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Governor Gregoire celebrates the opening of Future of Flight 2005

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour Opens


Opening Events

Several events marked the opening of the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour in December 2005.

Boeing Day was held on Sunday December 11. Approximately 5,000 Boeing employees and guests attended. A Teachers’ Special Preview was held on Tuesday the 13th. Attendees were greeted by harp music from seven students of the Pacific Harp Institute. Invitation flyers were distributed to public and private classroom teachers in Snohomish County, and about 140 educators attended the event. It was a good launch to the educational programs that the Future of Flight Foundation would be offering to local schools. On December 15 Contractors’ Night hosted about 400 of the people (and their families and friends) who built the facility.

Approximately 400 invited guests attended the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 16. Governor Christine Gregoire told the attendees:

“The Future of Flight is expected to generate $3.5 million annually in tourism dollars for the state and that’s great news, but I’m also excited about the opportunities for education that this Aviation Center offers. This is the perfect place for young people to get excited about a career in science and engineering.”

Bob Watt, Vice President for Government & Community Relations for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Christy Gullion, representing Senator Patty Murray, also spoke about the promise of the new facility. The winners of an art and writing contest for local students cut the ceremonial ribbon.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour opened to the general public on Saturday December 17, which happened to be the 102nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight.

Initial promotional activities continued into early 2006. For a week in January, Seattle station KMPS 94.1 promoted the Future of Flight on air, on the station’s website and in emails to its listener database, and it broadcast live from the Future of Flight for four hours on January 14. The promotion included a 2-for-1 coupon for the Flight Simulator Ride and 50% discount coupons for admission on the 14th during the broadcast hours. In mid-February station KBSG 97.3 conducted similar promotional activities, culminating in a three-hour live broadcast from the Aviation Center on the 18th. A highlight of that day’s events was a paper airplane “Glide & Fly” contest. Additional radio station campaigns were run with KBSG and with KLSY 92.5 to promote visiting the Future of Flight during spring break. More prizes were offered, including roundtrip airfare for four persons on Horizon Air.

Opening Day Exhibits

In addition to the four-story tall 747 vertical fin, visitors entering the new Future of Flight on its upper level first saw four aircraft suspended from the Gallery’s 48-foot-high ceiling. These planes represented forward-thinking aviation technology.

A Glasair TG-1 and a Glasair III are two early (1970s) examples of composite material construction (largely fiberglass) for general aviation use. Their light weight and powerful engines made them convincing demonstrations of the advantages of exploring the use of materials other than aluminum.

The tiny Rutan Quickie in the Gallery was an early, well-performing carbon fiber aircraft. It now hangs in the café.

The six-passenger Beech/Raytheon Starship is another inventive Burt Rutan design, with the wing in the back (instead of the middle), two tails on the wing tips (instead of one at the back end of the fuselage), and propeller engines that point rearward (instead of toward the front). It was the first pressurized cabin production aircraft with such a large use of carbon fiber. Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration had not yet fully accepted that technology, so it required reinforcement that added pounds and compromised the efficiency gains of using the lightweight carbon fiber material.

The move from aluminum to carbon fiber composite materials in aircraft construction was also dramatically illustrated by a large test section of a Boeing 787 fuselage (called the Contoured One Piece Barrel) placed next to the much smaller aluminum section of a Pan Am 707 (the first Boeing commercial jet airliner, introduced in 1957).

Like the dramatic changes in material, three jet engines graphically demonstrated the path of propulsion technology through the jet age. From the early 1950s came a Rolls-Royce Avon engine, which powered the world’s first jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet. Also from that decade was a Pratt & Whitney engine from a Boeing 707 (which rapidly became the premier jet liner after its introduction in 1957). Those two early engines looked very small next to a Pratt & Whitney model PW4098 from the late 1990s, which weighed 14,700 lbs., was 16 feet long and 9 feet wide, and has powered wide-body Boeing airliners.

In a more interactive vein, the nose section of a Boeing 727, including the cockpit, allowed visitors to compare the dials and switches of that venerable aircraft’s flight systems to the digital flight deck of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in an adjacent display. Visitors could also get into the cockpit of a two-seat XJ5 simulator and pilot themselves on a three-minute supersonic flight.

Another popular original exhibit was the first public display of the 3-D HoloProjection™ system designed by 3dh Communications of Atlanta. The four-minute video introduced viewers to future aircraft assembly concepts that could be used to make carbon fiber composite aircraft like The Boeing Company’s 787 Dreamliner. This exhibit remained in the Gallery until 2009.