Airplanista Magazine Feature Story: Everett, Washington's Paine Field: One field, four attractions

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This article was originally published in the September, 2011 issue of Airplanista Magazine and can be viewed here. Airplanista Magazine is an all-digital new media publication that presents aviation feature stories and content in a digital magazine format. Read the current issue here.

Everett, Washington's Paine Field: One field, four attractions

In today’s economy, we want maximum return on every tourism dollar spent. And when your vacation plans include attractions that are aviation related, it will be hard to find an airfield that can deliver as much fun as this one.

By Julie Gangler,
for Airplanista Magazine

Only at Paine Field can you see Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner being assembled – and restored World War II “warbirds” take to the sky. You can get a close look at a Waco UPF-7 biplane, P-51B Mustang fighter and B-25D Mitchell bomber, or watch restorers work on a de Havilland Comet, the world’s first passenger jet.

Fly into Everett, Washington’s Paine Field, and you can see all these amazing aircraft and many more among four aviation facilities clustered around this Snohomish County airport (KPAE). Located about 30 miles north of Seattle, WA, Paine Field is best known as home to Boeing’s Everett manufacturing plant and test runway for new 747, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft. The airport also serves small recreational aircraft and corporate jets – and has recently become a tourist destination with the addition of the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, Historic Flight Restoration Center, Flying Heritage Collection and Museum of Flight Restoration Center.

If you want to see all four aviation attractions, plan on spending two days. You can easily do two attractions in one day, possibly three, depending on which ones interest you. Buy a Paine Field Passport at any of the four attractions to get discounts at all of them on admission, gift shops and cafés; it’s good for one year from date of purchase.

For many, the Boeing Tour is a must. Affiliated with the Future of Flight Aviation Center since 2005, it is the only tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in North America. You watch the world’s largest jets being assembled in the world’s largest building (measured by volume: 472,370,319 cubic feet, covering 98.3 acres – a footprint as big as 75 football fields!). The building is so big, rain clouds actually used to form in the Boeing plant before a state-of-the-art air circulation system was installed.

The 90-minute tour begins with an orientation film at the Future of Flight Aviation Center; then you board a shuttle bus to the nearby Boeing manufacturing plant. Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll walk more than one-third mile through underground tunnels beneath the plant. You’ll also walk up and down steep steps several times and ride an elevator 35 feet above the factory floor for a great view of the jets’ assembly stations. There you’ll observe a truly remarkable operation employing 32,000 workers and learn fascinating factoids from your guide while you watch some of the 26 overhead bridge cranes operate on a total of 31 miles of ceiling track transporting wings, tails and other large parts to awaiting aircraft.

Returning by shuttle bus to the Future of Flight Aviation Center, you can then explore its interactive displays and hands-on exhibits highlighting commercial jet aviation. Visit its Aviation Zones including Flight Deck, Flight Systems, Propulsion/Engines, Materials, Passenger Experience and Future Concepts. You can also digitally design our own jet, test and modify its flight worthiness, and then receive a free, personalized print-out of your final design.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is located in the northwest corner of Paine Field. In the southwest corner is the newest aviation attraction, the Historic Flight Restoration Center. Opened in spring 2010, Historic Flight houses the private collection of aviation enthusiast and pilot John T. Sessions. It contains many vintage aircraft produced between 1927 and 1957, all fully restored, or in the process of returning to airworthiness. You can walk right up to these vintage aircraft on display in the facility, and watch John and other pilots take some of them aloft on weekends, weather permitting.

The collection includes 15 aircraft with great stories, such as the North American Aviation B-25D Mitchell, an early 1940s bomber nicknamed “Grumpy.” This plane was flown to Historic Flight from Britain in 2009 by John and fellow pilots as they retraced the primary route used in World War II to deliver thousands of bombers to the European Theatre of Operations. The “Impatient Virgin” is a P-51B Mustang fighter that escorted bombers deep into enemy territory during World War II and also saw action in the Korean War. Other aircraft have equally amusing nicknames, including “Wampus Cat,” one of just 10 Grumman F8F Bearcats still flying today, and “Bad Kitty,” a Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat, one of six surviving Tigercats.
At Historic Flight, you can also see a Waco UPF-7 biplane, Canadair T-33 Silverstar, Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17 and Supermarine Spitfire – an agile fighter plane that flew from 1936 to 1957, served four Air Forces and played a vital role in winning the Battle of Britain in 1940.

On the southeast side of Paine Field, the Flying Heritage Collection showcases the rare private collection of philanthropist Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates. The 51,000-square foot hangar is “Home of Flying Warbirds,” containing 1935-1945 combat aircraft from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia and Japan. All the aircraft are authentically restored, many to flying condition. Come on a weekend when Flying Heritage holds “Fly Days,” weather permitting. Watch its vintage aircraft take to the skies and demonstrate their flying precision, plus take advantage of the opportunity to chat with the pilots and a military aviation historian.

The Flying Heritage Collection features 15 vintage aircraft including the Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, Focke Wulf 190 D-13 Dora (the only such long-nose model to survive World War II), Grumman F6F Hellcat with foldable wings, Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3 (the first modern fighter plane), Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa Oscar (Japanese Kamikaze attacker) and Polikarpov U-2/Po-2 (flown by Russian “Night Witches” over Germany).

Paine Field’s fourth aviation attraction is the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, also located on the east side. Here you’ll find about three dozen vintage aircraft in various stages of restoration by staff and volunteers in preparation for their eventual move to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. The current highlights are the 1933 Boeing 247D, the world’s first modern passenger airliner, and a de Havilland Comet, the world’s first passenger jet. Volunteers are glad to explain the work in progress and significance of each aircraft.

More Information

Snohomish County Paine Field Airport (KPAE)
Phone: (425) 388-5125
www.painefield.com

Future of Flight Aviation Center
& Boeing Tour (west side of Paine Field)
8415 Paine Field Blvd. – Mukilteo, WA
Phone: 425-438-8100
www.futureofflight.org

Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM daily year-round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Boeing tours begin at 9:00 a.m. and are offered on the hour; the last tour starts at 3:00 p.m.

Admission: $18 adult reserved/$20 walk-up (peak season Apr.1 – Sept. 30; $16/$18 Oct. 1 –Mar. 31). Reservations are highly recommended as only a limited quantity of same-day, non-reserved tickets are available. Reserve at https://tickets.futureofflight.org or phone 1-800-464-1476 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) or 360-756-0086 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Historic Flight Restoration Center (west side of Paine Field)
10719 Bernie Webber Drive – Mukilteo, WA
Phone: 425-348-3200
www.historicflight.org

Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tues. –Sun.
Admission: $12 adult, $10 Senior (65+)/Military, $8 Youth (ages 6-15), free age 5 and under

Flying Heritage Collection
3407 109th St SW – Everett, WA (east side of Paine Field)
Phone: 206-342-4242
www.flyingheritage.com

Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily Memorial Day to Labor Day; Tues. –Sun. the rest of the year. Admission: $12 adult, $10 Senior (65+)/Military, $8 Youth (ages 6-15), free age 5 and younger

Museum of Flight Restoration Center
2909 100TH St SW, C-72 – Everett, WA (east side of Paine Field)
Phone: 425-745-5150
www.museumofflight.org/restoration-center

Hours: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM Tues.-Thurs. & Sat., Sept. - May; Tues. – Sat., June-Aug.
Admission: $5 adults (age 18+), $3 youths (age 5-17), free ages 4 and younger

Paine Field Passport
www.painefieldpassport.com

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