Seattle, WA Part II: Boeing
The Boeing Company is the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world in terms of revenue. The plant that manufactures the line of wide-body commercial aircraft is located in Everett, WA, where about 29,000 workers are employed. Everett is a suburb of Seattle and the Boeing plant is located only about 20 minutes north of where we were staying.
The Everett Plant has a visitor center and offers tours of the manufacturing facility. We heard the tour was excellent, so we headed up Everett. The entrance to the visitor center, which is called Future of Flight, is shown in the photo below.
William Boeing made his initial fortune in the timber industry. When he and a friend rode with an airplane with a barnstormer in the early days of flight, they decided they could design a better airplane. The Boeing Company was founded by William Boeing as the Pacific Aero Products Co. in 1916.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Boeing made many advancements in aircraft design. They started their own airline in 1927 that would be split off as United Airlines in 1934. During WWII, Boeing manufactured 350 bombers a month for the war effort. Many of the workers were women whose husbands had gone off to war.
After the war, the orders for bombers were canceled, but Boeing continued manufacturing military jets in addition to its commercial airliners. In the 1950s, the Cold War provided new opportunities for Boeing to manufacture short-range guided missiles used to intercept enemy aircraft.
In the late 1960s, Boeing began development of the 747, the first wide-body aircraft. Wide body refers to the fact the aircraft fuselage is wide enough to have two passenger aisles. After almost 40 years, the 747 is still in production and going strong. The latest model is the 747-8, which has just started in production replacing the 747-400.
The manufacturing plant at Everett builds all Boeing's current wide-body aircraft which include the 747, 767, 777, and 787. The 787 is the newest model that has recently begun production. We got to see the prototype, which will undergo destructive testing and will never be flown, as well as 787 numbers 1 and 2, which are currently undergoing pre-certification testing. The first six planes will soon be used for flight certification. Even though the 787 is so new it hasn't even flown yet, the orders are booked up until 2017.
The plant at Everett is the largest building in the world in terms of volume. It covers 98.3 acres and has enough room inside for six Empire State Buildings lying on their sides with room to spare or for 75 NFL football fields with space left over or all of Disneyland (California) with 12 acres leftover. The building is so big, it created its own weather with clouds forming up near the ceiling until an air circulation system was installed. The Everett Plant is shown in the photo below.
The plant is like a city with its own fire department, medical clinic, electrical substations, and water treatment plant. There are over 1 million light bulbs in the factory. Under the factory, there are 2.33 miles of pedestrian tunnels. Over 1,300 bicycles help employees get around the factory.
The six blue doors in the photo above don't look that big, but the four nearest doors are as long as a football field (300 feet) and 90 feet high. The two farthest doors are 350 feet wide and 90 feet high. The photo below is a closer shot of the doors. There is a mural on the doors that is the world's largest digital graphic.
Unfortunately, photography is not permitted on the factory tour. We boarded a bus for the trip from the Future of Flight building to the factory, then walked down one of the passageways under the factory floor to an elevator that took us to a walkway overlooking several sections of the manufacturing area. We got to see several models of aircraft being assembled, including the new 787. While most other aircraft are largely made from aluminum, a high percentage of the 787 is made from carbon-fiber composite.
Huge jigs are used to align sections of the planes for assembly. There are 26 cranes running on a 39-mile network of overhead tracks that are used to move sections of fuselage and wings around the plant and into place for final assembly.
After assembly and initial checks are complete, the assembled planes are wheeled out the big doors. Because the planes must cross a bridge over the highway, they are moved out of the plant at night so there is less distraction to passing motorists. From the assembly plant, the planes go to one of the three paint hangars shown in the next photo, where they are painted to the customer's specification.
After painting, the planes undergo further tests including a three-hour test flight.
Following our tour, we went back to the Future of Flight building to look at the displays. The next photo shows the exhibit area.
There were several displays about jet engines. The photo below shows a model of a Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine, which is the type that will be used in the new 787. The model had video animations in the cutaway sections showing how the compression of the air and the combustion take place. The Trent 1000 jet engine uses the same amount of fuel per passenger as an automobile, yet it produces as much power as 1500 automobiles and can propel the plane 10 times faster than an automobile.
The next photo shows a Pratt & Whitney PW4098 turbofan engine. The engine was developed for the Boeing 777 freighter.
One of Paul's favorite displays was the cockpit of an airliner that you could climb into to see what it would feel like to be a pilot. We didn't know it was such a tight squeeze to get into the seat; and there sure are a lot of buttons, levers, and switches in there.
It looks like Margery is ready for the flight, too.
After our tour of Boeing, it was back to the campground. Stay tuned for more reports on the Seattle area.