Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back in the US of A

The ferry ride from Vancouver Island to Anacortes, Washington was uneventful. The ferry, according to the Washington State Ferry website, was refurbished in 1981. That leads one to wonder when it was built. The BC ferry we took the the island was a floating palace compared with this one, but the crossing with the truck and trailer also cost more than $100 less, so I guess you get what you pay for.


We didn’t see any orcas on the crossing through the San Juan Islands, just a lot of sailboats. According to a map we saw, the ferry went right through the middle of orca feeding grounds. We didn’t see any seals either, which could explain the absence of feeding killer whales.

We spent this morning on Boeing’s Future of Flight tour, which takes visitors through the huge (they claim its the largest building in cubic feet in the world)  assembly plant, and saw 747s, 777s. and the new 787s being put together. The new 787 is expected to be released to its first customers very soon. Some of the planes are sitting there waiting to be delivered after certification. They don’t  permit cameras or any electronics in the plant, and I forgot I had my cell phone in my pocket, so I had to run out to lock it up.

Since cameras aren’t permitted, there are no pictures of the planes being made. DSC_0111 The assembly plant, in Everett, WA, is on Paine Field, which is where every 747 ever made took off from for the first time. The 787 Dreamliner is a two engine wide-body constructed of 50% composite material instead of metal. It’s lighter and stronger than aluminum, so the plane, which is about the same size as the 767, can go further on a tank of gas, and is less expensive to fly. Another interesting factoid about this plane is that components of it are manufactured by subcontractors around the world. The plane is then assembled here. DSC_0110 The big components are brought to Washington in the Dreamlifter, which is an expanded 747 with a fuselage big enough to carry the fuselage sections of the 787. Boeing is dreaming that the Dreamliner represents the future of commercial aviation. Hmm. Didn’t the Concorde consortium think the same thing about supersonic commercial airliners?

Anyway, the weather is so unusually clear and sunny in Seattle that Mt. Rainier is plainly visible on the horizon.  That’s the mountain hovering over the airfield in this picture. On a clear day DSC_0115 Rainier is a presence in Seattle. Some may consider it an unsettling presence, since its a dormant volcano predicted by some volcanologists to become active in the near future. Hopefully, that won’t be too soon, because that’s where we’re headed tomorrow.


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