One group of AvGeeks enjoy the American 727 - Photo: Francis Zera

One group of AvGeeks enjoy the American 727 – Photo: Francis Zera

At the end of September we got to enjoy another amazing Aviation Geek Fest. If you follow the site, the name probably sounds familiar. It is a VIP-access event that allows AvGeeks to get together and experience some pretty cool things not typically open to the general public. This year we had people converge from around the world (guests from Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, & USA) to Seattle, WA to partake in this three-day aviation-themed event. How cool is that?

As it has been the last in previous years, the events and activities are amazing, but you cannot beat hanging around a bunch of other like-minded folks for a few days! Everyone gets to tell their airplane stories and everyone actually wants to listen!


This year the event started Friday evening, September 29th, on the Stratodeck of the Future of Flight at Paine Field. I needed to go pick up my good pal from the airport, so I arrived a bit late, but in enough time to chat with a few great people.


Although I live in the area, I opted to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn just next door. You cannot beat going to sleep looking out to the runway and I actually got woken up in the middle of the night by an Antonov AN-124 landing. That was awesome.

Our Saturday started with delicious breakfast and some aviation trivia (hosted by AvGeek Isaac Alexander). Then we broke off into different groups (I was group D, which I am pretty sure stood for “Dashing, Daring David,” but I was told it was just the fourth letter of the alphabet). My group was a bit small (totally cool) and I had my wonderful girlfriend and a guy I would consider a good friend (as-seen recently on The Daily Show with a messy bed — yup Jason I told you I wasn’t going to bring it up in person, but I am doing it here — you are welcome).

There were some things that every group did, and others that were dependent on your group. The big thing that we did together was taking a VIP floor tour of the Everett factory — with some great tour guides. Now, if you have been on the public tour, it is totally awesome (and if you haven’t gone, go!). However, it is nothing compared to walking on the factory floor next to and under the planes being built. No cameras are allowed, but that is okay. In a way, I think that can be better, since it allows you the opportunity to enjoy the facility and planes using just your eyes.

It doesn’t matter how many times I get to be in the factory — I am always amazed at the size, and impressed with Boeing’s ability to make these planes so quickly.

The other things people got to visit and experience:

  • Aviation Technical Services – where airliners get maintenance done
  • Applied Technical Services – where electronics (some for airlines) are made
  • Elextroimpact – creates tools for factory automation
  • Esterline – working with aviation technology
  • We also got to fly drones, play with robotics, explore 3D printing, and learn more about flight via fancy folded paper planes.


I wish that I could have done them all, but that would have taken much more than the two days. Already my inner child and adult were happy, and we weren’t even done with the day.

As we gathered back on the Future of Flight Gallery floor, I started to set up the giveaways that airlines kindly gave to Aviation Geek Fest to raffle off to the participants. Most of those gifts were mailed directly to my home before the event. You can imagine the willpower it took to make sure that all of them made it to AGF. And they did. (Okay, I took an Allegiant sticker and one set of wings — there were plenty). Our goodies:

United gave us a large Boeing 747-400 model — which is great timing since they will be retiring that bad boy soon.

Icelandair gave us TWO models. One large 757 in standard livery and one smaller one in their Hekla Aurora livery. Both awesome in their own ways. All three models went to new, loving homes!

Both Allegiant and Alaska Airlines came through in their own amazing, fun ways. Allegiant sent over a fun pack that a true AvGeek would have created. An MD-80 model, a smaller A320 model, glasses, wings, and in-seat card from an MD-80. Hot damn, I couldn’t believe it when I saw they sent a safety card — they get AvGeeks!

I have to say that for me personally, Alaska Airlines was the most fun. You see, they have a store, down by the airport, that is open to the public. I was given store credit to go in and pick whatever I wanted to make a sort of prize pack. Oh heck yes! As you can see, I had a great time finding different items to add up to the credit and the women there were very helpful in adding things up to let me know how much I had left. It felt like I was playing Supermarket Sweep.

I was also able to round up a nice giveaway pack of EVA Air stuff and Qatar Airways that I have collected from different events to give out as well. All good stuff. Gogo was also kind enough to make some fun packs that everyone at AGF received!

After we enjoyed our meal and giveaways, it was time for our special guest speakers. And they were quite inspiring.


Nancy and Cliff Hollenbeck are a husband and wife team that shared their aviation adventures. I knew them as the people behind the history of Alaska Airlines book that I own (I got them to sign it, of course), but I didn’t know their interesting stories relating to aviation. Nancy shared her story of being hijacked when she was 22 and working her first flight as a flight attendant. That’s legit. Hearing their tales of travel and working with airlines on projects was very interesting and engaging!

As things wrapped up, I had some great conversations, and then headed back across the street to the hotel to get some rest and prepare for the next day down at Boeing Field. It was pretty easy to wake up the next morning, knowing the adventures that were in store!

Ready to go at the Museum of Flight - Photo: Jody Hawkins | IoF

Ready to go at the Museum of Flight – Photo: Jody Hawkins | IoF

Sunday morning we woke up, got ready, and headed south to the Museum of Flight to check in for our day’s adventures: 1) VIP tour of the Boeing 737 factory. 2) Lunch on a classic Boeing 727. 3) Check out all the great stuff at the Museum of Flight. Now, that’s a good day.

The 737 tour is something very special — it is not open to the public. This was also my first time in the factory where I could see the MAX line. Like the larger factory up north, we weren’t able to take any photos here, but that was okay. Above are some photos from a previous tour by our own Francis Zera. I loved seeing those MAX winglets lined and ready to go.

“Hey let’s all get on an airplane and eat airline food.” That probably doesn’t sound super exciting for most people out there, but when you are talking about our group and a classic Boeing 727 — you have yourself an AvGeek adventure!

The plane is a mix of older and older. It was first put into service in 1978 by American, and it was retired in 2002. The interior is something from the mid-1990s, so you get a few levels of history being inside the aircraft. Today, it is owned by National Airline History Museum (NAHM) in Kansas City, Mo, and they hope to get it flying again one day.

We walked up the rear stairs (of course) and into the cabin. I picked some seats in the back and students from our local Raisbeck Aviation High School acted as flight attendants and served us our legit economy airline meals.

After we were done, we headed back to the Museum of Flight where I made my way through the Concord, 707, 787, 747, and more. Doesn’t matter how many times I have walked the aisles of that place, I can always find new stuff to enjoy!

The first Boeing 747 at the Museum of Flight – Photo: Jody Hawkins | Institute of Flight

No question, the events we enjoyed and the planes we saw were great. But as with previous years, the people are what make this event amazing. A HUGE thank you to those at Boeing, the Future of Flight, and others for putting in so much time, stress, and passion into making this event happen. They are truly the heroes!

If you are interested in participating in a possible future Aviation Geek Fest, make sure you are on our email list. I hope you can join us!

See more photos via the Institute of Flight’s Flickr page

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
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Plane-Crazy Joe

David, does Boeing permit AvGeeks to bring cameras along, INSIDE, on these special factory tours?

As you may know, Boeing PROHIBITS bringing cameras – and anything else – on the normal Boeing Tour out of the IoF. Their (lame) excuse is FOD!? IMO, they’re TOO CHEAP to install catch-netting below the viewing decks. Yet Boeing ANNUALLY raises tour admission. Btw, many years ago … during a tour I took … the group ahead of mine had and USED their cameras!? I speculate this group was composed of an customer airline’s employees and their guests. (This same prohibition … was in-place, at that time.) Consequently, for this reason, I boycott Boeing’s tour! I strongly resent Boeing’s apparent belief that I cannot manage/handle my camera equipment! I’ve been using cameras for aviation photography for about SIXTY YEARS and have NEVER ONCE dropped one of my cameras!

Plane-Crazy Joe


Oops, I read your report AFTER I sent you my question! However, my COMMENTS still apply.

Hey Joe,

Thanks for your comments. Of course I would love to be able to use my camera on the public tour, but I rather not be able to take pictures and tour the facility, than not be able to tour it at all. Out of the different factories or airline maintenance facilities I have toured, I would say about a quarter allow no photos (even as media), half of them allow restricted photos (you can take pics of this, but not this), and then just a quarter allows photos of whatever. There are things they could be protecting that we wouldn’t be able to see (or duplicate) with our eyes, but could with cameras.

David | AirlineReporter

David A Sauter

Hi — ..Great article..we are taking our plane crazy son to Seattle for his 16th birthday in December and are wondering if there is any access to a VIP tour of the factory? Any additional thoughts you have to enhance the experience for him beyond the regular opportunities would be welcome…..we also plan to spend one day plane spotting at SeaTac. Best! David

Hey David,

Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately it is not an easy feat to get a VIP tour… even for us year to year. However, the public tour is also freak’n amazing. Honestly, the regular stuff is beyond awesome. For sure check out the Museum of Flight Restoration Center up at Paine Field. Most people don’t visit and it really feels behind the scenes. Plus also taking the time driving around Paine Field and looking at all the different aircraft around the airport. If you have the time, also look to do a sightseeing tour with Kenmore Air (seaplanes).

Happy b-day to him and hope you both have a great trip!


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