Business Travel Tech Talk London, 16 October,
Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
With Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer, Boeing Commercial Aircraft, about to speak to the Aviation Club in London on Thursday (the event was sold out weeks ago) ABTN is using the opportunity to take a look at what the Guinness Book of Records acknowledges as the largest building in the world by volume, the Boeing production facility at Everett, 30 miles north of Seattle, Washington State, USA, one of three Boeing plants in the Seattle area.
Initially completed in 1969 to house assembly of the then new Boeing 747 the main building covers a fraction under 100 acres, by volume 472m cubic feet. Now also housing assembly for the 767 and 777 the production building is 1,614 feet deep, north to south, and 3,000 feet wide. It is pretty impressive. Four of the six hangar doors are 87 feet high and 300 feet wide. The other two are even bigger, 350 feet, or more than 100 metres long, and the same height. Look for these hangar doors in our picture.
In addition to the main factory the site contains nine office buildings, and two further buildings that supply interior panelling and stowage bins for all the Boeing Commercial plants, that is Long Beach, Los Angeles, the former McDonnell Douglas factory and the home of the Boeing 717, and Renton, Seattle, where the 737 is produced. The flight refuelling area can hold five aircraft and the pre-flight aprons up to 26 finished Boeings. The colourings of the different aircraft look magnificent and it is easy to spot which airline has got its branding right and which one has really got it wrong. At the end of the day its up to the customer and the visual effect is in the eye of the beholder.
Approximately 125,000 visitors are hosted for the one hour tour at the Everett plant each year, bussed in on package tours from Seattle, or driving via Interstate 5. The Tour Centre includes a small museum, a cinema and naturally a souvenir shop. It is a Monday to Friday operation and unless you are a VIP (who are treated to rides on electric golf buggies) there is quite a bit of walking involved. The tour is wheelchair accessible but you have to bring your own. Getting on for 2.5m people have visited the plant since the tour business started in 1968, before the factory was officially opened.
The Everett facility can accommodate two 747 production lines, one 767 line and two 777 lines. Completion rates vary with market activity, but have been as high as seven per month for the 747 and 777, and five per month for the 767. At its peak 20,000 people can work in three shifts at the plant. Parts and sub-assemblies come in from all over the world, the engines, easily the most expensive component, being fitted (and paid for) last. Many of the larger parts come in by sea, to Port Everett, and are then loaded into railcars that climb the steepest standard gauge line in the United States, at 5.6%. You have to be impressed with the scale of the whole thing, huge cranes 90 feet up literally cruising in the roof area, some of them capable of lifting up to 40 tones. With six million parts in the 747 and more than three million each on the 767 and 777, the systems used to track and distribute the correct component to the correct point at the correct time is in itself remarkable. Wing spars and skins, machined by Boeing at the Frederickson site in Puyallup, Washington State, arrive on a unique truck trailer. It is so long that its rear wheels must be steered by a driver sitting in a cab beneath the back of the trailer. It will take over four months before the wing part will take to the air on a completed aircraft.
William E. Boeing, was born in 1881 and founded the aircraft company that still bears his name in 1916 and left this world in 1956 having seen the arrival in 1947 of the B47 bomber, which set the precedent for the commercial series of jet aircraft with their under slung engines. To date just under 14,500 Boeing passenger aircraft have been built, the 737 easily the world's most popular airliner with 4,360 constructed and still leaving Everett at a rate of four a week. Twenty-four 747s are planned for this year and the 777 role out at one per week, with a slightly lesser number for its smaller sister the 767. Up to the end of November Boeing had produced 352 units and had an outstanding order book for 1,200 aircraft. 2002 was a bad year for the airline industry. Boeing has booked 220 sales. In terms of UK suppliers: Boeing, that is the entire Boeing Corporation, purchased a total of £1.7bn of products and services from this country last year - 2001. This is a huge figure that makes Boeing the biggest commercial customer of the UK aerospace industry supporting more than 40,000 jobs across the country. Out picture is not a typical 777 roll-out. It is the first 300ER.