I always associated Boeing with Seattle, so I was a little surprised to learn that the company – the largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft in the world – had moved its headquarters to Chicago. Nevertheless, Boeing’s biggest factory is still in the Seattle metropolitan area near Everett, next to Paine Field Airport in Mukilteo which it uses for testing and delivery. In fact, Boeing’s Everett factory is the largest building in the world (by volume), covering nearly 100 acres! That’s it on the left in the photo, below.
On Monday, we drove to Boeing’s Future of Flight Air Center and took the factory tour where we saw the assembly lines for the 747 jumbo jet, the 777 and the brand new 787 Dreamliner. The Dreamliner is Boeing’s first carbon composite airplane; all the others have been built from aluminum. That change is supposed to increase fuel efficiency by 25%. No photos were allowed during the tour, but this photo I found on the web shows what it looked like on the 777 assembly line.
Boeing modeled its moving assembly line on the process used by Toyota. The line, itself, creeps along at 2 inches per minute. Component sections are built in factories around the world and then flown to Everett where they are assembled into a completed aircraft. Boeing has modified four wide-body 747s that it calls its Dreamlifters, turning them into cargo planes used to haul these components around the world; two of the Dreamlifters were on the tarmac next to the museum when we visited,
And here you can see where the Dreamlifters have to go to retrieve all the components; the cockpit comes from Wichita, Kansas, the tail fuselage from Charleston, South Carolina, the rudder, horizontal stabilizers and elevators from Foggia, Italy, and the wings from Nagoya, Japan:
In 2013, the Everett plant produced just under two 747s each month, selling for $357 Million each, in addition to delivering 440 model 737s, 21 model 767s, 98 model 777s and 65 model 787s, priced at $90M, $188M, $300M and $288M, respectively, which, according to my calculations, is just over $100 Billion in sales from this single factory! After the 90-minute factory tour, we spent another hour in the Future of Flight museum where we were able to get up close and personal with the Rolls Royce and GE jet engines used on the 787 which cost an unbelievable $50 Million each!.
The landing gear was also impressive.
But there’s nothing like getting behind the controls of one of these babies. Hey, wait a minute, I’m in the copilot’s seat!
But, I’ve saved the best for last. Over the weekend, our daughter, Kelly, got engaged! Her boyfriend, now fiancé – our future son-in-law – Casey, called for our blessing on Saturday and on Sunday, Kelly called with the good news, followed by a photo of her ring:
We’ll be Boeing home soon to give them both big, congratulatory hugs!