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A Boeing field trip

The Boeing Dreamliner.

Boeing plans to add 1,200 jobs at its Renton plant over the next couple of years. Credit: Yasuhiko Obara Yasobara, Wikimedia Commons

I made the decision last month to pull my seven-year-old daughter from school for field trips of our own. For one day every two weeks, for the remainder of the school year, we are exploring the Northwest’s offerings, history, and culture.

One of our field trips was to the Boeing Factory in Everett. Some things I wanted her to get out of the visit were an understanding of how important Boeing is to our local economy, how planes are made, and how engineering and math are needed to “make cool and useful stuff.”

Before we left, we looked up financial info about Boeing so that she could understand the scope of Boeing’s impact on our economy. We read that Boeing “down sized” by 60,000 people in the 70s. During the tour, we learned that the Everett plant alone currently employees 29,000. Being in the factory and seeing all the workers, my daughter understood how much of an impact that could have on all of their families. We also talked about how huge layoffs affect stores, car dealers, banks, etc.

Like any seven-year-old, my daughter is intrigued by anything in the Guinness Book of World Records (Remember that guy with the long curly nails? He’s still in there). So she definitely was impressed that she was in the largest building in the world (by volume), sporting the largest digital image in the world. Not sure she actually knew what a digital image was, but being touted as the largest in the world was good enough for her. During the tour, I learned things I didn’t need to know, such as the fact that airplanes are now made to store fuel in the wings, and fuel storage in the tail is an add-on option. (I just felt better believing the fuel was in the fuselage and that sitting near the wing made me somehow safer than the suckers in the back.)

Boeing is definitely pushing the Dreamliner 787. We got to see three in production. My daughter thought it was interesting that so many of the parts were built around the world and then assembled at the Everett facility. Boeing’s PR department is pushing this; we got a cute little foldout world map listing all the places the parts were being constructed before being shipped to Everett. I remember reading that some of the parts didn’t fit together as planned, but we didn’t see any crooked airplanes, so as best we can tell, that’s all fixed.

After you finish the tour, you can tour Boeing’s Future of Flight aviation exhibit. It is a thinly disguised propaganda outlet promoting the 787 Dreamliner. It worked on my daughter, because she said that if a plane really had all of those features (read: video games and comfy seats), she would definitely want to fly on it. We did find the explanation of how the plane engine “now built by Rolls Royce” works to be pretty enlightening. She wanted to take a turn in the flight simulator, but at $8 per head, I figured I could find a way to feel claustrophobic and nauseous for a lot less money.

After the tour and exhibit, we met my in-laws for tea. My father-in-law worked for Boeing for more than 30 years, so my daughter had a list of questions to ask him about his tenure there. My favorite question during the interview was “Did you ever see an airplane get dropped in the factory?” (Answer: no). It was endearing to see her be able to interview an expert she really knows and loves. It made the whole experience much more “real” to her. All in all, it was a great experience. And, as I head off for my summer air travel, I will just block out what I learned and keep muttering my new mantra: “The wings are filled with bubbles and rainbows. The wings are filled ….” Note: I highly recommend making reservations for the tour.

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