December 5th, 2011
There are a large number of Boeing facilities dotted around Seattle and Everett in Washington state, but the main aircraft factory for construction of Boeing 747, 767, 777 and the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft is at Paine Field in Mukilteo near Everett. The Boeing 737 is built in Renton in southern Seattle.
The Mukilteo location is where you can tour the Future Of Flight Centre (explore the dynamics of flight, airliner jet engines and new aviation innovations) and go on the 90 minute Boeing Factory Tour. This is the only place you can tour a commercial jet assembly plant in North America.
At the Future Of Flight there is also a great outdoor observation deck where you can look over to the factory buildings and also the vast flightline of completed/near completed Boeing aircraft awaiting painting or the fitting of engines.
This Boeing factory was first constructed between 1966-68 (with many additions since) to build the then new 747 Jumbo Jet and is the world’s largest building by volume (472,000,000 cubic feet or 13,385,378 cubic meters) with a footprint covering 98.3 acres (the original 747 factory was less than half this size, with extra additions in 1980 and 1993 bringing it to the current size)! Big enough to fit all of Disneyland plus its car parks! It stands 11 stories high, has 38,000 employees who work one of the 3 shifts that operate 24 hours a day, there are numerous restaurants and coffee shops for staff (one coffee shop is apparently the busiest in Washington state). This place is seriously massive!
Before you board the bus to head over to the factory you need to leave behind your camera, phone, bags and weapons (!), they check and double check that no one has any of these items, then you watch a short introductory movie about Boeing aircraft and how aviation innovations have improved production and flight opportunities. Then you are on your way.
Upon arrival you are immediately dwarfed by the building which has 6 massive aircraft hanger like doors which are each apparently the size of a US football field! You enter the factory by an underground service tunnel (which you can barely see the end of – just a distant light).
After walking half way down the tunnel you go up by elevator to look over the factory floor to see on both sides of the observation deck the new 747-8 Intercontinental passenger and freighter aircraft production line (a bigger version of the 747 design). The first impression of the cavernous building from inside is awe-inspiring. There are roof mounted cranes that can lift up to 40 tonnes (i.e. a fully loaded semi-trailer truck) and a vast array of equipment, scaffolding and productions lines to build these massive aircraft in front of you. Workers are all over the place under, inside and on top of the many aircraft under various states of construction along the production lines. Plus you can see all the various parts that need to be fitted to the aircraft. Impressive to say the least!
Then you board the bus again to head down to where they are building 767, 777 and the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft (a highly fuel effecient and technologically advanced airliner that is built from composite materials). This production area is different to the 747 section (which has static construction i.e. built in the one spot) because it is a moving production line where the aircraft go in a U shaped line with each section adding new components and ends in the completed aircraft being rolled out the front doors and taken to the nearby massive paint hangers.
This was my second visit to the factory, the first being on a holiday visit to Seattle in 2009 but I still had the excitement of that first visit. It is such an impressive building and factory to see. Back then the 747-8 and 787 Dreamliner was not in production, so the factory layout and aircraft had changed significantly and there is always something new to see. A great tour!