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Where Boeings are bornWhere Boeings are born

Everett, WashingtonEverett, Washington

Tour the mind-boggling Boeing factory at Snohomish County (Paine Field) and see where the biggest Boeings are born. Next, explore three fantastic aircraft collections and meet the experts who restore them. You can even learn how to blow glass or cuddle a baby kangaroo.

  • During the 90-minute Boeing Tour, you will see some of Boeing’s largest jets, the 747, 777, and 787, under construction. This is the world’s largest building, by volume, 472 million cubic feet! Only a tiny portion of it is shown in this photo. These are 787 Dreamliners. Photo courtesy Boeing.
  • Seaplanes can land and tie up at Kenmore Air Harbor Inc. Seaplane Base (S60) at the north end of Lake Washington, 9 nautical miles south of Paine Field. If you like seaplanes, this busy commercial seaplane base is also a fun place to visit. Crista Worthy photo.
  • The 28,000-square-foot Future of Flight Gallery, adjacent to the Boeing factory, is where the 90-minute Boeing Tour begins. Joe Kunzler photo.
  • Art Unruh discusses the P-40C Tomahawk behind him. What a privilege it was to tour the museum with Unruh, a former B-17 gunner, awarded the Silver Star, for incredible bravery on during his fiftieth and last mission over Germany. This P-40C was shot down over Russia and sat in a field for decades before being recovered and later restored to flying condition as part of the Flying Heritage Collection. You can still see the bullet hole from the hit that originally took the airplane down by puncturing its fuel tank (not in this photo). This is the only airworthy Curtiss P-40C “Tomahawk” with the Flying Tigers paint scheme that saw combat. Crista Worthy photo.
  • The Polikarpov Po-2 LNB, built in Russia, was one of the most-produced aircraft of all time, although very few remain today. During WWII, a Russian squadron of female pilots flew these airplanes at night. They flew across enemy lines mere yards above the ground, cut their engines, and peppered the German soldiers before turning back and restarting. If they crashed into enemy territory and survived, they shot themselves to avoid capture. Their raids demoralized many German soldiers, who called them the “Night Witches.” Some women flew 18 missions per night! Most who survived had flown over 1,000 missions by the end of the war, including during the Battle of Berlin. Sworn to silence, their story took over 50 years to be revealed. Crista Worthy photo.
  • At the Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center & Reserve Collection, Bill Wilkens showed us the flight deck of a de Havilland Comet 4 jet airliner (the first jetliner) under restoration. Crista Worthy photo.
  • A pair of volunteers discuss work on a Grumman F4F Wildcat at the Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center & Reserve Collection. Many of the volunteers are former Boeing employees. Crista Worthy photo.
  • The Historical Flight Foundation’s Pan American Airways System DC-3 takes off from Paine Field on its inaugural flight after restoration. Lacy Lee photo.
  • The Mukilteo Lighthouse was built in 1905 on Elliot Point. The Victorian structure is made of wood, unusual for a lighthouse, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Climb into the tower to closely examine the 150-year-old Fresnel fourth-order lens. Like a VOR’s distinctive Morse Code signal, each lighthouse has a unique signal; this one is two seconds on, three seconds off; open weekends noon to 5 p.m. (April to September). The Whidbey Island ferry is in the background. Crista Worthy photo.
  • The view out the window during lunch at Ivar’s in Mukilteo. If not for the window, this seagull might have stolen our cedar-planked salmon! Crista Worthy photo.
  • The Silver Cloud Inn Mukilteo is adjacent to both Ivar’s and the lighthouse. Most rooms have panoramic waterfront views, some have fireplaces and Jacuzzis, and all are non-smoking with kitchenettes. Other perks include a hosted Tuesday evening wine and cheese reception, free breakfast, parking, local area van shuttle, high-speed Internet, passes to a local gym, and a pier out front that is perfect for fishing, strolling, and watching the sunset. Crista Worthy photo.
  • Cherry trees blossom throughout Snohomish County each April. Crista Worthy photo.
  • Joey Strom points to the big red kangaroo as her husband Ray demonstrates how tall it is. This is the farm’s largest ‘roo. The little girl on the right is suitably impressed. The Outback Kangaroo Farm is off State Route 530, just northeast of Arlington. You can visit and feed 50 kangaroos, wallabies, and wallaroos, as well as ring-tailed lemurs, emus, alpaca, peacocks, turkeys, and other critters. On this day, a class of preschoolers was making a visit. Crista Worthy photo.
  • Fred Worthy feeds a banana to the ring-tailed lemurs at the Outback Kangaroo Farm. Crista Worthy photo.
  • Baby kangaroos normally spend many months inside their mother’s pouch, so they are by nature very calm and enjoy being carried around in a blanket. Each child was given the opportunity to cuddle up with this little one. Crista Worthy photo.

Everybody knows about Seattle; it’s one of America’s most dynamic cities. Flying into SeaTac International Airport can be a blast. There’s nothing like landing abreast of a DC-10 on the parallel runway, and then having ground control hold him short of the taxiway so you can pass right under/in front of him, as happened to us some years ago. But just 21 nautical miles to the north, Snohomish County Airport (Paine Field) is bursting with must-do aviation activities. The city of Everett is abuzz with energy (you can hardly look anywhere without spotting one of those cute drive-up espresso stands) and excellent dining. There are so many fun activities for pilots, spouses, and kids, everyone can be happy. Since I’m a pilot, a spouse, and an overgrown kid, I had a blast there. Plus, Snohomish County room rates average 47 percent lower than in Seattle, parking is free, and streets are uncrowded. (See photo captions for more details on activities listed below.)

Paine Field is an integral part of the community. The airport is surrounded by production and test operations of major aviation companies, especially Boeing and Pratt & Whitney, making the Paine Field area a significant aerospace manufacturing center. The Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour is inspiring, a must-see, and the only public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in North America. See Boeing 747, 777, and 787 Dreamliners being assembled in the world’s largest building (by volume). What a testament to American ingenuity!

Amazing things are happening in Snohomish County, but they wouldn’t happen without amazing people, like the engineers and assembly workers at Boeing, the volunteers who’ve poured their hearts into bringing historic aircraft back to life, the glass artists, and the animal lovers. Even the young ladies in all those drive-up espresso stands are ready with a smile, and you can’t help but smile back. Crista Worthy photo.

Meanwhile, dozens of the world’s rarest and most authentically restored warbirds and other beautiful airplanes are also at Paine Field, in three facilities. Most are airworthy and flown publicly on special occasions. In 1998, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen began assembling an amazing array of important historic aircraft, now displayed at his Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum, which we toured with World War II vet and Silver Star recipient Art Unruh. The Museum of Flight's Restoration Center and Reserve Collection is a 23,000-square-foot site where volunteers (many are former Boeing employees) have spent thousands of hours restoring aircraft to exhibition quality. These aircraft are part of the Seattle Museum of Flight’s collection. Bill Wilkens escorted us inside a de Havilland Comet 4 jet airliner (the first jetliner) under restoration. Finally, the Historic Flight Foundation offers yet another incredible collection of the most magnificent aircraft built between 1927 and 1957—also airworthy. Each volunteer we met was a treasure trove of knowledge.

Just south of the airport, High Trek Adventures offers zip lines, a ropes course, and mini-golf for kids and adults. Birdwatchers will want to stop at the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary, just north of Paine Field, to look for ducks, herons, osprey, and bald eagles. We visited in April, when cherry trees were blooming all over Snohomish County. Those trees, and a visit to the Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens, were all the inspiration I needed to get started on my springtime gardening at home. Tucked into the northwest corner of Everett’s Legion Park, the arboretum is a tiny, peaceful oasis. Next door, the Legion Memorial Golf Course features views of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, Mount Baker, the Snohomish River, and the Cascades. At Everett’s enchanting marina, we enjoyed excellent meals at Anthony’s Woodfire Grill and Lombardi’s, and stayed at the Inn at Port Gardner.

The author heats up a piece of glass which will be blown into a paperweight shaped like a heart. Fred Worthy photo.

The Mukilteo Lighthouse was built in 1905 on Elliot Point in lovely, romantic, Mukilteo, about three miles northwest of the airport. Climb the 36 steps into the tower to closely examine the 150-year-old Fresnel fourth-order lens, which magnifies the tiny light, so it can be seen up to 12 miles away. The Silver Cloud Inn Mukilteo is mere steps away from the lighthouse, Whidbey Island ferry, and great restaurants, including Arnie’s. We lunched at Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing, right on the water next to the ferry dock.

Fiddling with glass stir rods and Bunsen burners in chemistry class was the closest I got to glass blowing until visiting Everett. The studio I visited has since closed, but the Schack Art Center offers occasional “Weekend Intro to Hot Glass” courses at their hot shop during which you’ll make glass decorations to take home. Or, get a taste of glassblowing with a quick “Make It Now” session and make one item. Here’s another unique opportunity: Have you ever cuddled up with a baby kangaroo? They love to be held, so visit the Outback Kangaroo Farm off State Route 530, just northeast of Arlington. There were so many friendly animals I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I think it’s about time to visit again!

Visitors on the Future of Flight Strato Deck watch as a Dreamlifter lands at Paine Field. The Dreamlifter is specially designed to transport huge, prefabricated parts of the 787 Dreamliner that are manufactured elsewhere (such as the wings), and deliver them to Paine Field for final assembly. Joe Kunzler photo.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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