Today I decided to ride the scooter down to Everett and visit Boeing’s Future of Flight Center and take the plant tour. In a word -- disappointing.
It was overcast this morning so I put on my cold weather gear and rode the 40 miles to the Boeing facility. The Future of Flight Center and Tour Center is a very impressive building, with lots of stainless steel and glass. Inside on the main floor are two stores where you can buy very overpriced sweatshirts and the usual tourist stuff with the word Boeing on it. There is also a café that is open during the lunch hour.
The Future of Flight Center is downstairs. It is built using the new high tech approach so many places are using where they place LCD monitors around the room and let you watch a short video at each location. There was one for each of the 700 series of airplanes, but they were each only about a minute long and were of excellent production quality but very short on real information. There were a few static displays that were OK. They had an engine from a 747 opened up, a cut away of a 737 near the rear so you could see what was below the floor, a mock up of the cabin and cockpit of the new 787 and a landing gear. There may have been a couple other things, but I don’t remember what they were so they did not make much impression on me.
Then it was time for my tour. First, we were not allowed to take any electronic device with us. No cameras or even cell phones. We were gathered in an auditorium where they showed us two 7 minute videos. The first was just pictures of many of the aircraft, spacecraft, helicopters and other products Boeing builds. There was no narration, just the video. They then showed another 7 minute video that was a collapsing of the four months of 777 assembly into 7 minutes. It was OK, but nothing exciting.
Then they loaded us on a bus and drove us to the assembly building. They told us about the building itself and about some of the aircraft we saw on the way out. We parked by the building and were ushered down a set of stairs, through a tunnel and into a freight elevator that took us up to a balcony at the fourth floor level. From there we could see the assembly line for the 777 and see the first 787 sitting on the other side. Nothing was moving and it was really not very exciting to look at. The tour guide explained how the aircraft move from location to location during the assembly process. I figured we would go see the other aircraft assembly areas and sub assembly areas, or maybe the paint shop, or even just drive around the building or down the flight line so we could see some of the other new airplanes being built, but we just drove back to the Tour Center and the tour was over. We only spent about 15 minutes in the assembly building itself, and about 10 minutes driving each way. All together the whole tour lasted just about an hour.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to see, but when I toured the Cessna plant in Wichita last year we were shown the whole place, driven around to see all kinds of different planes, made several stops and even had an opportunity to walk through the factory itself. The Cessna tour was free. The tour I took today cost $17.50. My brother Don who works for Boeing could take the tour for half price as long as he has his employee badge with him. Save your money, Don.
The sun was out by the time the tour was over so the ride back to the campground was more pleasant. Dianna spent the day doing laundry and playing on the internet. We found someone in the park who has an open wireless router and are using his connection. It is better than most of the services we have had on our trip.
Tomorrow we will move further south. We are not sure where.