Sunday, March 24, 2013

Future of Flight - "It starts with innovative thinking" - Part 2 (The Boeing Tour)

In the last post we discovered what the Future of Flight Aviation Center has to offer within the main gallery.  Now, in conclusion, as promised it's time to taxi towards the Boeing Tour part of this visit.  So before we begin we have a few pre-flight checks to perform.

During the Boeing tour you MUST adhere to the following rules:

Children must be at least 48" tall.
no cameras, or any electronics of any kind allowed. No backpacks allowed, and of course, no weapons, pocket knives, etc.  Common sense!

OK, you're good to go!  By the way if you don't want to leave those valuables in your vehicle there are secure electronically operated lockers available for only $1 in the main entrance hall.

Make sure you arrive at the the Boeing tour entrance inside the Future of Flight (FoF) building ahead of time.  This tour entrance is located between the Boeing store and the FoF store.  Here you will find a display  of model Boeing airplanes, and others, dating from the early days of aviation to current aerospace.   It's actually quite impressive and ....if ever they want to give these away I'm calling dibs!

When ready the guard will call you and take your tickets.  Make certain you have followed the checks mentioned earlier as Boeing security takes this seriously.

You will be ushered into a large comfortable movie theater and will receive a briefing before a 5 minute movie of how Boeing 'changed the world.'  The tour will last  about 90 minutes and there are no restrooms so this will be a great last minute opportunity to take a bathroom break if needed.  Hopefully you don't as this is a pretty cool mini movie.

After the movie you will board a tour bus and will venture off to the main building of the Boeing company crossing the airport.  En route your guide will give you some history of how the Boeing company started and you will be able to see the flight line with all the new planes getting ready for delivery to their prospective new owners.  You may even have the opportunity to see one of the four Dreamlifters - see earlier post.

Passing by the paint hangars you will cross the freeway to approach the world's largest building by volume.  This is the manufacturing home of the Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787, and future home of the KC-46 tanker for the military.
Upon departing the tour bus you will descend a few stairs and walk about 1/3 of a mile along an underground tunnel before being taken up in an elevator to the galleries above the production floor of the 747 and 767.  This will be repeated at the other end of the building for the 777 and 787 lines.  The tour guides are very knowledgeable and friendly with a flowing stream of educational insight into how these aircraft are assembled.  I know this because I learn something new every time I take the tour.  You will be amazed at the immense scale of everything inside, including the airplanes.
The Everett facility adopted the Lean manufacturing process some time ago building upon its success at their Renton facility; home of the 737 and the future 737 MAX.  This can now be seen in all production lines.
The final part of the factory tour covers the Dreamliner (787) production line.  Here you will notice the difference in manufacturing technologies as the composite sections (tail, fuselage, wings, and nose, which all come pre-assembled complete with wiring etc) are joined together. It reminds me of building those plastic model planes years ago, but on a grandiose scale with great skills involved... and without all the glue marks on the outside showing my fingerprints.  The goal of Boeing is to produce  a Dreamliner off the end of the production line every three days.  Now that's impressive! 
When finished you will board the tour bus and will return to the FoF at the drop off point which, like all great tours, ends in the Boeing gift shop.  I should also mention that Boeing does provide a service to cater for visitors who are unable to use the stairs or walk 1/3 of a mile.  I recommend you call FoF ahead of time to make sure all your needs can be catered for.
OK, now you've spent all your money on gifts and all those great model airplanes, it's time to visit the Stratodeck.  Grab your cameras, and cellphones etc, and proceed to the elevator going to the Stratodeck.  Those who feel the need for exercise after all the walking can use the stairs.  Here you can snap away taking all those great photos you've always dreamed of, and the view is spectacular.
If you're feeling the need for refreshments after all of this there is a cafe located across from the Boeing store.  For me, I recommend the hearty homemade soup, which tastes great and warms the heart of the 'Avgeek' after standing outside taking all those airplane photos.  The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is an awesome place to visit and should be at the top of your list of things to do if you like anything with wings.  Make plans to visit and will have a fabulous time and come away in awe!

For more details visit the
Thank you for following P.I. and I'll be looking out for you on the Stratodeck.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Future of Flight -"It starts with innovative thinking" - Part 1

Living in the Pacific North West has to be an aviation enthusiasts (avgeeks) dream especially if you're near Everett, WA; the heart of Boeing commercial airplanes. The Boeing facility utilizes Snohomish County Airport, more commonly known as Paine Field, and right across the other side of the runway is my favorite ‘avgeek’ location;the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour.

The Future of Flight, or FoF, opened its doors on December 16th 2005 and have been a huge success in placing PNW aviation on the global map.

For those of you who follow me on twitter you know I often regard the FoF as my second home (actually sitting at FoF as I write this) because it is such an amazing place. Why? Well, let me share some insights into what you can expect if you visit.

When you arrive at the FoF you will be impressed by the location. You are standing adjacent to the start of the 9010 feet long runway where all the Boeing airplanes take off. In fact, regardless of what type of camera you have, you will always get a great photo even if you don’t have a zoom lens. This was taken with my point & shoot camera. (Okay, it does have a 4x zoom)
As you enter the facility you are welcomed into the entrance hall with flags representing countries from all around the world. The main floor of the entrance hall has a huge photograph of Paine Field (KPAE) on it allowing you to walk over and discover the area as if you were flying over it. After receiving your tickets you will be able to wander down the ramp, or take the elevator, to the main gallery which is 28,000 square feet consisting of static displays and interactive exhibits informing and educating you of the world of aviation.

The first thing to catch your eye is the 63’ 8” tall vertical stabilizer of a 747 with the FoF logo painted on the side. Standing next to this gives you an amazing perspective of the size of the ‘Queen of the Skies’, especially if you were to imagine adding the height of the fuselage and the undercarriage. One of the exhibits takes you through the history of jet airliners covering both Boeing and its competitor; Airbus.

Another gives examples of the newest jet engines which are used on the Dreamliner (Boeing 787), from both Rolls Royce and General Electric.  Here you can learn all about the engine operation to the use of composite materials for its blades with titanium leading edges. 

Everyone’s favorite is of course the Boeing 727 cockpit which provides for a great photo opportunity of yourself behind the stick of this historic marvel, as if you were the pilot.

As you progress through the gallery you can learn of the use of composites on smaller, previously built, aircraft as you gaze overhead. You can find an additional composite airplane suspended from the ceiling above the cafĂ©.


There are cross sections of both the 727 and the 787 fuselages for comparison to appreciate the differences in technologies and materials.  As you stand in awe of the size of the 787 fuselage you can compare this to the adjacent 707 panel. This is another good photo opportunity if you stand behind the PAN AM 707 window appearing as if you were on a flight from that era.  In addition you can also take a flight on the “Innovator” simulator (additional fee), or even design your own airplane and print it out.

There are two gift shops located in the FoF; the Boeing Store, and the Future of Flight Shop. The Boeing store sells everything the Boeing enthusiast can imagine from clothing to model airplanes with a Boeing livery (paint scheme) on it. The FoF store sells gifts relating to the PNW as well as FoF clothing, perfume, candy, to model airplanes (not just Boeing) with airline liveries. I’ve shopped, and window shopped in both of these and the staff is always very friendly and very helpful.

The Future of Flight’s belief is “it starts with innovative thinking”. A visit to this facility will no doubt rekindle your creativity and you will be left in awe at the whole experience.

Find out more by visiting the Future of Flight's website and you can also follow or tweet them on twitter at @futureofflight.

Well, that’s the end of this 1st flight with PI to the Future of Flight Aviation Center. Join us next time for part 2 as we taxi on to the Boeing Tour and the best view ever from the Stratodeck.

Safe travels and thank you for following PI.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Boeing's Delivery 'Truck' - Where Dreams Emerge!

For those who follow me on twitter you’ve most likely discovered that Paine Field could almost be described as my other home.  Paine Field (KPAE), or Snohomish County Airport, is the home of Boeing’s largest commercial airplanes; the 747, 767, 777, and most of the 787’s known as the Dreamliner (also made in North Charleston S.C.).  I often enjoy meeting people at the Future of Flight center which overlooks the runway at KPAE and have had many great conversations with enthusiasts, and those who may not know much about aviation but are simply amazed that these things fly.  Quite often they accidentally interchange the names of the Dreamliner and the Dreamlifter.  Those who are not familiar with the Dreamlifter have no idea what it is used for or the relevance of its name.

The Boeing Dreamlifter is actually Boeing’s delivery 'truck' for delivering parts used to assemble the Dreamliner, or 787 to give it its model number.  The 787 is radically different than Boeing’s other planes as it is made of composite material, rather than aluminum like all the others, demanding different suppliers and supplies.
The Dreamlifter transports sub-assemblies from Japan and Italy to both Washington State and North Charleston in South Carolina.  These sub-assemblies can be anything from different stages of the fuselage, to the wing assemblies, and watching these arrive and emerge from the ‘belly’ of the Dreamlifter is a real treat for anyone even remotely interested in aviation.
There are four Dreamlifters in total.  Each of these started life as a Boeing 747-400 back in 1990-1992 and were in active service as passenger airliners.  Two originated from China Airlines, one from China air, and the other from Malaysia Airlines.

Dreamlifter Reg.                 Original Reg.                     Former Airline                  Current Airline

N249BA                                B-161, B-18271                  China Airlines                     Atlas Air

N780BA                                B-162, B-18272                  China Airlines                     Atlas Air

N747BC                                B-2464                              Air China                            Atlas Air

N718BA                                9M-MPA                             Malaysia Airlines                Atlas Air

The Boeing 747-LCF (Large Cargo Freighter) conversions/modifications took place in Taiwan with the first one rolling out in August 2006.  This was originally known as the 7E7 and has since become the Dreamlifter which we all know and love.  I wonder if Joe Sutter, the creator of the 747, ever imagined that his ‘dream’ would ever turn out looking like the Dreamlifter becoming the largest cargo hold in the world.  More specifications of the Dreamlifter you can check out Boeing’s Dreamlifter web page
If you are lucky enough to see this marvel come into land, the first thing you will notice is it’s unmistakably raised fuselage on approach.  If you are at the Future of Flight you will then be amazed at the size of the Dreamlifter as touches down on the runway right in front of you and of course the beautiful noise of those 4 awesome Pratt & Whitney PW 4062 engines.  If the wind is in the right direction you can get a faint smell of jet fuel and the burning rubber of the tires touching down.  Yes, I’m not an ECO friendly person when it comes to what I love about airplanes.
The plane then taxis back around in front of you to go over to the Boeing flight line where the unloading ritual takes place after about 30 minutes or so.  During this time the DBL-110 (Dream Big Loader) arrives, which is self-propelled and equipped with a pair of CAT C9 Acert 8.8 liter 6 cylinder turbocharged diesel engines.  I haven’t got a clue what that means but it’s big and impressive as the 16 axles, 32 wheeled conveyor/lift rolls up to the plane for unloading.  You can read more of the DBL-110 here.
If you weren’t impressed by what you already witnessed, the main event commences.  The tail of the Dreamlifter slowly opens up which is equivalent in scale to watching a building moving and the conveyor removes the Dreamliner fuselage sections or wings from the plane and delivers them to the appropriate assembly area.  I personally call the Dreamlifter the ‘two-fer’ as it’s a plane inside a plane (Two for one).

As an aviation geek I realize the significance and the blessing of the Boeing Dreamlifter.  So I ask you, fellow aviation enthusiasts, what other interest can you think of where you get just as excited seeing the delivery truck as you would about the contents? 
The Boeing Dreamlifter - Turning dreams into Dreamliners!
Thank you for following PI.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Golden Age of Flying. Gone... or hidden?

Is the Golden Age of Flying gone and never to be seen again, or are we missing what is before our very eyes? Let’s take a small peek into what has gone into the archives of the distant past and what air travel has to offer today. 
Gone are the days of Pan American World Airways (Pan-Am) and Trans World Airlines (TWA).  Gone are the moguls of Juan Trippe and Howard Hughes.  Or are they really? 
Pan Am, for example,  was the largest international air carrier in 1927 and people were excited at the thought of finally being able to travel to foreign lands in their ‘clipper’ airplanes in a fraction of the time it would normally take cruise ships to reach their destination.  People would dress up in their best clothes for the occasion and be amazed that they could take to the skies in the standards of comfort of the period.  They could finally fly to warmer climes like Florida, or Havana, Cuba and even further afield.  They would receive a modest sized meal and beverages while on board, served by ladies who were glamorous to the point of resembling Hollywood movie stars.   The air hostesses, now named flight attendants, were there to serve you and to treat you as royalty.  You, the passenger, were the reason they existed and they wanted to provide you complete satisfaction.
Alternately, the airline pilot would walk through the airport and his presence alone would demand the greatest respect by all.  This was the person who could maneuver the ‘winged beast’ in the air and lead you to your destination in perfect safety faced with any situation.  Men would gaze upon them in admiration, children in awe, and ladies would often swoon at the mere sight of these Gladiators of the skies.  Sound a little too rosey?  Perhaps!  However, that was the general perception and contributed towards the era known as the ‘Golden Age of Flying’.
Today the rose tinted eyeglasses are almost extinct and generally we don’t necessarily appreciate what we have before us.  The hustle and bustle of everyday life has become so fast and furious, and so filled with technology.  The term work life balance is often discussed but rarely achieved as we fill up on caffeine and energy drinks just to make it through another day at work; hopefully with success.  You may think this sounds overly negative but it can be a reality depending upon your priorities. We live in a highly technological age and as a result we rely on smart phones, computers/tablets to interact in business as well as socially.  Sometimes these can be inseparable using the same tools for work and for personal life. We even use these to make financial transactions all with a click of a button or a swipe of the finger. 
Is this a bad thing?  You can decide.  Nevertheless I think we can all relate to some of this.  With that in mind I want to take a moment now and look at airline travel today. 
Thanks to the current day mogul, in the form of mega airline corporations, the bar has been raised.  First you purchase your flight online with a swipe of your finger on your favorite internet device and then receive your e-ticket number without the need to leave your armchair.  You can even check in before going to the airport, let alone the gate!  Your airport now provides wireless connectivity for your business transactions or social media.  Within the airport you have a vast array of gourmet restaurants for you to salivate over while keeping track of your flight details with various overhead monitors or through your favorite travel app on your smartphone.  The security, despite the recent controversy, screens to ensure passenger safety as you board.  Your baggage is delivered by computerized systems to the correct gate providing greater accuracy.  All of this is before you get on the airplane!
Now let’s review the airplane.  As you board you are welcomed by trained flight attendants whose role has changed greatly over the years.  They do still serve you and provide great passenger experience, however greater emphasis has been placed on training with regard to public safety, and the need to learn more complex aircraft systems, potentially saving your life.  As for the glamor and people dressing up for the occasion as in days gone by, well, we are all glamorous. The high profile that fashion plays in our daily lives, such as the designer labels, elegant hairstyles, and exotic perfumes are all part of our city work life and we take these so much for granted. 
Now we have boarded the airplane; a marvel of modern accomplishment.  Seats that recline and provide comfort for a long haul flight with built in electronics for media or internet.  Phones that enable card payments. Your own personal TV screen and a selection of various media to choose from.   In addition to that some airlines are now having wi-fi installed to complete the passenger experience allowing you to continue your daily tasks or connection while you travel.  Throughout the flight hot food is served, even after several hours of flying, having been specially prepared by gourmet chefs before boarding.
The airplanes themselves are continuing to have major breakthroughs in advancement such as Boeing’s new Dreamliner 787 made from carbon composite materials; GEnx engines with composite fan blades and fan cases, and avionics reaching new frontiers.  Designer linens and fabrics decorate the cabin to provide a soothing journey and color selectable lighting is provided to facilitate relaxation.
Finally I want to mention the flight crew such as the Captain and co-pilot.  Yes, the airplanes can do so much more automatically than they could in former days, but the skill of the pilot is still required if not more so than before.  Understanding of the complex systems aboard the aircraft is essential should anything malfunction.  The computerized systems cannot predict what to do in heavy crosswinds while trying to take off or land the airplane.  In my mind these ladies and gentlemen still deserve the greatest respect as they safely transport hundreds of passengers at a time to their destination compared to the tens of passengers in the mid 20th century.
Next time you fly take a moment to look around you and see the real efforts that the airports, flight safety administration, aircraft manufacturers, airline companies, food services, and the entire flight crew are doing just to take you to your destination of choice.  You may be surprised.
As for my original question, is the Golden Age of Flying gone?  I say it’s clearly still here but they raised it to 24 karat gold!  
Thankyou for flying with P.I.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Not One, But Two

The day started out like any other day expecting to go plane spotting at my local airport, Paine Field in Everett, WA. I heard rumor there may be a double delivery and I was hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of the takeoff. Upon arrival at my favorite spot, the stratodeck at the Future of Flight (FoF), behold there they were. A Boeing 747-8 (B-LJG) and a 777-300ER (B-KPY) both ready for delivery to Cathay Pacific. I was in Airplane Heaven! B-LJG was towed over towards KPY and the two were left nose to nose ready for presentation to their new owner as shown.

I took several pictures for my personal pleasure I then decided to return inside to get some hot coffee to fend off the February chill.
Heading downstairs from the Stratodeck I could see preparations were underway for the presentation inside the FoF gallery. This was obviously a formal event and everything was laid out elegantly, but you would expect no less of course.
After a little while the presentation began. Boeing decided to make this a very personal experience for Cathay Pacific and brought in a beautiful Chinese dragon which danced its way throughout the gallery much to the delight of the customer prior to their departure for Hong Kong. The dragon meandered its way through the guests tables until it reached the huge black curtains which then opened up to reveal the two giants waiting outside the window. The atmosphere was electric with great excitement. A video of the dance can be seen here on KPAE's website courtesy of Matt Cawby.

The dragon then proceeded outside to the airplanes and wove its way around both of them coming to rest as it gazed upwards in amazement at these mammoth feats of engineering. Everyone assembled outside to watch and then the delivery took place in the official ribbon cutting ceremony as shown. Engines were powered up resulting in cheers and applause. The sound of jet engines and the feel of the vibration never gets old. The planes were repositioned after the guests returned indoors to prepare for their departure and, of course, passport control. During this time many flocked to take photographs and it was great to see so many Boeing workers looking onwards taking great pride in their hard work and obvious results. LJG was returned to the flight line for a later departure schedule and everyone boarded the 777 (KPY). The plane was towed on to the taxi lane and then the engines powered up one at a time.

The GENX engines sounded great as they shone even in overcast lighting. These GE engines are a breakthrough in design as they have composite fan blades with titanium leading edges, as well as composite fan cases. This makes the engines so much lighter and more fuel efficient essential to competing in today's airline market. The Boeing 777 made its way to the runway. As the plane headed away from us the noise became so quiet I had to look to see if the plane was still moving. I guess those scallops in the nacelle sure do make a difference. The plane turned and readied for departure. The engines ran up giving that awesome unmistakable sound, which I cannot get enough of, just enough to get me trembling with excitement. The pilot released the brakes and the plane took off into the sky headed for Hong Kong. However, there was a little bank towards the control tower and back up as if to wave goodbye and thank you before heading into the clouds. What an awesome day. Plane spotting doesn't get any better than this........or does it? I guess I'll keep my options open. A video of the actual departure is shown below courtesy of SkylinePhotography.

Thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you and I look forward to flying with you all again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Aviation Geek Fest 2012

Last weekend I attended an awesome event known as Aviation Geek Fest 2012. This was a hugely successful event organized by David Parker Brown (, Future of Flight, and Boeing.

The day day started off at 8am with an aviation photography class lead by Liz Matzelle of the Pacific NorthWest Aviation Photographers. Liz got things off the ground by helping us critique several photo's which initially looked great to me. However, once our eyes were opened we truly had a glimpse of what the next level in our photographic future could be like. The class then progressed into the technical side of things resulting in how to select camera's, lenses and post processing software, with several money saving ideas and tips along the way. This lead to great discussion among rookies, such as myself, as well as more experienced photographers in the group, and provided an easy opportunity to connect with fellow "Geeks". I recommend this class to all as shooting aviation is a specialized skill in the world of photography.

After the class we convened for lunch and many of us went out on the stratodeck of the Future of Flight overlooking the north end of KPAE (Paine Field) airport in Everett, WA. The timing was perfect as one of the modified Boeing 747 cargo planes, the Dreamlifter, was taxiing out to the runway headed for Charleston, N.C. This, as always, is an awesome sight to behold. The close proximity to the runway allowed us to appreciate the great size and power of the Dreamlifter, which is used to transport 787 Dreamliner fuselages and wings. As it ran up its engines and commenced its departure we could hear the roar and feel the vibration which added to the thrill of the days event.

After lunch, and more networking, David Parker Brown kicked off the afternoon and we split into 4 groups leading off to different tours. One group took the Boeing factory floor tour. This is different from the regular Boeing tour which normally does not allow the public to get close to the airplanes. The tour does not allow electronic or photographic equipment on the premises but an official photo can be seen on the AirlineReporter website, among others. Another 2 groups toured either the Paine Field Fire Department, or "How to become an Airline Pilot" with Regal Air.

The remaining group, which I was in, toured the Boeing Dreamliner Gallery (pictured above). This was indeed a fabulous treat. This Gallery is not well known and not open to the public usually. The Gallery is a place for 787 Dreamliner customers to choose the equipment for their planes while providing inspiration for the overall design. As seen in the photo the entrance of the gallery is amazing. The Dreamliners logo is that of a crescent shaped moon and this feature is subtly placed in almost every feature in the architecture and decoration of this facility. This takes marketing to a whole new level as the customer is actually embraced into the world of the Dreamliner. Luxurious suites are provided for the customer as a place to work, while affording comfort and access to conference facilities and showrooms. If a customer needs information, or even an engineer to discuss their requirements, Boeing will bring the resources to them without having to leave the facility. This is truly a customer oriented operation. The tour throughout the facility lead us through multiple showrooms for everything your 787 would need; carpet, fabrics, chairs for all classes - first through economy, galley equipment, safety equipment and even quarters for the flight attendants to rest during long haul flights. I have to say I tip my hat to Boeing for reinventing customer service on such a grand scale. At the end of the tour the groups reconvened at the Future of Flight (FoF) for a presentation by Boeing of their Moonshine (lean manufacturing) project. This was followed by a group participation in a supply chain demand demonstration consisting of building Aviation Geek Fest business card holders which were then given to all as gifts.

Finally it was time to close, but not before a pizza and beverage social in the FoF cafe hosted by David Parker Brown who was great fun. Little did we know that United Airlines, SouthWest Airlines, and the Future of Flight had donated multiple items for raffle. Everyone left with something, which was awesome, but I have to say, gifts or not, this was an event to remember and needs to be on your calendar for 2013. Thank you to, Future Of Flight, Boeing, PNWAP, United, and SouthWest airlines for making this one outstanding and memorable 'flight'.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Event Spotlight

One of the goals of P.I. is to bring you aviation information, and this extends to informing you of great aviation related events here in the PNW. This weekend (February 4th 2012) the Historic Flight Foundation, located at Paine Field in Everett, WA, will be hosting an awesome opportunity to find out about........well read on! The following is written on the HFF website and you can also click on the links to take you there for more details. Don't miss this!

HFF will host the quarterly meeting of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots from 1-3 p.m. Members of the flying public are welcome. The presentation will address the restoration and test flight program of Mig-29 N29UB, restored in 2008-10 and successfully test-flown in January and February of 2011. In a tale rich in anecdotes, HFF founder John Sessions will describe the cast and critical path to restore and fly a front-line, Mach 2.4 fighter. Test Pilot Doug Russell will share his experiences flying the Mig-29 as a U.S. Air Force exchange pilot in West Germany and more recently, as the lead pilot of N29UB. For tickets and other information, please contact Visitor Services. "

Thank you to Historic Flight Foundation for hosting this event for aviation enthusiasts everywhere and as always thank you for flying P.I.