Everett may not have been a particularly famous location around the world had it not been for one brand that has placed this town on the global market – Boeing!
Interested in learning more about the brand new 787 Dreamliner or perhaps you want to see just how the 747’s are constructed. All of this plus much more is available throughout the tour of Boeing’s factory and I have to say this is well worth the admission alone.
Heading to Seattle, visiting the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour was number 1 on my to-do list. I have a keen interest in aviation, not only because of my love of traveling but because of the cool engineering concepts that go into the design and manufacturing of planes.
If it’s not Boeing, I’m Not Going!
This is the slogan and philosophy that you hear throughout the neighborhood that plays home to Boeing’s manufacturing headquarters. The world of aviation is unlike many other industries as they really are only two primary, commercial airline providers – Boeing and Airbus. Well, after experiencing the Future of Flight Museum and taking the Boeing Factory tour, there will only be one brand on your mind and definitely with good reason.
Future of Flight Visitor Center
Approaching Everett from Seattle, the first thing that you notice is the vast space devoted to Boeing and the internal city that makes up this manufacturing behemoth. After parking outside the visitor center, we made our way inside and immediately noticed lockers near the entrance apparently for all of your technology goods.
Throughout the tour you cannot take any electronics with you including cameras, cell phones or anything similar. I would highly encourage you to leave them in your vehicle if you drive there or alternatively take advantage of one of these lockers. Don’t worry; there are plenty of opportunities for taking pictures later!
Tours are available throughout the day and depending on the time you arrive, this will determine whether you can explore the Future of Flight museum in the basement lobby of the visitor center prior to or after your tour. We opted to explore this later.
Touring the Boeing Factory
The moment the clock struck 2:30PM, we were first in line to start the tour of the Boeing factory. The tour actually starts in the visitor center with a short movie presenting a little history of Boeing and also some eye catching shots of Boeing’s newest designs in the aviation industry.
After hearing the typical rules and regulations and yet another reminder of no electronics, we are lead outside to our tour bus and the start of our 90-minute tour of the factory. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, friendly and always willing to answer questions throughout the guided tour.
747 Product Line
A short drive outside of the Boeing plant leads you to the entrance of the manufacturing plant and the first stop on the tour is the 747-product line. The tour guide actually leads you under the plant into the tunnels that house all the networking, electricity cables and other ‘behind the scenes’ activities that ensure the Boeing factory runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
The magnitude of the factory in terms of size is really noticed here when you stare down the tunnel and can barely see the end! I already mentioned earlier the size of the factory was equivalent to around 75 football fields, but statistically speaking it is the world’s largest building by volume at 472,370,319 cubic feet and its footprint covers over 98 acres.
Heading up the elevator to the third floor you are immediately thrown into the manufacturing line of production and the impressive sight of the 747’s are right in front of your very eyes. As you learn about the various manufacturing phases in the production of Boeing’s largest plane, the 747-8 series, you can peer around the factory and note the size and scope of the crane systems used to maneuver these planes around.
I have always been impressed by Boeing’s 747 series, and watching this in production really put into perspective our long haul flight from Dallas to Brisbane on one of these avionic marvels.
A Clockwork Manufacturing Process
Everything in the process really does seem to work like clockwork! Whether the reality of this is as smooth as we are lead to believe, I’m not sure but given the size of these planes Boeing is clearly doing something right especially when you hear the volume of planes they are able to produce every year.
If you are interesting in reading about all the commercial airline news releases related to Boeing, I would highly recommend checking out Boeing’s website – it really does provide interesting reading!
The lean manufacturing concept is really emphasized here in Everett though I would suggest that Boeing takes this to the next level with the efficiency and overall effectiveness of their processes.
777/787 Product Line
The next stop on the tour takes visitors to the other end of the factory and the home of both the 777 and the all-new 787 Dreamliner series. The moving line production system is certainly evident with the 777-product line. The robotics and cranes that are used to move all of the parts into place is mesmerizing yet at the same time it puts into perspective how technological advancements have really helped this industry.
The highlight of this tour is saved until the end when you are introduced to the next generation design of the 787 Dreamliner. What makes this so different? The Dreamliner is made of composite materials including carbon fiber, which makes this a revolutionary design in comparison to anything previously manufactured by any aviation company.
Lightweight, robust and an overall smoother flight are all components that excite airlines and we are already seeing a variety of global buyers of the 787. I am convinced we will see many more airlines adding these to their fleets in the near future, simply because they offer the opportunity for reduced costs both for the airline and consumer.
I stood in the factory looking down at the final touches being added to a brand new Dreamliner apparently purchased by Turkish Airlines. It’s interesting to see on all the new planes being manufactured, a banner indicating the airline and a number representing how many of that series the airline has in their fleet. E.g. The Dreamliner was the first 787 in the fleet of Turkish Airlines.
Paine Field and Paint Hangars
After leaving the manufacturing plant, we are lead back to our tour bus and driven around the paint hangars along with gaining a better views of Paine Field, the runway that debuts many of these gorgeous planes for the first time.
Paine Field is a hub for test flights and of course test pilots of both Boeing and prospective airlines can frequently be seen here taking these aircraft around the Seattle region.
The Observation Deck
The culmination of the 90-minute tour leaves you in the gift shop and you can then head to the Future of Flight museum and the observation deck where you may be fortunate enough to see one of these new planes on one of their test flights.
Here is your opportunity to take as many pictures as you want! Looking over Paine Field to the variety of planes that are standing outside the hangars waiting patiently to be collected by their new owners is a really cool experience especially when you consider just how much money is standing on that tarmac.
You can also see the Dreamlifter which is a specially configured 747 designed to carry parts for the 787 Dreamliner.
Do you remember reading about the Dreamlifter landing and subsequently taking off from Wichita Airport in Kansas? If you are familiar with Wichita’s airport, you will be astounded that a beast the size of the Dreamlifter was able to get airborne from such a short runway but that’s the beauty of aviation and technology!
Future of Flight Museum
After exploring the magnitude that is the Boeing factory tour and seeing these amazing planes from the observation deck, you can spend some time exploring the Future of Flight museum. Here you can learn more about the engines that power these flying machines, powered both by Rolls Royce and GE.
Alternatively you can sit inside the cockpit of one of these planes or even design your very own plane that perhaps will one day become a future Boeing design.
During peak season, if you pre-purchase your tickets online, admission is $18 for adults and $12 for under 15’s. I can assure you that this will be the best money you spend while in Washington because this is an enjoyable, entertaining and exhilarating attraction.
The next time you step on a Boeing plane, think about all the intricate details that go into the design and manufacturing of this form of transportation. Maybe this will convince you that taking a trip to the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour is a great idea!
Disclaimer – We would like to thank the Future of Flight Museum for providing us with 2 complimentary tickets for this visit. The content of this post are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.