Tour the Boeing Assembly Plant and Future of Flight
Up, up and away. If your child dreams of the sky, harbors a fascination for airplanes, or is a fan of the Science Channel’s How It’s Made, a visit to the Future of Flight should be on your summer to-do list.
The Future of Flight is located just north of Seattle in Mukilteo alongside the Boeing Assembly Plant. In fact, the highlight of the museum is the Boeing factory tour. This 90-minute tour takes you through three assembly lines. At present the tour features the 747-8, 777 and the new 787 Dreamliner. For safety reasons, the tour requires children to be at least four feet tall. While this rule is in place for safety, it is also a good barometer for who would enjoy the tour. A 7- to 8-year-old child with an interest in airplanes would be fine, but it is a factory tour that requires constant listening to appreciate the marvels of the engineering on display.
The tour begins with a short eight-minute film that focuses on how airplanes have changed travel and made the corners of the world more accessible than ever before. From this point guests take a short bus ride over to the assembly plant. My 11-year-old son was hooked from the first fun fact from the tour guide’s mouth. The Boeing Factory holds several world records, and the Guinness Book of World Records is one library book that finds it way to our home on a regular basis. Kids love superlatives, and Boeing is full of them. In fact, this tour is the only place to see commercial jet assembly in North America.
The Boeing Assembly Plant is the largest building by volume in the world, and enormous doesn’t even begin to describe it. To access the viewing area, visitors are required to go down 21 steep stairs, walk 1/6 of a mile in a tunnel, and travel up in an elevator (wheelchair access provided with advance notice). Surprisingly, my kids liked this part of the tour. They said it felt like they were in a secret fortress underground.
Once visitors are up in the viewing areas, the wealth of information continues at a relentless pace. This part of the tour can present a few problems. With the group stretched out along the viewing rail, it can be difficult to locate the interesting detail that the tour guide is describing, especially if you miss the next thing they say trying to help a child see where to look. Work is in progress so there is activity everywhere, which can be distracting. Along the way there are small displays and videos that are helpful for kids, but my youngest (who is 8) had tuned out the info long before the tour was over. It should also be noted that if heights make you nervous, this tour may not be for you.
Back at the Aviation Center or museum, there is a single gallery of exhibits. For those who dare, there is a simulator ride (which costs extra) that my son thoroughly enjoyed. My daughter enjoyed sitting in the cockpit of an actual 727 and being able to flip switches and push buttons to her heart’s desire. A row of computer kiosks allows guests to design their own aircraft and get a free print out or purchase their design on a t-shirt or poster.
The gift shop is expansive and full of interesting items in all price ranges. There is a café on site as well, should you need to refuel before leaving. Parents should note that the museum provides lockers (with a small rental fee) for all hand bags, purses, backpacks, cameras and cell phones, which are not allowed on the tour. Be warned, if your child spouts off a list of amazing facts from the tour to your science-junkie spouse, you may find yourself planning a return trip sooner than you thought.
Kelly Rogers Flynt is a freelance writer based out of Lake Forest Park and parent to two frequent flyers, ages 8 and 11.
If You Go...
Where: 8415 Paine Field Blvd., Mukilteo.
When: Open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Tours start at 9 a.m.; the last tour is at 3 p.m.
Cost: Peak season walk-up rates: Adult $20, Youth (15 and younger) $14. A discount of $2 per ticket is available if you reserve your tour in advance.