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.