The Boeing Company announced in 1966 that it would build the world’s largest jet airliner, the 747. This would require Boeing to construct an equally impressive manufacturing complex.
The construction began that same year at a Everett – Washington State a 313 wooded site located 48 kilometers north of Seattle, near the Paine Field regional airport with a 2270 meter’s runway.
The original factory was completed in 1969.
The main assembly building, which the Guinness Book of Records acknowledges as the largest building in the world by volume, has grown over the years to enclose 13.300.000 of cubic meters. Its footprint covers 39,8 has. From its original size, it was expanded by more than 45% in 1980 to house the 767 assembly line, and another 50% enlargement was added in 1993 for 777 assembly.
The site itself has has gown to approximately 405 hectares of paved yards and parking, with 113 hectares of building area. The size of this building equals 75 NFL football fields, 911 NBA basketball courts, 2,142 family homes of 185 square meters each, and it includes 3,7 kilometers of pedestrian tunnels for the employees. The plant monthly recycles enough material to fill more than nine 747-400 freighters. Each day, parts and subassemblies travel to the plant form all over the globe.
Thousands of suppliers ship components by truck, rail, air and ship from all the world and all 50 of the US States.
Many of the larger parts are delivered at the Port of Everett, and then are loaded into railcars that climb the steepest standard gauge grade in USA, at 5,6 %. Up to 15 railcars a day deliver parts to the Everett site.
Although rail cars may be rolled into the factory for unloading. Boeing added a 279 square meter rail terminal building in 1992 to unload parts containers arriving by train.
Inside the factory, overhead bridge cranes cruise 27 meters above the floor on 50 kilometers of network, supported by the roof trusses of the factory building.
Operators in the cranes unload subassemblies from shipping fixtures and move airplane parts from one airplane assembly position to another. Along with a fleet of more than 100 forklifts, 18 cranes, each capable of lifting 34 tons, carry 747 and 767 parts around the factory. Eight additional 40 tons cranes are used for 777 production. With six million parts in the 747 and more than three million each on the 767 and the 777 production., the systems used to order, track and distribute the correct assembly point at the right time is no less complex. Developing the plans and following them though to successfully assembling all those parts in the airframes is one of the things Boeing employees take great pride in.
On the current schedule, the first parts to go into the assembly process are the wings spars (internal beams that run the length of the wing). Wings spars and skins, machined at the Boeing is plant in Auburn, Washington, arrive on a unique truck trailer. It’s so long that its rear wheels must be steered by a driver sitting in a cab beneath the back trailer. About four and one half months later, the wing spar will be in a finished airplane.
The Everett factory can accommodate two 747 production lines, one 767 production line and two 777 production lines. Production rates vary with the market activity, but have been as high as seven per month for the 747 and 767, and five per month for the 777.
Each time the production line moves, the airframe gets closer to the doors through which the finished jetliner will roll out. Four of the six hangar doors are 26,5 meters and 91 meters and two are 26, 5 meters, and 107 meters.
In addition to the factory and warehouses, the site contains nine office buildings ant two buildings that supply interior paneling and stowage bins for all Boeing jetliners. Finished airplanes receive the distinctive markings of the purchasing airliner in any of the three paint hangars.
Approximately 28.000 people on three shifts works at the Everett site, with 20.000 parking slots and 33.500 workers as maximum population. The Boeing Everett plant is so large that it requires its own fire department, security force, fully equipped medical clinic, electric substations and water treatment plant.
Storm water is controlled through a system of engineered wetlands and holding ponds, the largest of which can hold 75 million liters, enough water to float an ocean going ship. The Aircraft fueling area has room for five airplanes, and pre flight areas can accommodate up to 26 finished jetliners.