Either of the two limited-availability extra-cost tours will ensure memorable experiences for aviation buffs, but they’ll need to act quickly.
AOPA also will provide lunch and transportation from Bremerton National Airport to the USS John C. Stennis at Naval Base Kitsap for $20.
Visit the Bremerton Fly-In page online to sign up for either of these off-the-airfield events. Reservations are expected to sell out fast and no walk-ups will be accepted for either event.
Visitors to the “world’s largest building by volume” will be treated to a special on-the-floor VIP tour normally reserved for customers of Boeing’s $300 million jumbo jets. However, there’s even more to this exciting event.
Prior to the Boeing tour at Paine Field, aircraft buffs are encouraged to visit a pair of aviation attractions opening their doors specifically for AOPA tour attendees. Working warbirds at the Historic Flight Foundation maintained by John Sessions beckon closer looks while historic aircraft and armament can be viewed at Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection. AOPA will provide transportation on-site so attendees can visit both attractions. After walking through the museums, fly-in attendees will be transported across Paine Field to the gigantic Boeing plant while aircraft are literally pounded or layered into shape.
David Reese, Boeing’s manager for business relations, said the manufacturer’s guests will spend about an hour and a half walking though the factory as rivets the size of a pinky finger are pounded into wing spars and miles of electrical wire are run through fuselages and cockpits of the jetliners moving down the assembly line.
“They’ll get to see all of our wide body airplanes starting with the 747, and also the 737, 767, 777, and our brand new 787,” said Reese.
The tour starts at the famously humped fuselage of a 747 under construction and continues down the main transportation aisle. The 747 factory has been in Everett for 46 years and Reese said Boeing has produced 1,535 of the aircraft.
He said it takes about six million parts to assemble a Boeing 747, but “half of those are the fasteners, just the rivets and there are three million of those.”
A "triple seven" has about three million parts, while the 787 “uses a lot fewer because we’re using carbon fiber,” Reese said, and building large seamless sections allows the company to reduce the fastener count by 80 percent.
Visitors will “walk through the triple seven, and come over into the 787 and depending on the level of activity, cross between either the nose or the tail,” Reese said.
“You’ve got wings of triple sevens being built here, which they’ll walk past,” added Reese, “so they’ll get to see the wing really taking shape.” Parts and components including rivets, spars, and skins will be assembled as the tour snakes its way through the cavernous building, which is host to about 40,000 employees.
He said tour leaders will welcome questions along the way. “If we can answer them we will, and if we can’t we’ll say, ‘Sorry, we can’t answer that.’”
Since security and safety start before the first rivet goes in, guests are reminded not to wear open-toe shoes or high heels, and to keep their cell phones pocketed. Photos and videos from the factory floor are strictly prohibited.
Fly-in attendees who are unable to attend the Boeing VIP tour can still sign up for the company’s public tour but the visit is limited to catwalk views from high above the factory floor. Reservations are available online for $20, “but it’s recommended to do it well ahead of time because it fills up quickly,” said David Reese, Boeing's manager for business relations.
The active Navy warship USS John C. Stennis will be docked at the Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton and available exclusively for AOPA Fly-In attendees.
The 1,092-foot-long aircraft carrier was commissioned in 1995 and its 3,000 men and women are commanded by Capt. Gregory C. Huffman. According to the Navy’s website, the ship can accommodate 70 aircraft and “is 4.5 acres of sovereign United States territory capable of traveling to the furthest reaches of the globe.”
Since the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is available for immediate deployment, visitors must be prepared for a lot of walking and stair-climbing; wear closed-toe shoes and pants or shorts; and exercise caution.
For national security reasons, guests must be a U.S. citizen; government identification is required and must be presented in person. Attendees may not register without submitting a filled out and signed base access form and uploading it to the registration page. (Some users will need to right click and “save link as” to download the form, depending on their browser.)
No walk-up registration is offered due to security precautions. Keep in mind this tour is not handicap-accessible.
Since the USS John C. Stennis is an active defense asset, refunds will be issued if the ship is called back into service by the U.S. Navy.