Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Boeing Factory

After leaving Seattle, I decided to see the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, about a half hour outside of the city.

At the Future of Flight Center, armed guards remind us five or six times that electronic equipment of any kind is strictly verboten (hence the lack of pictures for this entry), after which a hundred or so people are herded into a small movie theater. The first movie is a montage of video clips of all the various planes, jets and helicopters that Boeing produces, all set to inspirational music, as if to say, “Are we kickass or what?” The second video is a seven minute time lapse clip showing the construction of a 747 from start to finish: “No seriously, we kick ass.”

We are then divided into two groups and placed on large buses to be taken out to the main factory, the obvious pride of Boeing. The factory is the largest building by volume in the world. The building is so large it could fit 911 basketball courts or 75 football fields. It could fit all of Disneyland and still have room left over for indoor parking. It is so gargantuan, dear reader, that it has been known to generate its own weather system. And I’m not just engaging in wanton hyperbole for comic effect. These facts are all true, all provided by our perky tour guide Melody. Think Kelly Ripa after a 20 year meth addiction.

The building is truly vast, containing all the equipment to send engineers into a Dionysian rage, but the trademark clouds and rain are missing. Apparently the problem was corrected years ago by installing an air circulation system in the ceiling. Heating is provided solely by the one million lights and the busywork of the employees, while air condiitoning is provided by opening the hangar doors. Many of the site's 27,000 employees get around this building by use of company-provided bicycles. The place is truly a testament to American ingenuity.

I also learn that the practice of naming their planes 707, 737, etc, stems from the fifties when the marketing department thought it would be catchier than just 700. It was also noted that 7 is considered a lucky number in many countries.

“And in case anyone wants to buy a plane from us today, it’ll run you about $280 million. We take cash, checks and most major credit cards.”

The group politely chuckles.

The highlight of the tour is also the climax. We board the bus and are driven back to the Future of Flight Center where we huddle in the rain by a door. Melody tells us, “remember, if the plane isn’t Boeing, you shouldn’t be going,” and swings open the door to an impossibly vast gift shop that rivals its factory neighbor.

2 comments:

Dad said...

Well, Boeing IS kicking Airbus these days, so I guess they can gloat. I thought the factory was pretty interesting back when Mom and I saw it.

Kirsten said...

Uncle Gary and his friend are stopping in St. Paul to stay with us on Sunday and Monday night. It sounds like they've been enjoying their own road trip.

Have a safe trip east!