On a sunshine enhanced Thursday, members of the Bremerton, Lake Washington and Everett Councils traveled to visit the Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle. (Byron Faber knows how to schedule days with sunshine!!) The 30 Navy League members got an opportunity to view two aircraft manufacturing operations.
The first stop was at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company 737 assembly plant in Renton. Our group was able to observe the process starting with the arrival of the green colored fuselage. The fuselage is built in Wichita Kansas by Spirit AeroSystem and is delivered on rail cars. The green covering is for protection and is washed off before painting. On the three assembly lines, the wings, landing gears, engine, avionics, and interiors are installed to customer specifications. The engines are built by CFM International, a joint venture of Safran Aircraft Engines, France, and US GE Aviation. A checkout test and paint complete the process.
Renton produces the 737- 700, 800, 900 and the Max. Production is 42 planes per month working two shifts, five days per week.
One of our members inquired about purchasing one, but was told the wait time is 5 to 6 years. Of historical interest, the 737 was envisioned in 1964, first flight 1967, and in service February 1968. To date over 9,000 have been delivered and over 4,000 on order.
Some additional tidbits: It is the customers, not Boeing, who decides how many seats are installed. Thus, Boeing is not responsible for your lack of leg room. Winglets help to reduce fuel burn, engine wear, and takeoff noise. The first 737 MAX delivery is scheduled in May to Southwest Airlines. The MAX is quieter, more fuel efficient, and greater passenger appeal.
The group then traveled to Boeing Defense in Tukwila near the Museum of Flight to the Boeing Thompson Facility where the Navy P-8A is assembled. The P-8A Poseidon is an aircraft designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The performance is to travel 1,200 miles, remain on station for four hours, and return. It replaces the P-3 Orion which was placed in service starting in 1962.
The P-8A is based on the 737. And, like the 737, the fuselage comes from Wichita by rail. The difference is that the P-8 does not have windows and has a thicker skin. It also uses stronger/larger 737-900 wings. It is assembled in an adjacent line in Renton and then flown to Boeing Field. The fuel is drained, and wingtips are removed before it is moved across the road to the Thompson building.
The plane spends 42 days in the building before being moved out for testing and final check out.
The Navy plans to purchase 108 airframes. The first unit went to the Navy in March 2012.
One significant fact we learned is that these planes have been delivered on time and under budget. These aircraft have also been sold to Australia, India, and the United Kingdom.
We were allowed to walk around the plant floor for a close up look at the plane. We were also fortunate to walk through the inside where installation of work positions was taking place. The Boeing production managers who conducted our tour were impressive. The have great enthusiasm and pride in their work, and constant efforts to improve the process. Many are military veterans. – Gary Nystul