Monday, February 22, 2010

Boeing's Future of Flight

I'm a bit embarrassed to say I'd never been until yesterday, but I finally visited Boeing's facility at Paine Field and went on the Future of Flight tour they have there.  And I have to say, it is impressive.

Boeing has been building a number of planes at the facility for years, starting with the original 747 in the late 1960's.  They presently build the 747-8, 767, 777, and 787 there.  Given that all of these planes are large, a large building is required to house the assembly lines for them.

The building was built originally for the 747 manufacturing and subsequently expanded and has some staggering numbers associated with it as it is the worlds largest building in the world by volume:
  • 472 million cubic feet.
  • 4.3 million square feet, enough room for 75(!) football fields and you could fit Disneyland inside and have 12 acres to spare.
  • There are 6 Tully's coffee shops inside, including the highest volume Tully's in the world.
  • There are 2.33 miles of pedestrian tunnels below the factory.  The "short" direction they have tunnels running 1/6 of a mile.
  • Boeing has 1,300 bicycles in the factory to help employees get around.
  • There are 1 million light bulbs in the factory.
 There are more astounding numbers, too many to list here.  And inside, to see how the assembly lines work and see 6 assembly lines, each long enough to hold 5-6 complete or in progress aircraft is amazing.  Unfortunately they don't allow cameras inside so I don't have pictures, but you can see a few on Boeing's site.

I did take pictures outside as it was a absolutely gorgeous day (it doesn't rain all winter in Seattle) and Paine Field is a fantastic location with views of the Cascades (including Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier) and Olympics from the same spot.  I also managed to show several new planes on the flight line including some 787's and a new 777 for FedEx, and 2 of Boeing's Dream Lifters, which are used to fly in many of the already built components for the 787 so that the plane isn't so much built as it is assembled and can be done in only 3 days.  The Dream Lifters are the largest cargo planes in the world.

All in all, it was a great tour and I'm glad I went.  If you are interest in planes and flight and happen to be in the Seattle area, I highly recommend taking the tour.

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