Back in February I took my eight-year-old on a trip to both Seattle and Boise over Spring Break. We only had two days in each location, and two days in Seattle is hardly enough. Our first day was spent doing as much of that typical Seattle sightseeing as we could. The second day reserved for two of the top aviation activities in the area. First up: the Boeing Everett factory tour.
Overview of the Facility
As the name implies, Boeing’s Everett factory is located in the City of Everett, on the north side of the Seattle metro area. It is co-located with Paine Field, which just recently opened again to commercial flights. The brand new terminal is absolutely beautiful. Boeing’s has a long history in the area. Their very first 747 ever produced, the “City of Everett”, is parked on the other side of Seattle at the Museum of Flight.
The Boeing Everett Factory produces the bulk of Boeing’s wide-body jets, including the 747, 767, 777, and 787. If you’re a fan of large aircraft, it is a great spot to take your kids to get the behind-the-scenes view into their production and everything that entails.
In addition to the Boeing Everett Factory, the aerospace company also runs the Future of Flight exhibits which are located in the same building from which you begin the tour of their facility.
Boeing Everett Factory Tour Info
The Boeing Future of Flight Center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, and Boeing Everett Factory Tours are offered between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Tours depart every half hour. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $15 for youth (under 16). There are also discounted rates for seniors, military, and Boeing employees and family. Each tour is approximately 90 minutes long.
We purchased our tickets ahead of time online, but barely ahead of time. I wanted to play things by ear, only settling on an exact time the day before. There were still tickets available for every tour that day. Boeing does warn on their website that tours sell out in summer, so consider buying tickets in advance.
Note that small children are not allowed on the tour. Kids must be at least 4 feet tall (122 cm) to go on the Boeing Everett Factory Tour. There isn’t an age requirement, just a size requirement. Children under 16 must also be accompanied by an adult on the factory tour. Note that you’ll also do over half a mile of walking, as the Boeing Everett Factory is enormous.
You must surrender your cell phone before going on the tour. You absolutely cannot have a cell phone on the Boeing Everett factory tour. This was reiterated several times. Same goes for cameras. Boeing is super strict on this policy, and understandably so. In addition, you may not take other personal items such as backpacks and purses on the tour. These need to be stored in one of the free lockers provided.
It is a bummer to head inside the Boeing Everett Factory without being able to snap photos of the factory floor, but this is the reality of the situation. The Boeing Everett Factory Tour is the only publicly available aircraft factory tour in the nation. Gotta suck it up and deal with their requirements.
Boeing Everett Factory Tour Experience and Review
Our tour group wasn’t too large. You’re taken to an initial auditorium for a tour introduction. After the initial briefing, you’re piled onto the bus and driven across the field to the factory itself. Our tour guide provided some history and facts about the Everett Factory during the short drive. You’ll also get to see an airfield lined with wide-body aircraft waiting to be delivered. It was super cool to see planes for so many different foreign airlines all sitting in the same place.
The Boeing Everett Factory is the world’s largest building. Standing in front of it, you are utterly dwarfed. The building is monstrous. It’s not really the height (which is substantial enough), but the length and width of the building, making it the largest by volume.
The Boeing Everett Factory is a working assembly plant, and you will generally see ongoing activity within the factory. There was little going on when we visited, as it was a holiday. The tour is designed in such as way to keep visitors off the factory floor, as this would obviously be a safety hazard. Instead, you get to observe the production of Boeing’s largest jets from visitor platforms perched high above the ongoing assembly.
Boeing eventually expects their Charleston, SC 787 production to outpace their Everett factory. Parts are flown back and forth on Dreamlifters, specially configured 747-400 passenger aircraft that were repurchased by Boeing and modified to transport the 787 carbon fiber fuselage sections. One cool aspect of 787 production is that the tails are nearly completed prior to fastening onto the rest of the assembly, including painting. This means that you get to see the future operating airline of each aircraft while it is still in the factory!
Our tour guide remarked on the production rates of the factory, noting that the 747 throughput has dropped to only a handful of deliveries per year. Only freighter orders are left on the books. It is a sad era for the Queen of the Skies, as she is no longer the plane of choice for intercontinental flights. Boeing’s own 787 and the competitor Airbus A350 are far more economical. The 747 will essentially become a flying truck, a sad end to the original “jumbo jet”.
With her days numbered, flying on the upper deck of a 747 is still high on my bucket list. I’m particularly interested in flying either Korean or Lufthansa business class in that particular section.
Which Jets Do You Get to See?
The Boeing Everett Factory Tour lets you see the 787 aircraft in production, as well as the KC-767, the military’s version of the passenger jet, which they use as a tanker. We also saw a couple of 747 aircraft on the assembly line. If you have keen eyes, you may be able to spot one of the new folding wingtips on a 777X in the next factory section. Unfortunately, the assembly lines we toured did not include an up-close look at Boeing’s newest fleet member.
Our guide ended the tour reiterating the famous phrase: “If it ain’t Boeing, I’m not going.” This may not ring as true in future years. With the recent crashes of their 737MAX aircraft, the light is being shed on potentially poor oversight of Boeing’s safety certifications, and cracks are starting to appear in the armor of the aviation giant. Recently, a second issue was just found with the MAX. Boeing must regain public opinion and make safety paramount.
As far as the wide-bodies produced here at the Everett factory location, though, I’m entirely confident setting foot on any and all of them.
At the very, very end of the tour, as the bus dropped us off, we had a chance to see a Dreamlifter. I happened to see one of these rare aircraft during an emergency diversion to Anchorage back in 2017, but it was at a distance. This was much cooler.
My son loved the Boeing Everett Factory Tour. He is into all things airplane and aviation, and currently wants to be a pilot when he grows up. This has no doubt been influenced by my own interest in travel and aviation. While time will tell whether he walks down this path or not, I highly enjoy sharing aviation experiences such as this with him.
The Boeing Everett factory tour is an excellent experience if you or your kids are interested in aviation. There are many places where you can find decent to excellent aviation museums, but the chance to see the aircraft in production is unparalleled. With Boeing and Airbus holding a virtual duopoly over the market, there aren’t a lot of options for aircraft factory tours. We’ll probably make it to the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France someday. But not anytime soon.