Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Boeing Factory Tour

On Valentine's Day, Adria and I (as well as my co-worker Alyse who is also doing training in Federal Way) took a trip to Everett, Washington to go on the Boeing Factory Tour. Neither Adria or Alyse had visited the factory (which is the largest building in terms of volume in the world) before. I, on the other hand, as a former Boeing intern am fond of saying that I lived the factory tour. Below is a picture of the factory that Adria took as we were driving past it on the highway.

The tour itself was good. The tour guide talked about how many employees work in the factory and about how to park close to the factory is a mark of working for the company for 20 years, otherwise you have to park further out and walk 15 minutes to work. On the tour we went up to a observation area inside the factory that overlooked to bays where they assemble the airplanes. In one of the bays they were building 777s. The other bay was undergoing site preparation to build the 787. Production of the 787 is expected to begin in the spring which would have been interesting to see because the 787 is going to be built differently than any other plane that Boeing has ever built (although I doubt that you will be able to see much of that from the tour). The big difference between how the 787 is going to be built and how Boeing presently builds planes is that they are going to greatly shorten the time it takes to assemble the airplane by having the major assemblies of the plane (i.e. the wings, the fuselage) preassembled by the time they arrive at the factory. To do this, Boeing has re-designed a few 747s and turned them into special cargo planes whose sole duty is to fly around the world to where the parts are being built and fly them to the factory where they will then be assembled.

After going on the factory tour, we spent some time in the Future of Flight Gallery where they had some exhibits on different Boeing airplanes, as well as some mock-ups of the 787. In the gallery they had an exhibit on jet engines. I am standing in-front of an engine for the 777 in the picture below.

In a couple of ways I liked the exhibits here better than I did at the National Air and Space Museum that Adria and I visited when we were in Washington D.C. in July. It seemed like the Air and Space Museum focused more on the history of flight and wasn't able to give proper context to the items that they have on display. These exhibits were more geared towards the immediate future of flight and the present state of the art of aviation, which I found more engaging.

Also while in the gallery we participated in a study that was looking at how intuitive the signage in airplanes is (or isn't). For our troubles we received $5.

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