It does not seem that long ago that I was walking about the first Boeing 787s in Seattle. I was there to crew a new Boeing 737 home to Australia, but even then the 787 was stealing the show at Boeing's Everett facility. It is the place where dreams and Dreamliners are made.
The building which houses this 21st century example of Henry Ford’s production line is the biggest building by volume in the world. Approaching it by vehicle this gargantuan hangar just seems to keep on going with door after door featuring massive murals of the Boeing line. In turn, each of these doors is roughly the size of a football field! One feels very insignificant standing beside this monolith and yet the real magic takes place on the inside.
Within these walls a mass of components come together and one end of the building only to emerge as a completed aircraft at the other. It was fascinating to see the sleek lines of the composite airliner come together. By the time it is ready to emerge into the sunlight once again it sits all over white, except for its painted rudder and a state of the art flight deck carefully protected by drapes and dust covers. If you like that new car smell, then the Boeing factory is somewhere that you should definitely add to your ‘bucket list’.
Everything and everyone has a place. From the floor to the towering roof from which cranes hover, there are outlines and markings highlighting what lives where. Each set of components and each bag of tools required to complete the day’s task stand labelled at the ready on pristinely clean racks. Each item is meticulously accounted for as a missing spanner or screw will bring the production line to a very expensive, screaming halt. For such a massive exercise in industry, the noise levels are amazingly low. There are no jack hammers or sprays of sparks, just highly trained professional teams assembling fine machinery to the most demanding tolerances. As a pilot, it evoked an even higher level of respect for the engineering that makes the miracle of flight possible.