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Life inside the Everett’s Boeing production facility: It’s like a city

EVERETT – Making airplanes is big business right now. There is a need to build thousands of airplanes to meet the passenger and cargo needs of the future. Up in Everett, more than 35-thousand people work at the Boeing production facility, working round the clock, getting those planes from the factory floor, into the skies.

It involves a lot of manpower, but also a lot of resources to support the workers here.

In order to make some of the biggest airplanes in the world, you need a big place to build them. The sheer size of Boeing’s production facility in Everett is even considered record breaking.

“According to Guinness Book of World Records, it’s the world’s largest building by volume. To walk around the outside of the building is about 2.2 miles. It`s about 114 feet in height,”  said Michael Murray of Boeing’s visitor relations.

In other words, about a hundred acres under one roof, said Murray.

“Working three shifts, we operate like a mid-sized city. We have our own fire department, security force. We have a medical clinic. There`s about 500 tricycles in the factory that help people move around more quickly,” said Murray.

Along with a bank, a dry cleaners, even its own scheduled bus service.

“To go inside is mindblowing,” he said.

But in order to appreciate how it’s grown, you have to go back to when it was smaller. This area, which includes Paine Field, used to be an Air Force Base from World War II, and into the 50's and 60's, said Murray. It wasn't until Boeing, in the mid-60's had plans to build the biggest plane in the world, the 747.

“And so we needed a home for that new airplane, and none of our other factories were big enough,” said Murray. Boeing officials at the time saw the longer runway and decided Everett would be to spot to make a new production facility. Boeing purchased 780 acres of land in 1968 to begin production of what is now called the "Queen of the Skies". The first ever 747 rolled out of this factory in 1968.

“We originally built about half of the building at that time. So we started production of the aircraft while we were still building the factory,” said Murray.

In the 1980's Boeing's 767 was produced here. In the 1990’s the large 777, and just about 11 years ago Boeing began production of its Dreamliner the 787,  and even air tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

What makes production different nowadays, is that robotics are playing a bigger role than ever before. Even still, 50 years later, limited versions of the 747 are still being produced.

“Those parts come from all across the United States and from around the world. We have parts coming in from trucks, on boats, on aircraft,” said Murray.

And it’s not just the big planes that are seen here. Boeing is the biggest employer in Everett and Snohomish county by far with about 35,000 employees. Generating millions of dollars in economic revenue just in the county.

"We partner with Everett Community College, Edmonds Community College to develop skills for our future workforce to help teach kids they job skills they need to come in,” said Murray.

As for the future, Boeing predicts the need for 40,000 aircraft over the next 20 years. And this facility will play a big role in that.

“We`re delivering more aircraft right now than we ever had in our history. We expect to deliver 800 commercial aircraft this year,” Murray said.

Out of the top 25 private employers, with Boeing being on top, nine other companies involved in aerospace are also here, generating more than 5,500 jobs in the region, according to the Snohomish County Economic Alliance.

During the recent Farborough Air Show in England, Boeing fared well for purchase orders. 52 Dreamliners were purchased during the show. According to Boeing, there remains a backlog of 700 Dreamliners left to be built. A new Boeing 777X, which is expected to be unveiled in 2020 is also expected to generate more work. So far, Boeing has received 340 purchase orders for that plane.