The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Signs on the side of the fuse­lage say which air­line the plane is des­tined to fly for and how many of the same Boe­ings have al­ready joined their fleet, and when I spot an air­line that I reg­u­larly fly with I can’t help but won­der if one day I will be on that very plane.

I know I’m not the only one itch­ing to take a photo and share it, but a strict No Pho­tos rule is en­forced.

As the tour con­tin­ues we gain in­sights into the sorts of de­ci­sions Boe­ing cus­tomers have to make, in­clud­ing whether to paint or pol­ish their new plane. Less paint re­duces the take­off weight and fuel con­sump­tion, but pol­ished planes may need to be washed twice as of­ten to pro­tect against cor­ro­sion, so any fuel-cost sav­ings can be lost.

Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that darker paint colours weigh more than lighter ones, the use of so much white by air­lines makes sense and I can never look at Air New Zealand’s spe­cial All Black liv­ery planes with­out think­ing of fuel con­sump­tion again.

When it’s time to leave the fac­tory, we are bussed back to The Fu­ture of Flight Avi­a­tion Cen­tre, where the plane-geek fun con­tin­ues.

Here, we can dig­i­tally de­sign our own plane, sit in a 727 cock­pit and play with the switches and con­trols, and take a vir­tual ride in the “in­no­va­tor” to Egypt and other far flung places. We can even have our say on the fu­ture of air­craft in­te­ri­ors in the Pas­sen­ger Ex­pe­ri­ence Re­search Cen­tre.

Then there’s the Ma­te­ri­als Zone where you can com­pare the 787 Dream­liner fuse­lage to a sec­tion from a Boe­ing 707. While the point is to see how much things have changed, for me this is an eye-open­ing mo­ment.

Sud­denly, I fully grasp just how lit­tle there is be­tween me and the open air when you strip away all those com­fort­ing in­te­ri­ors.

I quickly make a deal with my­self to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to be ter­ri­fied by that knowl­edge when I’m next on a plane. In­stead, I shall re­mem­ber what I saw, be in awe of the how far fly­ing has come and dream of what may be built in that very fac­tory in the fu­ture.

SIZE­ABLE JOB: 747-8 wing sets are as­sem­bled on the Boe­ing pro­duc­tion line.

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