The Future of Flight is an unbeatable location for airplane watching, from the daily take-offs and landings at Paine Field to the arrivals and departures of special airplanes or important visitors. Whether at an organized event on the Strato Deck or an unorganized gathering on the grassy berm by the parking lot, along the north end of the main runway, the Future of Flight is a unique plane-watching venue.
Large crowds gathered on the berm to watch the inaugural flights of the Boeing 787 and 747-8 airliners and the 767-2C/KC-46 military tanker.
The Future of Flight was a good vantage point from which to observe Air Force One’s arrival in February 2012, when President Obama toured the 787 production line and then spoke to workers at the Boeing factory. Large crowds also came to the Future of Flight to see Air Force One when the President stopped briefly at Paine Field in April, 2014, on his way to meet with survivors of the Oso landslide.
The occasional visit by the gigantic Antonov 124 cargo plane is a stunning experience.
Just watching the neighbors is fascinating, as well. In October 2013 construction of the Dreamlifter Operations Center was completed on the south side of the Future of Flight. The Dreamlifters are expanded-capacity Boeing 747s that transport major sections of 787 aircraft from suppliers across the country and around the world to The Boeing Company’s plant at Paine Field for final assembly. Snohomish County built the roughly 30,000 square foot facility and leases it to The Boeing Company. Future of Flight visitors can often see the unloading of large aircraft components down the planes’ aft ramps or through the swing-away nose sections.
In August 2015 another type of aircraft construction component was on view from the Future of Flight. A bright blue 1.1 million pound, 127-foot-long autoclave was moved on a 128-wheel dolly towed by “Mighty Matt” from the its initial assembly site on the east side of Paine Field north along the main runway, past the Boeing paint hangars, and across the highway overpass. Over a number of days it was then taken around the main assembly building to The Boeing Company’s new Composite Wing Center. That giant cylinder was the first of several the company will use to provide the super-heated pressure needed in the construction of composite wings for the new 777X airplane.