Wednesday, September 05, 2012

PNW Roadtrip: Boeing Tour

Everyone who knows me knows I'm an airplane nerd.  Any trip to Seattle wouldn't be complete unless we visited the Boeing Factory.  We scheduled this tour a few weeks out and planned to attend the 10h30 tour. Boeing suggested we arrive no later than 30 minutes before our tour, so we could get checked in and be ready to go right at 10h30.  The hotel said we should leave no later than 8h45 to be in Everett Washington by 10h00. We listened.  We arrived around 9h10.  Luckily the Boeing people were able to get us on the 09h30 tour.

The tour really was a production tour. We started by watching a history of the Boeing Company film in the tour center.  We then immediately boarded a bus (there were several tours going on when we were there) and headed over to the facility that constructs the 777, 767 and the 787. We weren't allowed to take photos in the facility.

The Boeing facility was changed a few years ago (I forget how long ago), so the planes move between construction stations in a U shape inside of the bay instead of moving in a linear production line, this increases efficiency. I am doing a very bad job of describing this, but when you see it, you'll see what I mean. It makes a lot of sense when they explain it properly

I was really there to see the 787 and we sure did. We saw a handful in production and a TON outside, painted and ready for (or in the the process of) flight testing with the owner airlines.  We even got to see the United 787 that is set for delivery in the coming weeks and will begin commercial domestic service in November.

Evidently Boeing splits the required payments for their airplanes into 3 equal payments. The first equal payment is due upon signing of the order, the second is due when production begins and the third and final payment is due before they completed aircraft is painted.

The 787 is built in various facilities throughout the US and are set for final assembly in Everett Washington. To get these big plane components to Everett, they fly in on the DreamLifter - a 747 with an extended cargo area.  In the picture below, you can see the tail is hinged -- this is where all the loading and unloading takes place.

DreamLifter Unloading 787 Components
Two ANA 787s waiting for
testing and customer pickup
JAL and United 787s
Various 747s
United first 787 - the first 787
for a US Carrier
Emirates and Qatar 787s
LAN's 787
Since we couldn't bring cameras on the tour, all these photos are taken from the parking lot -- pretty cool, eh?  Boeing is increasing production of the 787 and will ramp up to 10+ 787s being released each month by the end of the year.  How fantastic. Too bad not many US  carriers are buying these.  Thankfully Continental put an order in for this great plane -- and now United has it.

We also took part in a focus group, trying out two new Boeing Interiors. Honestly, I didn't see much difference between the two, other than the seats were slimmer (I don't mean more narrow, just the seats took up less space).  It was just a mock up, but I wasn't really sold on the whole thing.

I really enjoyed the Boeing tour. Seeing the planes and the construction process was pretty interesting. I am a big nerd when it comes to aviation, but this was totally worth the visit.  One phrase we heard multiple times on the tour: "If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going".

Have you taken the Boeing Tour before?  When traveling do you enjoy taking factory tours like this?

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1 comment:

Martina Jolie said...

If I want my marriage to survive this honeymoon road trip I know I have to stop offering my special helpful tips for driving in foreign lands. So now, whenever we are heading into a traffic situation where I think my opinion could be particularly useful, I just take a deep breath and close my eyes. I'm learning to be a good wife.
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