Boeing opened its new Seattle delivery center for its booming 737 program on October 19 at King County International Airport, a.k.a. Boeing Field.
The 90,000 sq. ft. building is more than twice the size of the previous facility, which was located on the same site. It took 15 months to demolish the old structure, build the new one, and renovate some of the adjoining office spaces. According to Boeing officials, the new facility was needed to better accommodate the ever-increasing production rates for their 737 line. The current production rate for 737s is 42 per month, and planned rate increases will take that number to 52 per month in 2018.
I recently had the opportunity, on behalf of AirlineReporter, to check out the new facility and I was excited to see what an airline’s representatives experience when picking up their $85 million jet.
While the media and invited guests were touring the facility or enjoying the elaborate buffet, two Boeing staffers wove through the crowd, pushing a large wheeled office cart filled with paperwork destined to be loaded aboard the new plane as part of the delivery process. There are plenty of papers that need to be signed by both Boeing and the purchasing airline, and some signings are quite ceremonious, while others are more businesslike, depending on the preferences of the airline.
For me, the highlight of the tour was being invited to walk out onto the flight line and see liveries both common, and delightfully unfamiliar. The dozen or so 737s lined up on the day of the opening included liveries from a variety of Asian airlines (Shandong, Air China, China Southern Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Jin Air, and Kunming Airlines) Europe’s Ryanair, Panama’s Copa Airlines, and some familiar domestic airlines (Alaska and United).
Security is security, even if you’re buying a plane. A standard-issue TSA screening station is located outside of the lounge at the top of the boarding ramp, and everyone boarding a plane is screened prior to departure. That said, I have a feeling that the people working this security might be a bit nicer than those at your local airport. They also don’t have to deal with thousands of crabby passengers everyday.
In the end, the facility surely will provide airlines a better experience when picking up their new airplane. Heck, it also provides the media a better experience when covering events involving the 737.