A Seattle day trip could mean visiting a variety of places. Think “Seattle” and images or thoughts of the Space Needle, Starbucks Coffee or TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy” might come to mind. But not far from the heart of the city is Paine Field airport where several attractions represent the past, present and future of aviation. Any one of them is worth a visit. Bundle several together and it’s a day trip from heaven for aviation fans.
Seattle’s Boeing Everett Factory houses the largest indoor manufacturing facility in the world. The space is so big that it can hold 33 football fields and make its own weather system if not properly ventilated. It’s also the home of the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft that will keep workers busy well into the future. We took a 90-minute tour, walking through the construction process from start to finish.
Next door, Boeing’s Future of Flight Aviation Center is also an interesting walk-through facility designed to stimulate innovative thinking.
Future of Flight includes an aviation gallery with interactive exhibits and displays, a rooftop observation deck overlooking Paine Field, full-size jet aircraft engines, a cutaway slice of an actual passenger jet that shows the areas passengers don’t see and more.
Voted one of the top aviation attractions in the world, visitors can take the only public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in North America at the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour. The center features everything from airplane designs, materials, engines and flight systems to flight simulators.
Taking a unique look at the history of flight, two other places of interest to aviation fans, the Flying Heritage Collection and the Historic Flight Foundation, have nearly 30 actual, flying aircraft meant to be seen, touched and flown.
The Flying Heritage Collection has pieces created with leading technologies of the 1930s and 1940s as combat aircraft in World War II. The collection has U.S., British, German, Russian and Japanese aircraft types, many of which were often pitted against each other in great air battles.
The surviving aircraft were researched, found and sometimes recovered from former battlegrounds and airfields, then authentically restored.
Each summer, planes from the Flying Heritage Collection are flown to keep them operational and exercised on a regular basis. History buffs and aviation fans gather to witness the beauty of the vintage aircraft as they return to the skies, if only briefly. Year-round, some of the aircraft are available for hire, taking fans up in the air to view the area much like aviators of the past would have.
Another venue, the Historic Flight Foundation has engaged the best restoration resources available to return their collection to original splendor. Most always using original parts, the Historic Flight Foundation often searches the world over for what they need to keep the collection in the air. Those who work the collection are quick to point out “this is not a museum; our planes fly”.
Volunteer docents, many with first-hand knowledge about the operation and maintenance of their combined fleet, are eager to share their love of aviation with visitors.
Special events, open to the public, run throughout the summer and into the fall. Continuing this weekend, the Flying Heritage Collection continues its Fly Days series with the Battle of Britain Day on August 25, the IL-2 Debut on September 15 and the Ground Attack Day on September 29.
Photos- Chris Owen