(click on photos to enlarge)
Love that new car smell? Well, just imagine how a brand-spanking new Boeing 737-700 must smell! Seven lucky Employees and their guests from the 2006 Messages to the Field and three of us from Culture Activities visited the Boeing Company in Seattle in August and had the privlege of bringing home one of our newest aircraft N251WN.
We arrived in Seattle on a Tuesday afternoon, and it was a pleasant 74 degrees. Being from Texas, I am used to 100 degree+ days, so the cool temperature was a wonderful relief. There was nothing scheduled on our first afternoon, so our group enjoyed some free time in the beautiful city of Seattle. Most of us chose to head to Pike Place Market, where there are endless vendors selling fresh seafood, flowers, vegetables, and a plethora of unique souvenirs. Pike Place Market is also the home of Pike Place Fish where fish are tossed between the workers in a playful, interactive display, and also the home of Rachel, the bronze piggy bank.
That evening, Boeing treated us to a dinner cruise around beautiful Lake Washington. The food and scenery were fantastic, but the entertainment was the highlight of the evening! I'm sure you've all taken a stab at karaoke, but out of our entire group, we couldn't find any true talent, so we decided to change the name to "scaraoke."
The next day we were taken by bus to the massive Boeing Factory in Renton for a private tour of the facility. Of course many of the folks on this trip are true "aviation junkies," so this was right up their alleys. There's nothing quite like seeing one of our own airplanes coming down the assembly line! I found it fascinating that the fuselage is actually assembled in Wichita, Kansas, and moved by train to the Renton Factory where the wings, tail, engines, and all interior components are fitted. As we "ooohed and aaahed" our way through the tour, our wonderful guide, Jay, competently explained the steps each Team must take to move the aircraft on to the next level. Although no photos are allowed to be taken in the Factory, we were able to get a shot of the fuselage for you since it was positioned outside in the holding area.
We were then whisked off to the Museum of Flight where we were again taken on a guided tour. This museum houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of aerospace artifacts in the western United States. Their collection holds over 150 full-sized airplanes, helicopters, and spacecraft including the first jet Air Force One which was delivered to President Eisenhower in 1959, and the last British Airways Concorde to ever make a commercial flight!
What's a trip to Seattle without a visit to the Observation Deck of the Space Needle? This icon stands 605 feet tall, and is fastened to its foundation (which runs 30 feet below the ground) by 72 bolts which are each 30 feet in length! Over lunch, our winners enjoyed a breathtaking view of the city from the revolving restaurant.
Finally, the big day arrived to take delivery of N251WN! We arrived at the Renton Factory at 8 a.m. ready to board our lovely Canyon Blue bird. As can happen with any scheduled (or in this case, unscheduled!) flight, we encountered a slight delay. As most of you know, being delayed can be a rough experience if you are stuck at an airport for several hours; however, our friends at Boeing made sure that this delay offered more opportunities to explore the city. They treated us to lunch at Chandler's Crabhouse then coordinated two separate tours for the folks in our group. Most of us headed to the Chateau St. Michelle winery , where we had a guided tour; wine tasting; and extra time in the winery shop to buy a few more souvenirs. The rest of the group headed to another Boeing Factory in Everett where the larger aircraft (767, 777, etc.) are assembled.
By the time our plane was ready to leave, we had acquired even more luggage to bring home to our respective cities. A new airplane delivery is a completely different experience than your "typical" flight. Because it was an unscheduled flight, we were able to fly nonstop from Seattle to Dallas which is a special treat for anyone who is a foe of the detested Wright Amendment. The festivities onboard truly gave our lucky winners a flight to remember!
We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Dara, Victor, Brett, Shinko, Monte, Jay, and Jim from Boeing, and to Bill, who works for Southwest Airlines in Everett, WA! You certainly outdid yourselves by making this trip one we will never forget! Special thanks to DAL Chief Pilot Mark Montgomery and DAL Captain Randy Smith for getting us home safely!
If you are a Southwest Employee, and this action-packed agenda sounds FUN to you, be sure to put your name in the hat at the 2007 Messages to the Field--who knows--you may find yourself "Sleepless in Seattle" with us next year!