Planes have always fascinated me – mostly because I expect them to fall out of the sky. So, when I had a chance to visit the Boeing Factory Tour and the Future of Flight exhibit at the Boeing factory in Mukiteo, Washington, I was excited. Finally, I thought, I’ll be able to better understand how a metal box, that can weigh over half a million pounds at take-off, can fly.
While the Boeing Factory tour may not have given me complete insight into the black magic that is powered flight, I did come away with a better understanding of how planes are built and designed.
The tour starts in the Future of Flight visitor’s center. After a brief video explaining the history of the company and the facility, visitors are loaded onto buses for the short trip over to the factory.
Housed in the world’s largest building by volume, Boeing’s Everette Factory produces their wide-body jets (the 747,767, 777, and 787), which includes Boeing’s newest jet, the Dreamliner. The facility completes about 50 planes a month for customers all over the world. In the facility, most planes are built from the ground-up and every plane takes its maiden flight from the facility’s runway.
Boeing Factory tours utilize underground tunnels and overhead viewing platforms, keeping visitors safely away from the assembly line, but close enough to easily observe the construction. Along the factory floor below sits planes in various states of construction; some planes are nearly completed, while others sit in large pieces waiting to be put together.
Seeing planes in various stages of production was really fascinating for me. I was also surprised to learn that, while robots are used for the heaving lifting, each plane is assembled almost entirely by humans.
For anyone whose ever taken something apart to see how it works, this part of the tour is really fascinating. It’s a bit odd to see a plane in pieces, waiting to be put together, but seeing how they’re constructed is definitely worth the visit.
On the 90-minute tour, you visit two different viewing platforms: each providing a different look at the assembly lines. The construction process for each plane model is a bit different, and visiting the two areas allows you to easily compare and contrast how each plane is built.
While I loved the inside of the building, the part I found the most fascinating was the facility’s tarmac. Lined up along the runway were dozens of planes awaiting pick-up; each painted at the Boeing facility with their airline’s colors and symbols. It was pretty cool to see all the new planes sitting side by side.
Back in the visitor’s center is the Future of Flight exhibit. Featuring displays of various plane components, including a real cockpit, the exhibit is worth seeing after the tour, but isn’t worth the trip on its own.
It’s also worth checking out the facility’s observation deck. It provides a great overlook of the airport, and the planes sitting on the tarmac. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a few planes take off or land.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Boeing factory tour and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Pacific Northwest. As the only public tour of a jet assembly factory in North America, the Boeing Factory Tour is definitely worth visiting for its uniqueness.
For more information on the Boeing Factory Tour and the Future of Flight Aviation Center, or to reserve space on a tour, visit the Future of Flight website.
My visit to the Boeing Factory Tour was hosted by Boeing. As always, all opinions are my own, and Boeing had no say over the content of this post. Some pictures used courtesy of Boeing Future of Flight.
Jim Cheney is the creator of Tripologist.com. Having traveled extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia, Jim enjoys sharing his love of travel and some of his favorite places to visit around the world. He lives in Pennsylvania, USA, with his wife and two kids.