If you live in Seattle, as I do, there’s only one answer to that question – they come from Boeing.  As the saying around here goes, “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going!”

While some of the Boeing plants have relocated elsewhere, the plant at Paine Field (about 30 miles north of Seattle) is still home to The Future of Flight & Boeing Tour,

This tour of the Boeing factory lets you see the flight line where the 747, 767, 777, and 787 are made.  This tour takes you through one of the largest buildings in the world (by volume), as you learn how much room it takes to build a jumbo jet.

There’s lot to see on the tour so don’t forget to look up (futuristic aircraft are flying), down (a painted runway on the floor), and around (the nose of an airplane getting ready to take off).  And that’s just in the lobby!

Here are some other exhibits that you’ll see:

  • Airplane Design: Learn how and why airplanes fly, and look at the components that go into making a plane like the fuselage, wings, engines, etc.  Stop off at one of the computer stations and try your hand at designing a plane.  Then see if it will fly.  Don’t worry, you’ll get lots of chances to make modifications as you visit the rest of the exhibits.
  • Materials: Compare the fuselage from an old 707 to the new 787,and see how modern materials have changed the way plans are built.
  • Passenger Experience: You know how cramped and uncomfortable those seats are, but it hasn’t always been that way.  Take a look at the more spacious interiors as well as take a look at what’s being done to make flying more comfortable.
  • Flight Simulator: This is not your at-home computer game simulator, this is big-time.  There’s an additional charge, but it’s worth it, to ride the multi-passenger XJ5 Flight Simulator.  Since I missed the opportunity to fly on the Concord, this is as close as I’m going to get to supersonic speeds.
  • Flight Systems: All the important stuff that you never see, like avionics, navigational systems and hydraulics.
  • Flight Deck: From dials and switches of years gone by to the computerized flight deck of today, these are the tools that are used by men and women who fly the plane.  In a post-911 world, this is the only chance most people will have to see the flight deck.
  • Manufacturing: Yeah, sure, Boeing isn’t the only one who makes planes, and this does seem like one big long commercial.  But hey, it’s their plant and it’s got some pretty cool 3-D animation.
  • Engines: These big noisy things are responsible for getting the plane off the ground, and you can learn why.
  • The Future:  Although air travel seems common place today, it’s important to remember that it all started with a dream and the Wright Brothers.  And lots of other people and other dreams since then.  No matter how silly a dream might seem, when you look around you’ll realize that it may be the shape of the future.
  • Future of Flight Store: If you made a plane as you’ve passed through the exhibits, you can pick up a personalized color print of your design along with a list of your specifications.  And, of course, like any gift store, there’s all sort of books, toys, and memorabilia to spend your money on.

Boeing has some very strict safety and security regulations in place regarding the tour.  There are no exceptions, so familiarize yourself with them so you aren’t disappointed.

Continue reading for tour restrictions and additional information

  • Everyone must be at least 4 feet tall to go on the tour.  Adults may not carry babies.  No strollers permitted.  (NOTE:  It’s not that they don’t like kids or little ones, but this is a safety regulation.)
  • No photography.  Of any kind.
  • Physically challenged visitors can be accommodated on the tour, but it does require advance notice (at the time of making reservations).
  • You cannot carry any personal items on the tour.  No purses, backpacks, cell phones, etc.  You can leave things in the trunk of your car or you can rent a locker in the lobby.
  • No food or drink allowed.  There are restrooms in the lobby area, but none on the tour.

The Future of Flight and Boeing Tour are located at 8415 Paine Field Boulevard in Mukilteo, Washington.  Hours are 8:30 am –5:30 pm daily.  Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  Tours begin on the hour, starting at 9 am, with the last tour starting at 3 pm, and last approximately 90 minutes.

General admission is $15, seniors and active military $14, children (15 and under) $8.  Admission to the gallery only, without the tour is $9, children (ages 6-15) $4.   Boeing employees get a discounted admission.

You can purchase tickets onsite, or online.  Advance ticket purchases have a $2.50 convenience charge added.  Spend the money to get the advance tickets.  This is a very popular tour, especially during summer and school vacations, and they fill up fast.

Photo credits:  All from flick, Boeing Plant, Air India 777