Big, bigger, biggest

Everett, Washington, is only a half hour drive from Seattle. It’s home to one of the biggest manufacturers of airplanes in the world: Boeing. Well, it’s one of the sites in the world where Boeing works on airplanes. Here the 747, 777 and 787 are assembled from pieces flown in from other factories. I don’t know all that much about airplanes, but a big metal thing that can take you across oceans in the sky demands a bit of fascination. It’s intriguing, even if it can all be explained by physics. If you think airports are exciting, try seeing the assembly line of Boeing 787!

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Since I didn’t have a car, I went with a tour operator from Seattle. A friendly, slightly crazy, driver with a pilot hat took us to the Future of flight, which is the visitor center. There is a small exhibition there, but to be honest that didn’t add much for me. I was there to see the planes, to get an impression of the massive operation which is making an airplane. So I boarded a bus with a lovely, quirky tour guide with massive moustache from Boeing. We drove to the big factory hall and unloaded at a staircase. We descended to a big tunnel. From here all the pipes and different places in the factory could be accessed and serviced.

We went to three different assembly lines, ending at the big, new 787 dreamliner. From above you could oversee the whole factory and for the 747 and 777 you could see the different phases of the airplanes in production. I see special lanes for bikes and even cars. People look like ants. Everything looks small compared to the massive parts of the airplane. You see how different parts, all massive in itself, are put together. Huge cranes can carry pieces along the ceiling to move them from A to B. The dreamliner has a moving production line. It slowly keeps moving as people work on it. And when it’s finished, the whole parking lot has to be evacuated to open the huge doors and drive it to the painting shop.

There is an overload of information and visual impressions. The tour is over way too soon, but the next groups are waiting for us to move on. I could stare out over this floor for hours. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s what you see in the documentaries on Discovery channel. It spikes interest and brings up questions. It’s like a whole different world out there.

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