24 hours in Seattle, Part I

From:         rna@gsb-crown.Stanford.EDU (Robert Ashcroft)
Organization: Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
Date:         18 Jan 96 14:50:32 
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I recently spent 24 hours in Seattle in pursuit of aviation-related
activities.  This includes material both travel and airliner-related,
so I'm posting it to rec.travel.air and (if Karl agrees) sci.aeronautics.
airliners.  Please follow up to the appropriate newsgroup, depending
on whether your followups are travel or airliner related.


The most important thing to know about visiting Seattle is that the
Museum of Flight is open late on Thursdays.  So you can see more in
24 hours if you happen to arrive on a Thursday.

I arrived at Sea-Tac airport at about 3pm, got my Alamo rent a car
($22, unlimited mileage) and got to the Museum of Flight at Boeing
Field at about 3:45 or so.  Boeing doesn't actually make commercial
aircraft at Boeing Field, but it is their delivery center, so you
will often see a flight line of the latest aircraft just prior to
delivery.  Unfortunately, the recent Boeing strike meant that there
weren't any aircraft there that I noticed.

However, the #1 747, #1 757 and the #1 767 were parked at the south end
of the airfield near to the Museum of Flight site.  #1 767, of course,
still has the massive infrared detector mounted on top (for a military

I spent the next four hours at the Museum of Flight.  I have mixed
feelings about the MoF.  On the one hand some of their displays are
spectacular---how often do you get to see the SR-71 in mother/daughter
ship configuration? (M-12/D-21)  There's only one of these left in
the world, and they have it.  On the other hand, there's very little
structure to the displays and hardly anything about commercial flight.

OK, so commercial airliners are pretty large, but you'd expect photos
and models at the very least, as well as a history of Boeing.  I mean
this is _Seattle, which owes its very existence to the commercial
airliner.  Still, there's a lot there to see, and I highly recommend
it.  Give Boeing 6 months and there'll be a full flight-line on the
field to see as well.  Oh, I should mention that the Museum is built
around the original Boeing Red Barn, which was trucked there from its
original location (now a container and car dock for the city of Seattle).
It's been nicely renovated and has a lot of historical displays.

Around 8pm I left the Museum, pausing to watch the departure of two
Airborne Express DC-8-60 series, a UPS DC-8-70 series, and a UPS
757-200PF.  I guess at least some of the overnight express companies
use Boeing Field rather than Sea-Tac (though I think I saw Fedex at

I headed north to Everett, about 40 minutes away, at least at that
time of night.  I checked into a Motel 6, a mere mile or so from Paine
Field, home of the Boeing widebody plant (747/767/777 construction).
Next morning I got up bright and early for the plant tour.

Boeing runs these from 9-4 every weekday.  During the summer they
are heavily oversubscribed, and since they're first-come first-served
you need to get there early.  Forwarned, I showed up about 7:30 (doors
open at 8:30).  I needn't have worried, as it turned out, but since I
was on a schedule, better safe than sorry.

At 8:30 we were let into the tour center foyer, which has a bunch of
photo diplays about past Boeing triumphs.  At 9 we were let into the
theatre, where we say a bunch of Boeing promotional films.  By about
9:20 we were on a bus to see the main event, the 747 assembly hall.

You exit the bus next to a subterranean service corridor which takes
you to the middle of the width of the assembly hall, where you take
a service elevator to a viewing deck high above the floor.  This is
a _large elevator, taking 45 people with ease.

It's pretty mind blowing.  In fact it's hard to appreciate the scale
of the place---the 747 assembly line has room for three 747-400 to park
diagonally _in_the_last_third_of_the_length_ alone.  That is, I estimate
that if they cleared everything off of that line, they could probably
fit 9 or 10 of these things, parked diagonally.  And that's only 1/6
or 1/7 of the total area of the place.

You're also looking _down on the things, including the tails.

You're given the usual gee-whiz statistics, allowed to walk around and
look at both sides of the platform (the other side is a place where
major components are assembled and staged for mating).  Then it's
back out the tunnel to the bus, and off over the bridge over route 526
to the Paine Field side of the site, with its flight line and paint
sheds.  As I said, there wasn't much on the flight line---one 747-400
Combi, two 767-300, and three 777-200 (two United with P&W engines,
one BA with GE90s).  The BA aircraft was just coming back from a test
flight, and we were encouraged to note how quiet it was.

Then it's back to the tour center.

At the tour center I noticed flyers for something called the Museum
of Flight Restoration Center at Paine Field.  It wasn't originally on
my list of things to see, but since I had a little extra time, I figured
what the heck, and boy was a glad I went.  In many ways this turned out
to be the high-point of the trip.  Part II describes this.