Saturday 26th March
We awoke to an amazing view of the rising sunlight illuminating freshly fallen snow on the northern Cascade Mountains. These mountains form an arc around Seattle and some of the peaks are volcanoes because this is the North American section of the Pacific Rim of Fire.
Our first port of call today was a ride to the top of the Space Needle which is an imposing structure and recognised as the city’s architectural icon as Seattle’s modern identity began with this structure that was designed and built for the 1962 World’s Fair. There are three pairs of steel beams to support the spire and these are buried to a depth of 8 metres and have held the 185m tower during several earthquakes and many gale force winds. To reach the observation deck one rides the vintage external elevators. Close by, is the monorail, which was a peep into the future of mass transportation, but more about that tomorrow. The 1962 fair was entitled ‘The Century 21 Exposition’ and subtitled ‘America’s Space Age World’s Fair’. It is a major tourist attraction and the home of art, theatre, dance and music and considered very retro. The view from the top provides a 360 degree overlook of the city, its mountains and the Puget Sound.
Our afternoon visit was to the Boeing aeroplane factory at Everett to the north of the city. Here we saw the working production lines of the latest 747 jumbo jets, the 777 and 787 ‘Dreamliner’. The 747 continues to be built in an enormous building where one can see at least three complete aeroplanes as well as others in various stages of construction. It can take a few weeks to complete an aeroplane because these are still assembled in the original manner which means a production line that moves between the airframes adding different parts in order to complete the plane. The other two aeroplanes however, are made using a more mobile production line which can mean an aeroplane could be completed in three days. We saw a British Airways 787 outside, nearly ready for delivery, as well as three nearly completed 777s for China.
The tour is absolutely fascinating and the tour centre is now enormous, compared to the first time we took the tour about 25 years ago. Unfortunately cameras are now banned and no photographs are available of the production lines. However when we get home we may be able to add some old ones to give you readers a flavour of the tour.