Photo tour: inside Boeing's 787 Dreamliner factory

By Chris Chamberlin, February 12 2015

Step inside the world's largest building by volume where the Dreamliner gets its wings: Boeing's Everett factory in Washington state, USA.

Roughly 50km north of Seattle, that single building churns out 10 Boeing 787s every month – over 230 to date – and also houses the assembly lines of the Boeing 747-8, 767 and 777.

Join Australian Business Traveller as we peek behind the scenes and take a walk on the factory floor to see how the revolutionary Dreamliner comes together.

We should start by pointing out that even if you've taken the regular factory tour, this is far beyond what you'll have seen – members of the general public can only peer down from a viewing platform, and aren't allowed anywhere near the aircraft.

But the view from the top is far from terrible, and it isn't long before we spot a familiar logo or two:

Zooming in just a tad, this Boeing 787-8 is destined for "Jetstar and Qantas", which in reality does mean Jetstar:

We asked why Boeing shows both logos on the aircraft when only Jetstar has firm orders for the bird, and were told it's because ownership ultimately falls to the Qantas Group and that Qantas placed the original aircraft order.

It's the same reason the Qantas tail is pinned to the factory door – a spot normally reserved for airlines that have themselves taken delivery of a Dreamliner.

Getting up that high is no easy task... the hangar doors are 25m from ground to ceiling, which is why Boeing hasn't rushed to add other tails from recent Dreamliner customers such as Etihad and Royal Air Maroc – tipped to be Star Alliance's newest member.

Glancing to the left, we spotted Boeing technicians testing the anti-collision strobe light on an ANA Boeing 787-9:

It's easy to tell which Boeing 787s are -8s and which are the slightly larger -9 variant in the factory – the 787-8s have no paint on the tail at this point...

... while the 787-9s do have paint on the tail, as you'll spot above on the ANA bird.

The factory can handle up to five Boeing 787s at a time, starting at the very back with the beginnings of an aircraft:

This rear section of fuselage had been delivered from Boeing's second Dreamliner factory in North Charleston (South Carolina), with the blank tail signalling its future as the smaller 787-8.

Also fresh from interstate was the body of the beast, which comes complete with internal insulation...

... and other key components including piping to support the air conditioning system.

We also spotted a semi-circle of fuselage in its earliest stage of production, although there's no clear way to tell whether this is a 787-8 or -9 – unless you have the patience to stand there and count the number of windows.

Components are easily moved around the factory by way of a ceiling-mounted crane system, capable of hauling over 36 metric tonnes of aircraft wherever it needs to go.

Wherever items are in the assembly line, Boeing isn't a fan of UFOs – that is, an unidentified foreign object that could later take flight...

... so large boxes clearly marked 'scrap' are scattered around the factory floor to keep any discarded parts from ending up on-board a customer's aircraft.

Workers have all the tools they need to access any part of the aircraft that requires attention – whether that's the tail section...

... or over the wing, fitted with engine-emulating weights to keep it taut.

As in any airport, a concentration of aircraft around one building can mean only one thing – restaurants and cafés with clever but incredibly corny names.

Staff working on the Boeing 787 can kick back in the Dreamliner Diner...

... and over on the Boeing 777 side of the factory, you'll also find the Twin Aisle Cafe.

Workers can also hire movies to take home overnight, can use the on-site laundry and medical centres to maximise their free time at home and are also protected by their own dedicated fire department and security force.

Curious how it all come together before a finished Dreamliner arrives at your gate and whisks you to your next destination?

This 3.5-minute video shows Scoot's first Boeing 787 taking shape and rolling out of the factory as a ready-to-fly aircraft:

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Seattle as a guest of Boeing and Scoot.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

fxdxdy

fxdxdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 219

Great story Chris.

When I first visited the Boeing factory in 1990 we were taken throught the tunnels and up onto the viewing platform in the center of the 747 production line which was in a U shape at the time. We were only 5m away from the blokes assembline the cockpit sections. In the tunnels we had to dodge people riding around on bicycles.

I think you'll find that the 'semi-circle of fuselage' you spoke about belongs to a 777.
The fuselarge sections for the 787 come to Everett as full pieces of carbon tube that have some kind of pre-painted undercoat on where as the 777s are put together on site and are made of a magical aluminum alloy. The plane in the last photo infront of Twin Aisle cafe is also a 777 - the green metal and APU exhaust on one side is a give away.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1117

Those tails on the hangar door if miniaturised would make great jacket lapel pins.

Fonga

Fonga

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 227

Cool story Chris. I'm surprised they still make 767s. I thought the 737s were also out of Everett or is that another building?

Bizflyer

Bizflyer

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 185

The 737 are built in Renton not to fair away though

RaptorNation158

RaptorNation158

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Now I know why on the Q Meal article the flight was Brisbane to Seattle.

RaptorNation158

RaptorNation158

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

I would love to see the Toulouse side of things!

henrus

henrus

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

The youtube video does not work :(

Ho Really

Ho Really

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Dec 2014

Total posts 79

Try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5AOtYRpE-o

undertheradar Banned

undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

I love seeing the processes/complexities involved in aircraft manufacturing...and this is just the first step to an aircrafts existence/life...there are hundreds/thousands of people who have a role in each aircrafts 'survival'...as well as the millions of parts..some of which need to be replaced/or are replaced/modified..often over 20+ yrs of an aircrafts 'life'...yes ..things go 'wrong'....but when they do....there is ALWAYS a HUMAN element involved...and we as humans need to realize that we CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING ...WE JUST CAN DO THE BEST WE CAN..as an ex F/A  (20+yrs) and now as a 'regular' passenger.. I will never take air travel for granted


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