Motto of the day!

These are of course available at the Boeing Store, a marvelous shopping heaven located inside the “Future of Flight” complex at Everett Airport

Right next door is Everett’s main runway, where a new B787 for Norwegian is put through its paces in the still stunning Seattle spring sunshine (any extra points for alliteration?)

Yay, laying my eyes on HB-JNJ for the first time. If all goes well she will take me to Zurich tomorrow. For the meantime however she is confined to just watching energetic “Robert Burns” take off for another round…

 

 

This is my signal to head over to the other side of the runway, where this sight awaits:

Welcome to Boeing’s Everett Factory, which officially hold’s the Guinness Book title as the largest building in the world by volume. And yes, it’s biiiiig!

Everyone’s fully dressed up and excited to check it out from the inside! 

Of course, in most areas photography is strictly prohibited. And so I’m just enjoying with my own eyes the marvelous sights we pass, like an elegant B747-8 sitting there in its green factory coating or the first composite material wing for the new B777X which had just been delivered a few days prior. Eventually, we reach one of two photo spots – a traditional B777’s wing that’s being worked on. 

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We then proceed to the undisputed highlight, the lookout gallery. Here’s the Triple Seven final assembly line (FAL)! Ideally, it takes only 2,5 months to assemble all 3 million parts into a brand new B777 (while it is 6 million parts and 4,5 months for a B747-8). 

Emirates and United will soon welcome their newest fleet members :-)

However, this is only a fraction of the whole plant. Let your gaze drift to the right, and there comes a whole new FAL into view. That of the B787 who are waiting there all bright and shiny (because their composite fuselages are already painted beforehand)

This place is humming!

Norwegian’s looking almost good to go! Also note the assembly of tails of all of the model’s customers being displayed on the hangar door

20th Etihad B787, and Ernest Shackleton enjoying his last days in the US

After completion of the tour we head on to the Everett Delivery Center – a perfect opportunity to get some sneak peeks at the flight line (and what I believe is Gulf Air’s new paintscheme?)

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At the Delivery Center, Beat Locher of SWISS’ Aircraft Asset Management team provides some insights as to the decisions behind selecting the B777, as well as the painstaking process of checking and accepting each newly built airplane.

Already during the construction period, a team of 12 SWISS/Lufthansa people is on standby in the area in order to check the progress at certain defined intervals. The B777 is taken on (only) two test flights – the first one by Boeing to check whether it performs as it should, and the second one together with the end customer as kind of an acceptance flight. The customer then has a 24 hour window to check every nook and cranny of the plane on the ground and come up with a list of things that still need to be corrected – usually between 270 to 340 smaller issues like scratches, bubbling carpets and the like. Only once these issues have been rectified will the plane be ready to receive the Airworthiness Certificate and for being delivered.

As to why SWISS chose the 777: They realized that they needed to expand capacity in the longhaul market, in order not to get left behind and lose market shares to competitors. While the A346 would have provided the capacity as well, there would have been no unit cost reduction compared to the A343. The B787 was too small and the A350, while admittedly a “fantastic aircraft” with superb seat mile costs just wasn’t available back then (in 2013) and also offered a subpar cargo capacity and take-off performance (important due to the topography around Zurich airport). While the B777 does consume more fuel than the A343 (7,5 tons per hour compared to 6,5), it offers 50% more space. Thus, SWISS came to the conclusion that it offered 27% better operating costs (which are down to 19% if the purchase price is included in the calculation). 

After having listened to the SWISS team we then headed on to Boeing’s Customer Experience Center near Renton for some more presentations on numbers, market shares and the like. The centerpiece of it all was definitely Boeing’s well-known Current Market Outlook and its predictions. 

While I won’t go into too much detail, it for example showed that the industrial production has in the past few years finally managed to catch up with the already good real retail sales (giving a boost especially to the cargo market), and that 7’500 new airplanes will be needed in Europe alone in the coming years (especially in the single-aisle segment, while also on longhaul Boeing sees a tendency away to smaller airframes, as offering more frequent flights to more destinations (“at the right place, at the right time”) becomes more important. 

After all the number crunching it was great to proceed to something a bit more visually appealing: Boeing’s artsy heart of the Passenger Experience Center. 

There, charismatic Mr. Craver of Boeing’s Cabin Experience and Revenue Analysis team embarked with us on a psychological journey with the aim of creating a better passenger experience. For example, the contrast between pivot bins (front) and conventional overhead bins and its effect on perceived space is pretty apparent. 

As mentioned in the last blog post, a lot of attention goes into designing the entry (usually at the second door). By making passengers come from the narrow jetways/entrances into a cathedral-like open space, a feeling of freedom and space is reinforced. One design element to visually/psychologically enhance this perception is the light arch at the ceiling which Boeing is obviously quite proud of. Seems like they were also able to convince SWISS of its use, even if it comes at a unit price of 400’000 USD! 

Another area Mr. Craver likes focusing on is colour. He pointed out that most of us, while sleeping, tend to have these dreams of us flying around in the open sky and enjoying the freedom and beauty of flying. So he is very keen on using blue-ish colours representing the sky during boarding, in order to evoke this inner dream and make us feel more happy to be on board. After boarding is completed the light should then slowly change to warmer tones, as this makes us feel more comfortable and at home, and also makes meals look more appealing than the cold light. 

Well, call me gullible, but I found it extremely interesting to get a glimpse of all these efforts that go into designing new cabin concepts. Of course, in reality, it all comes down to economic viability, and most of the team’s efforts are thwarted again by the airlines that like to squeeze in as many seats as possible. But with things like lower cabin altitudes and bigger windows Boeing can still try to gently push them in the right direction.

 

I’m attaching you a few videos of Mr. Craver explaining a couple more things in case you’re interested:

 

 

After a quick break it was time to conclude the day with another great event: The grand delivery dinner organized by Boeing and Swiss, taking place in an exclusive location (which even calls itself a Château, even if that’s a tiny bit over the top). But it sure was a fun and memorable night, celebrating the delivery of the 10th and (so far) last SWISS triple seven and the successful completion of this 5-year endeavor that started way back in 2013. 

 

It was apparent that despite the tough negotiations over the years, both teams hold eachother in high regards. It seems like SWISS, with its focus on exceptional quality and plenty of uncommon ideas (like installing a Nespresso machine on board…) was hard to please, but got out the best in Boeing – and as both parties said, they always delivered. 

Alright, and now it's time to wait the last few hours till the big day comes and we can deliver HB-JNJ home! 


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