High on our ‘to do’ list while in the Seattle area was to visit the Boeing Assembly plant at Everett, north of Seattle. David’s son, Peter, had been based there for a year.
To get there, we could have taken a bus or a train. But since the easiest way to get in to see the assembly plant is to go with a group, we opted for that. It was a pleasant trip… or at least it should have been. Our lady guide did her best to tell us the story of Willem Boeing and his passion for flying. However, her commentary was all but totally sabotaged by a man and his 8 year old son who sat apart and talked loudly the whole way about anything other than Boeing. Not only were they rude, and Mum didn’t seem to care either, but they spoiled the morning for the rest of us. Neither polite requests from the driver, nor lots of ‘shooshings’ from the passengers, made the least bit of difference. Thankfully, I’ve been able to piece the story together from various sites on the internet!
So why was David’s son Peter at the Boeing plant? He was overseeing the building of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliners to be built for JetStar in Australia.We had not been able to get to Seattle whilst Peter was there, so now was our opportunity. It was a great experience.
We saw two of these long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliners sitting on the tarmac all ready for delivery. Jet Star now uses Dreamliners on international routes.
Boeing’s factory in Everett is HUGE!!!! It’s recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest building in the world by volume, at 472 million cubic feet. It covers a massive 98.3 acres of land. It’s so massive that when it was first built, accumulated warm air and moisture, actually formed clouds inside near the ceiling. But not any more.
When we arrived at the reception centre, we had to leave everything we had with us on board our bus. No cameras, no mobile phones were permitted, no purse; nothing at all.
After inspection at the security gate, and a strict briefing, we were taken by special Boeing Tour bus across the tarmacs to get to various parts of the building. At each stop, we had to walk through underground tunnels, kilometres long, to get to the areas where each of the different Boeing planes are put together. The assembly line is fascinating; mind blowing.
The murals on front of the huge buildings are celebrating 100 years of Boeing planes. They celebrate a century in which “humans went from walking on Earth to walking on the moon. They went from riding horses to flying jet airplanes. With each decade, aviation technology crossed another frontier, and, with each crossing, the world changed.
And at the very end of the building is the mural of the newest plane, the Dreamliner.
So who was William Boeing who once flew an early plane like this and went on to build the Boeing Airplane empire? It seems that he was a man who had a passion for adventure and who took chances at the right moments.
William was born on October 1st, 1881 in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Wilhelm Boeing, had made a fortune as a timber baron after migrating to America. He died when William was 8 years old so he never knew of his son’s dreams and goals of flight.
In 1904, William Boeing began his studies at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School but he left there a year before finishing. In that same year, the Wright Brothers made their historic flight… and Boeing moved to Gray’s Harbor, Washington where he established his own timber business, making a fortune. Seven years later, he moved to Seattle.
Boeing surrounded himself with other wealthy and adventurous friends. He is reported to have said, “science and hard work can lick what appear to be insurmountable difficulties. I’ve tried to make the men around me feel, as I do, that we are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that it can’t be done.”
One of his friends was Conrad Westervelt. Both men enjoyed sailing and boating in the Puget Sound, Seattle. But Boeing was never satisfied with the boats available on the market, so he bought a shipyard and started to build boats to his own designs. Soon, he became interested in the world’s newest invention, the airplane.
I wonder what he would have made of today’s Boeing Dreamliner! His own first flight was on July 4th, 1914, in a friend’s Curtiss hydroplane. It was not a good experience. The plane was loud, unstable and very uncomfortable. He was sure he could build a better one!
But first he had to learn to fly. After a brief introduction to flying, he bought a plane, took it back to Seattle and then crashed it, luckily living through the accident. Parts would take weeks to come even by the fastest route, so Boeing and his friend Westervelt, pulled the wrecked plane apart and began to learn about construction and design.
Happy with his new design, Boeing gave the skilled workers in his ship yard the task of building his new plane. He flew the plane on its first flight on June 15th, 1916.
Boeing quickly realised the importance of the airplane for both civilian and military purposes. He formed a new company; the Pacific Aero Products Company. Not long afterwards he renamed it the Boeing Airplane Company. And the rest, as they say, is history… or at least it can be read on one of Boeing’s web sites (links below).
What a difference from that early wooden structure to the massive Boeing plant today!
It what a proud day it was for all those involved in that Boeing Assembly plant when Dreamliner No 1 showed its style in the skies!.
The ceiling of the visitors’ centre is festooned with the flags of all of the countries serviced by Boeing’s planes today, many of them with orders in for the new Dreamliner.
Also hanging from the ceiling of the visitors’ centre, is a replica of a very famous plane, Boeing Model 1. Indeed it has been an amazing 100 year journey.
We highly recommend a visit to Boeing if you ever get to Seattle.
And now for links to web sites with more information and a documentary video:
For more information on the biography of William Boeing:
For a Chronology of the Boeing Company story:
For an excellent 40 minute documentary that goes inside the Boeing Everett plant to see the assembly of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (even more than we saw), click on:
More of our explorations in Seattle anon
Jennie and David
All photographs copyright © JT and DY of jtdytravels
If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others
more of our travel stories and photos can be found on
More of our travel photos are on