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By Julie Gangler
HighOnAdventure.com   April 26, 2013


Only in one place, at Paine Field, can you witness both Boeing’s new state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner being assembled as well as watch restored historical World War II “warbirds” take to the sky. Get a close look at a Waco UPF-7 biplane, P-51B Mustang fighter and B-25D Mitchell bomber, or see restorers work on a de Havilland Comet, the world’s first passenger jet.

These and more amazing aircraft draw visitors from around world to the four aviation facilities clustered at Paine Field. Located about 30 miles north of Seattle, WA, Paine Field is best known as home to Boeing’s Everett manufacturing plant, where you can tour the assembly lines of the new 747,777 and 787 aircraft. Three newer aviation attractions are increasingly popular: Flying Heritage Collection, Historic Flight and Museum of Flight Restoration Center.

This Boeing Tour is a must. Affiliated with the Future of Flight Aviation Center since 2005, it enjoys the distinction of being the only public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in North America. Watch the world’s largest jets being put together in the world’s largest building.

  Future of Flight Aviation Center  
Future of Flight Aviation Center Courtesy photo

Measured by volume: 472,370,319 cubic feet, covering 98.3 acres, this building covers a footprint as big as 75 football fields. It has its own weather system. Mist clouds actually used to form in the Boeing plant until a state-of-the-art air circulation system was installed to minimize the fog.

The 90-minute tour begins with a short introduction film at the Future of Flight Aviation Center. A shuttle bus then ferries people to the nearby Boeing manufacturing plant.

Proviso: Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll walk through underground tunnels that stretch a third of a mile beneath the plant. You’ll also encounter steep steps and ride an elevator 35 feet above the factory floor for a birds-eye view of the jets’ assembly stations. There you’ll observe a remarkable operation employing 32,000 workers and learn fascinating factoids from your guide such as: 26 overhead bridge cranes operate on a total of 31 miles of ceiling track to transport wings, tails and other large parts to aircraft in the process of being assembled. This is indeed another world.

Museum of Flight Restoration Center
  Boeing 777 assembly line
Museum of Flight Restoration Center Courtesy photo
Boeing 777 assembly line Boeing photo

Once you've shuttle-bused back to the Future of Flight Aviation Center, you can then explore its interactive displays highlighting commercial jet aviation. Visit its Aviation Zones including Flight Deck, Flight Systems, Propulsion/Engines, Materials, Passenger Experience and Future Concepts. You can also digitally design your own jet, test and modify its flight worthiness, and then receive a free, personalized print-out of your final design. Were you meant to be a rocket scientist?

After seeing the newest aircraft, check out vintage planes that fought for the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia and Japan during World War II. The Flying Heritage Collection showcases the rare private collection of philanthropist Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates. This “Home of Flying Warbirds” contains 1935-1945 combat aircraft in two adjacent hangars. One most recently opened April 12, 2013. The original 51,000-square exhibit space has been expanded to a new 25,000-square-foot addition in order to house more “warbirds.”

All the aircraft are authentically restored, many to flying condition. Come on a weekend when Flying Heritage holds “Fly Days,” weather permitting. Vintage aircraft take to the skies and demonstrate their flying precision, which, for plane buffs, is a stunning experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to chat with the pilots and a military aviation historian.

General Aviation Day family event   Paine Field Aviation Day

General Aviation Day family event Historic Flight photo


Paine Field Aviation Day at Historic Flight; with North American Aviation B-25D Mitchell, an early 1940s bomber nicknamed “Grumpy” Historic Flight photo

The Flying Heritage Collection features 19 vintage aircraft including the Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, Focke Wulf 190 D-13 Dora (the only such long-nose model to survive World War II), Grumman F6F Hellcat with foldable wings, Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3 (the first modern fighter plane), Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa Oscar (Japanese Kamikaze attacker) and Polikarpov U-2/Po-2 (flown by Russian “Night Witches” over Germany).

The collection also contains an intriguing variety of artifacts ranging from a Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer tank destroyer and Flak 37 88mm Gun (the most famous artillery weapon of WWII) to SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded aircraft (by Paul Allen) to exceed Mach 2 and Mach 3 and fly over 100 kilometers/62 miles in altitude.

Historic Flight houses the private collection of aviation enthusiast and pilot John T. Sessions and contains the most important aircraft produced between 1927 and 1957, all fully restored to airworthiness. John and other pilots fly these vintage aircraft on weather-friendly weekends. If you buy an annual membership in a particular plane, you can fly aboard it once a year.

Historic Flight’s collection includes aircraft with great stories, such as the North American Aviation B-25D Mitchell, an early 1940s bomber nicknamed “Grumpy” that was flown to Historic Flight from Britain in 2009 by John and fellow pilots. They retraced the primary route used in World War II to deliver thousands of bombers to the European Theatre of Operations. The “Impatient Virgin” is a P-51B Mustang fighter that escorted bombers deep into enemy territory during World War II and also saw action in the Korean War. Other aircraft have equally amusing nicknames, including “Wampus Cat,” one of just 10 Grumman F8F Bearcats still flying today, and “Bad Kitty,” a Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat, one of six surviving Tigercats.

Flying Heritage Collection   Flying Heritage Supermarine Spitfire MK VC
Flying Heritage Collection
Flying Heritage Collection photo
Flying Heritage Supermarine Spitfire MK VC
Flying Heritage Collection photo

Pay a visit to the Waco UPF-7 biplane, Canadair T-33 Silverstar, Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17 and Supermarine Spitfire – an agile fighter plane that flew from 1936 to 1957, served four Air Forces and played a vital role in winning the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Paine Field’s fourth aviation attraction is the Museum of Flight Restoration Center. Here you’ll find vintage aircraft in various stages of restoration by staff and volunteers in preparation for their eventual move to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. Volunteers are glad to explain the work in progress and significance of each aircraft.


Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour 8415 Paine Field Blvd. – Mukilteo, WA Phone: 425-438-8100 www.futureofflight.org

Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM daily year-round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Boeing tours begin at 9:00 a.m. and are offered on the hour; the last tour starts at 3:00 p.m.

Admission: $18 adult reserved/$20 walk-up (peak season Apr.1 – Sept. 30; $16/$18 Oct. 1 –Mar.31). Youth $12/$14 and $9/$10. Reservations are highly recommended as only a limited quantity of same-day, non-reserved tickets are available. Reserve at https://tickets.futureofflight.org or phone 1-800-464-1476 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) or 360-756-0086 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Flying Heritage Collection 3407 109th St SW – Everett, WA Phone: 206-342-4242 www.flyingheritage.com

Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily Memorial Day to Labor Day; Tues. –Sun. the rest of the year Admission: $12 adult, $10 Senior (65+)/Military, $8 Youth (ages 6-15), free age 5 and younger

Historic Flight 10719 Bernie Webber Drive – Mukilteo, WA Phone: 425-348-3200 www.historicflight.org

Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tues. –Sun. Admission: $12 adult, $10 Senior (65+)/Military, $8 Youth (ages 6-15), free age 5 and under

Museum of Flight Restoration Center 2909 100TH St SW, C-72 – Everett, WA Phone: 425-745-5150 www.museumofflight.org/restoration-center

Hours: 9:00 AM-4:00 PM Tues.-Thurs. & Sat., Sept. – May 9:00 AM -5 PM Tues.-Sat., June – Aug. Admission: $5 adults (age 18+), $3 youths (age 5-17), free ages 4 and younger

Julie Gangler is the media consultant to the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau.

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