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They say money doesn’t buy happiness. While that’s true, it can often buy memories. Would you rather sit at home being bored on a day off? Or go do something touristy? Personally, I’ve done the first part. A lot.

When we moved to California we had no money. So we didn’t get out and enjoy the many activities the state had to offer. By the time we felt like we could afford to do some of those things, the kids were in school. We learned very quickly that any school break equaled an enormous number of people. Taking kids out of school comes with a lot of guilt. We still did it on occasion! I didn’t want to get stuck in a rut again here in Washington. So I suggested we do something fun for Civil Rights Day.

The tickets weren’t cheap, but Heath booked a Future of Flight tour for Monday morning. Neither one of us had ever done that before. We have tried on several trips here. The timing never worked out right. Until now.


It was a clear day. Clear enough you can actually see Mt. Rainier! The temperatures finally rose to normal – low to mid 40’s. Rain was forecast to arrive later in the evening. It was the perfect day to tour Paine Field and the Boeing Factory.

Cameras, purses, bags, cell phones, food, basically anything not attached to your body are prohibited on the tour. Espionage and safety. They do have free lockers in the lobby. We were just about to show our tickets for the tour when we realized Gavin still had his cell phone. He didn’t know he couldn’t have it! So Heath had to run it out to the lockers before we could go into the theater.

I have been on many factory tours like The Peppermint Place in Alpine, Utah where you see candy canes being made and The Jelly Belly Factory in Fremont, California where you learn everything there is to know about the gourmet jelly beans. These tours come with complimentary samples. Can you believe that Boeing doesn’t give out complimentary airplanes?

We learned that planes range in price from one to three or more hundred million dollars. One guy bought himself a plane for about 300 million dollars and then he bought both of his daughters a plane. True story. If you do have your own airplane you can land it and store it at Paine Field when space allows.


This is the Boeing Factory. We took a bus to this building. After touring the C tunnel, we got on another bus to the M tunnel. The bus ride was not a 30 second jaunt down the parking lot either. The building is the largest building in the world by volume and has it’s own microclimate. To give you an idea of the size, because the picture can be deceiving, all of Disneyland plus the Disneyland parking structure will fit inside the building.

There are eight different Tully’s coffee shops inside. It’s one of the only buildings in the Seattle area that does not serve Starbucks! There are also several different cafés for the employees, as well as child care, video rentals, and places to get a massage. Employees often run down the long tunnels for exercise. When Gavin heard that his eyes lit up as if he was thinking, “Running? What are we doing walking when we can run?” Gwen wondered why people were riding tricycles. I would imagine it’s a faster way to get around from plane to plane.

We got on elevators as if we were cargo. The elevators were huge. There were about 50 people on the tour. We saw planes in various stages of completion. They put the planes together like Lego bricks. The planes move up and around a large U shape picking up all the pieces until they are finished.


We learned that planes (the 787 Dreamliner) are now being made from carbon fiber. It is lighter, stronger, and much better in many ways. At the end of the tour, in the museum area, we saw the difference between carbon fiber and aluminum. The aluminum had a ton of rivets holding the pieces together. The carbon fiber had no rivets at all. It was much thinner too. Some benefits of carbon fiber: the plane is more as pressurized making you feel more rested and have less jet lag. It is more fuel efficient and also quieter.

Windows are now being made differently, particularly without shades. With no shades the windows can be in a variety of shapes. You touch a button to darken or lighten the window.


The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the newest plane in production. The plane in the picture is a Dreamlifter. It’s a cargo plane that takes parts from around the world back to the Boeing facility in Washington to complete Dreamliner production.

By the way, we learned what the numbers mean. The first of the three digit numbers coincide with the type of aircraft it is followed by other numbers that show which series it is. Plane numbers start with sevens, like 747, etc. Space equipment starts with a different number, prop planes and helicopters start with another number and so on. I honestly can’t remember which aircraft starts with a 200, 500, etc. But that’s what the numbers mean.

The fact that the first airplane was a Boeing 707 was a marketing ploy. They felt that 700 wasn’t interesting enough so they started at 707 and have only changed the tens place with each new series.

When the tour ended, the tour guide let us into the gift shop through the emergency exit door. We had already looked around the gift shop when we arrived early. So we quickly weaved our way through to the museum.


There were many interactive displays and fun ways for the kids to play and learn.


Like these balls that float over the air vents.


And nanotechnology. They had three different domes with different sizes of magnetic material inside that you could move with the handles on the outside.


We had our picture taken. Gwen had to put her coat back on because her bluish green shirt wouldn’t show up against the green screen. Yes, this is in front of a green screen. We didn’t actually see any rocket launches. That happens in Florida, right?


Here I am in front of a 787 engine. I am there to show scale.


This picture shows how big the back fin is.


Kids in front of the fan.


There was an old 727 cockpit. Gwen and Parker had fun “flying.” Heath would talk about the different knobs, switches, and levers. Two guys were just outside patiently waiting for their turn to go inside. When we came out they asked if Heath was a pilot since he seemed to know so much! He replied that he knows enough to be dangerous. Although if he had to he could land a plane safely. Not that he would ever have the chance. But if he did … if the pilot couldn’t do it and the co-pilot couldn’t do it and so on, Heath could land the plane. Probably.


One picture we had to get was Batman dressed as a pilot with the Dreamlifter in the background. Parker wants to send it in to Lego magazine. They are asking for pictures of mini figures around town. What could be cooler than Batman on a Future of Flight tour?


Batman playing tic tac toe with Parker at Bob’s Burgers. That definitely counts as cool.


Of course we had to adopt a new pet. Meet Bill, as in William Boeing, the aviation pioneer who founded the Boeing Company. Our Bill is a tiger who came with a tag that said he served as a legendary member of the famed Flying Tiger Squadron. They flew the much feared shark teeth P-40s.


We also picked up a vintage Coca-Cola sign for our bonus room. I love vintage Coca-Cola ads and I love the story that this one has for my family. Parker is saving his allowance for an Area 51 sign to hang on his door.