One of my new favorite places for plane spotting is the rooftop observation deck of the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo, Washington, just 25 minutes north of Seattle. The rooftop deck overlooks Paine Field, a county airport that is also used for test flights by the adjacent Boeing manufacturing facility and you can see the many planes parked at the Everett facility.
The combination means plane spotters can watch aircraft ranging from small, single-engine Cessnas to the newest Boeing 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliners take off and land. While there, I saw a few Boeing 747s take off and disappear into the clouds.
To add to the experience, radio communication between pilots and air traffic control can be heard through speakers on the roof deck. Parking and admission to the deck are completely free.
The Future of Flight Aviation Center is also where tours of Boeing’s Everett facility begin. After a security check (cameras and backpacks must be left at the Aviation Center — lockers are available), tours take you inside the facility, where you can get a first-hand look at how jets are assembled and at life inside what the Guinness Book of World Records calls the largest building in the world by volume. (To put it in perspective, my tour guide noted that all of Disneyland and acres of parking, or 74 football fields, could fit inside the Boeing factory.)
Tours are approximately 90 minutes, and are available every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Visit the Future of Flight website for exact details on admission fees and hours of operation. Tip: The Future of Flight website and tour books recommend reserving tickets in advance, which can be done by phone (1-800-464-1476 ) or online up to one hour before your arrival. Also, children must be at least 4 feet in height to join the tour, and babies and small children aren’t allowed to be carried on the tour.
After a tour of the Boeing factory, I had a new appreciation for the planes I later saw taking flight at Paine Field.
What’s your favorite place to go plane spotting?