Seeing planes in Seattle

August 3, 2014 at 12:04PM     Travel Seattle USA Washington

Last month I visited Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. The last day I was there I had time to do some sightseeing. I visited Seattle in 2003 and again earlier this year, so I thought I'd do something I hadn't done previously.

I spent the day looking at planes.

Boeing Everett Factory
Me at the Boeing Factory Tour
First I took a tour of the Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle. That's where they manufacture 747s, 767s, 777s, and 787s. It's the largest building by volume in the world. The picture at left doesn't do its scale justice, although if you look closely in the centre of the picture you can see an aircraft right next to the building, and the aircraft doesn't look so big. During the tour, the building was sufficiently big that, by the end of it, I caught myself thinking "Boy, that 747 looks pretty small". (Tourists are not allowed to take any electronic devices into the factory, so the picture at right is actually a green-screen photo in the visitor centre, but features a real photo of a 747 being made.)

Next I went to Seattle's Museum of Flight. The museum showcases aircraft throughout history. I spent most of my time in two areas of the museum. In an outdoor area, the museum has fairly recent jet aircraft, including one of the 20 remaining Concorde jets, the first Air Force One jet (used by Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson), and the first Boeing 747.

My favourite part of the Museum of Flight was the area devoted to space. While the museum did not get one of the Space Shuttles when they were being handed out after retirement, they did get the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT), which is the full replica of the crew compartments that all Space Shuttle crews trained in. Because it's not an original Shuttle, another benefit is that you can actually go inside the crew compartments on a special extra tour. Fortunately they had one spot available that afternoon. I was amazed by how small the crew compartments were. The first picture below has the FFT at the front with a replica of the cargo bay after it. The crew compartments stretch from where the circular black part of the nose cone ends until where the cargo doors begin. It can't be more than 10 feet long. The cockpit is on the upper deck, which is basically the size of an airplane cockpit. The middle deck is the entire crew compartment which has a floor area of maybe 10 feet by 10 feet, and then the lower deck is just a crawlspace for storage. A crew of up to 7 would spend unto 14 days in this tiny space. Amazing.

Suitably, I flew home to Brisbane that night.

More pictures from my trip are in my photo gallery.