Jun 19-20, 2006 - Seattle Museum of Flight &

Boeing Aircraft Factory

I was staying with my old high school buddy Dave, who lives on Whidbey Island.  We were going to visit the Museum of Flight which is just south of Seattle.  Normally, it would take Dave over 30 minutes to take the ferry across the sound, then an hour drive to get to the museum.  With traffic, he estimated it would take two hours each way.  Instead, we hopped into the Citabria, and after a pleasant 20 minute flight, we landed at Boeing Field (KBFI).  It was nice, scenic flight for Dave.  For me, it was mostly business.  Boeing Field is a serious towered airport, very close to Seattle's SeaTac and it's Class B airspace, and so I had to concentrate on navigating and communicating.  I made a nice landing in the first 1000 feet of a 10,000 foot runway. 

Prior to the flight, per their webpage, I had called the Museum to get prior permission.  (I knew this thanks to the note on AirNav.Com)  The museum has it's own transient parking spaces right out front, but a Museum security guy has to come outside and let you through the gate.  It was kind of cool to park right in front of the museum and then walk on in. 

This photo was taken from the Museum restaurant, where we had a nice lunch.  The food was good and reasonably priced. 

The Museum of Flight has four main sections:  a traditional aircraft museum section with glass walls and lots of lights, a section in the old "Red Barn" factory, a brand new World War I and World War II aircraft wing, and an outside section.
We went to the glass section first.  This FW-190 Dora caught my eye. 
Dave with one of the old Blue Angel A-4 Skyhawks. 
Lost in space.
The Gossamer Condor, first aircraft to fly the English Channel under human power.  Notice the gliders on the left. 
Inside the "Red Barn", the original Boeing Aircraft Factory. 
They would test the strength of a wing by loading sandbags on it until it broke.
A diorama of the second generation factory. 
The new World War I/II section was exceptional.  There were no windows in this section.  The walls and ceiling were painted black.  Each plane -- all fighters -- was positioned in a diorama type setting.   I think this is the first Me-109 Emil I have ever seen.  It was suspended from the ceiling as if in flight. 
Outside the glass section. 
The original factory.  They actually moved the entire building here from its original location.
The Concorde.  First one I've ever seen up close.  You can go inside.  It's not very big. 
The old Air Force One. 
The President's office, sideways in the fuselage.  The phone and communications equipment looked stone-age compared to what even Joe Citizen can buy today but I guess at the time it was state-of-the-art. 
The first 747.  Boeing used it for testing for many years.  It looks pretty well used. 
Dave and the A-6 Intruder. 
Me standing next to one of my favorite airplanes:  The F-14 Tomcat with the older, colorful paint scheme -- before they switched to the non-descript all-grey scheme.
The Glass Section is on the right, then the Red Barn, then the new World War I/II section. 
Those Mig-17s sure did have some colorful paint schemes. 
Dave standing next to a B-47 Stratojet.  Over 2,000 of them were built by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed. 
Looking north at Boeing Field. 
I can't believe they made me hold short for this guy... 
Taking off on runway 31L.  As you can see, this airport gets used by some heavy metal.  I think it's a big air freight airport.  SeaTac is the big passenger airport. 
A nice look at Seattle from the south.
Back to Whidbey Airport. 
The next day Dave and I flew the Citabria across the sound again, this time to Paine Field  (KPAE), to tour the big Boeing Factory.  I hadn't been able to find out any information about flying to the tour center.  We ended up just parking at the Regal Air FBO.  The tour center was by itself, on the other side of this big, towered airport.  Regal Air was incredibly helpful, calling the tour center to see if a shuttle service was available -- there wasn't -- and then having an employee drive us over, and back.  I felt bad that we didn't need any fuel, but we did tip the driver well -- he was a young man going to Emery Riddle University, aspiring to be an airline pilot  -- and I'll write a good review for them in AirNav.Com.
Below is the entrance to the "Future of Flight Aviation Center" where you start the Boeing Factory Tour.  First they show you a 20 minute movie.  Seven minutes is a time-lapse film of a 777 jet being built from start to finish!  Very cool.
Looking across the runway at the main factory building.  After the movie, you climb into a tour bus and drive over to the Factory building.  You're not allowed to take cameras or cell phones  -- apparently someone dropped a camera on a very expensive airplane component --  so I don't have any photos of inside.

The Factory building is the largest building in the world by volume:  89 acres I think.  It's divided into five sections.  In it, they build the 747, 737, 777, and soon the 787 Dreamliner. 

There wasn't much to the tour.  We were taken to a balcony that overlooked two of the sections:  one that they were building 777s in and one that was unused, but will be used to build the 787.  That was about it; we just looked out the balcony and talked with the tour guide.  Then we were bused back to the center.  They had some interesting stuff at the Center about the 787 but mostly it seemed to be a promotional thing for Boeing.  The 787 fuselage is made from composites instead of the traditional aluminum, so because it is lighter, it has better performance and costs less.  Also, if you believe what they say, the seats will be wider and spaced further apart.  Every passenger will have a their own, bigger window.  It seems as if they realize people are sick and tired of the "cattle car" jets and are getting away from that.  I sincerely hope so. 

Overall though, the "tour" was a little disappointing to me, perhaps because the Museum of Flight was so exceptional the day before. 

Regal Air is off to the right.  They have a huge training operation and must have had 10+ immaculate 172s sitting on their ramp, plus a staff of 10+ instructors. 
The Factory building from the air.  The blue mural -- stretching the length of the entire building -- is relatively new and cost over a million dollars. 
Dave and I flew back to Whidbey, then went on a driving tour of the island, which is very scenic.  We stopped and had lunch at this little seaport town, overlooking the sound.  Then we cruised through Whidbey Island Naval Air Station which hosts all the venerable P-3 Orions on the west coast, plus the EA-6B Prowlers.  It was nice to see a very active Naval Air Station.