Monday, October 19, 2009

Seattle - Boeing

The main thing I wanted to do in Seattle was visit the Boeing factory at Everett about 30 miles north of Seattle. I found a tour ran by Gray Line, which was quite good. It was just the five of us, 2 middle age american couples, me and the very talkative driver in a small van. Although it was expensive, entry to the tour is only $15, but the tour cost about $50 all up, a nice little profit there.

The factory tour was fantastic. You drive out in a bus from the visitor's center across the airfield to the production building. There everyone get's out, goes dowin into a tunnel and then an elevator up to an observation deck.

Imagine a building big enough to fit a Boeing 747. Now imagine standing on the observation deck looking down on 5 747's in various states of construction, then looking up and seeing the ceiling far above. And this is just one of several production lines in the plant, the largest building by volume in the world. At the Everett factory they also produce the 767, 777 and the new 787, basically all the twin aisle Boeing's. From memory the building is 1km long and 500m wide.

The 747's we saw were the first examples of the 747-8 which is replacing the 747-400, which is now over 20 years old. The -8 has many improvements to aerodynamics and new engines borrowed from the 787. It is also stretched in length compared to the -400.

We also got to see the 777 and 787 production lines. I'm sure you've all read about the delays of the 787 in the paper. The guide was adamant that it would fly by the end of the year. We'll see... Of the 777, the ones that we saw under construction were going to Emirates (2) and Fed Ex (1). Emirates is the largest customer for the 777, the ones we could see were the 61st and 62nd for the airline.

As with all good tours, this tour ended at the gift shop. Being a plane geek, I was tempted to buy a model, but the bus driver was hurrying me up. I ended up being content with a t shirt and playing cards. The drive back to Seattle was slow, due to bumper to bumper rush hour traffic.

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