The Boeing Everett Factory
Myths vs. Truth
On the course of history, man has built many structures, surrounded by myths and legends: some say, that The Great Pyramid of Giza was built by aliens, while Macchu Picchu used to be covered in gold. World’s largest building by volume, Boeing Everett Factory, is not an exception. Some rumors about the facility are true, while others are pure fiction. Let us, along with Boeing representatives, reveal the factory’s true story.
Rumor #1 The factory was conceived over a handshake
The idea that led to the beginning of construction of the enormous facility was conceived during a fishing trip to Alaska in 1965. Juan Trippe – the head of Pan Am, one of the world’s leading airlines at the time, was a friend of Bill Allen, the President of the Boeing Company. While casting for salmon, Juan Trippe asked B. Allen to build an aircraft that could carry passengers to the most remote places on Earth, while being a standard of fuel efficiency.
“If you build it, I’ll buy it,” famously said, Juan Trippe.
“If you buy it, I’ll build it,” Bill Allen replied.
Thus the idea for 747 was born. In order to assemble the 747 which is around 70 meters (231 ft.) long, the Boeing Company had to build a new factory. A number of locations, including those outside of the state of Washington, were considered but at the end it was decided that the site should be at Paine Field, near the existing Boeing facilities.
“Paine Field was found to be a suitable location with a long runway and enough real estate to build the new site,” explained Tom King, Communications & Media Relations manager at Boeing.
The construction of the facility was anything but easy, as the 1,025 acres area was covered with swamps and a forest with bears living in it. In addition, the building process was shadowed by humid winter weather.
“The mud became a great obstacle forcing the construction company to cover the site in asphalt,” said Tom King.
The hurdles were overcome step by step by around 2,800 employees, later to be nicknamed “The Incredibles”, and the new home for the 747 was built in a short period of 18 months. The site was expanded by 45% in 1980 to house the 767 assembly line and by another 50% in 1993 for 777, making the factory the largest building in the world by volume at 13,385,378 m3.
Rumor #2 It rains in the factory
The factory is such a massive facility, that could fit 75 American football fields inside. Due to its size, there is a common notion, that it rains in the facility. There is some truth to the myth. In the late 1960s, aircraft manufacturing processes produced warm air and small clouds formed near the ceiling. As one can imagine, water and mechanics are not birds of a feather, therefore, the Boeing Company installed a state-of-the-art air circulation system to avoid the formation of the clouds.
While the outside rain does pour on the roof of the factory, the company has installed a controlled system of ponds and wetlands in order to save the water. According to the Boeing Everett fact sheet, the largest pond can hold up to 75 million liters of water – enough to keep a cruise ship float.
Rumor #3 The factory is heated by 1 million light bulbs
It is rather difficult to imagine one’s comfortable work in a modern day office without a climate control. As strange as it may sound like, the employees at Everett Factory can work without it because the machinery and lamps produce heat.
“While the exact number of light bulbs has changed, rumor is essentially correct,” says Tom King.
He also explains, that the temperature in Seattle rarely peaks over 30C (90F) degrees, and four hangar doors (each of the size of an American football field), can be opened to let in the fresh summer air. During the colder months of the year, the outside doors are closed and the heat, generated by manufacturing activities keeps the temperature at a cozy level for its 30,000 employees.
Rumor #4 Employees ride over 1000 bicycles in the facility
The Boeing Everett Factory is measured at 492 meters(1,614 ft) from north to south, and 1,067m (3,500 ft) from east to west. It is not easy to walk such distances on a daily basis, so is it true, that workers commute by over 1,000 bicycles every day? For decades, it used to be but in 2015, the Boeing Company transitioned to electric buggies and tricycles for safety reasons.
“With railroad cars coming in and all the movement we have inside the factory, we want to make sure people are as safe as possible,” said Johnny Edwards, the Bike to Trike project manager at Everett Factory. “By eliminating any tripping hazards with two-wheel bicycles, we’ve transitioned over to this.”
The company did not throw out the unnecessary bicycles but gave them to charity.
In addition to tricycles, there are over 3 km (2 miles) of underground tunnels, that help employees to move around without affecting the workflow. As for transporting the plane parts, the Boeing Company has built a 3000 square meter (33,000 ft) rail terminal in 1992. At 5.6% angle, it is the steepest terminal in the northern hemisphere, while up to 15 railcars deliver aircraft parts to Everett Factory every day.
Rumor #5 It takes only two days to paint an aircraft
After the new aircraft leaves the assembly line, it has to be painted. While some airlines do have their own painting facilities, Boeing does the decoration for the most of the new customers. For that purpose, there are three separate paint hangars in the Everett site, that do have humidity and climate control. It takes between four and seven days to put a livery on a new airplane.
For instance, there has to be put around 400 liters (110 gallons) of paint on a new 777, that add some 250-550 kg (600-1200 pounds) of extra weight to the airliner. The paint job is not cheap: depending on the number of colors, it may cost up to $200,000 but the expenses are usually included in the base price of an aircraft.
In other words
Even though Boeing Everett Factory is one building, it more resembles a small city, with its own fire department, security teams, day care and fitness centers. The Future of Flight Aviation Center organizes daily tours, check out them when you can. But if you do not have the possibility and want to know more about Boeing, read more articles, written by AeroTime team.