In May 1967, Boeing employees moved into a new factory built beside Paine Field near Everett, Wash. Thirteen months later, the group that became known in aerospace legend as “The Incredibles” rolled out the 747.
A half-century later, more than 40,000 employees, customers and suppliers visit Boeing’s largest manufacturing site daily. The hub of widebody factories is home to the 747-8, 767, 777, 787 Dreamliner, the KC-46 Tanker and several derivative programs. Building renovations and new construction tell a tale of continuous improvement and transformation — including the 1.3 million square foot (120, 800 square meter) Composite Wing Center — as today’s production system prepares for the 777X.
As the company this month commemorates 50 years of Team Everett’s contributions, those changes reflect Boeing’s continued investment in the region, company leaders say. And several employees who joined the Everett site in the 1960s added their unique perspectives about the past and future.
“The 777X represents a tremendous commitment and 787 and our freighters are well positioned – customers love them,” said Bill Rietkirk, a 767 Tanker engine program manager who joined Boeing right out of college in 1966. He believes Everett’s future is bright.
“If we can keep the other programs going, it looks like the company will be building planes in Everett for quite some time,” he said.
Cognizant of the ‘incredible’ legacy they inherited, employees reflected on those first years at the site.
“Boeing was bringing a lot of people into the company,” Patricia Walters, a technical designer on the 767 program, recalled of the ramp up to support the 747. It also seemed that we were always adding onto the factory and making the buildings bigger to accommodate the newest airplanes,” she said.
Woo Lee, currently on the 747 program, was working in Renton in 1966 when the Everett site was announced.
“I volunteered and got a job doing operational planning for 747 scheduling and have been here ever since,” he said. First flights and VIP visits are highlights of his time in Everett.
“It is always exciting to see dignitaries and U.S. presidents like Bill Clinton come to Boeing. Naturally, we were very proud of our products and always trying to sneak a peek to see what they were doing,” Lee said.
Among the many other VIPS who have toured and spoken at the site are, in recent years, former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama; former U.S. Vice President Al Gore; China President Xi Jinping and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Today, Boeing’s Current Market Outlook forecasts 9,100 new widebody airplanes will be needed over the next two decades – a $2.8 trillion opportunity. Employees and leaders said the 777X and other widebody programs, coupled with a sharp focus on quality and affordability, will help the company compete — ensuring the likelihood of future first flights and VIP visits.