Aviation is a big deal in the Snohomish River Valley region of the Cascade Loop. But what I didn’t realize is how catching the passion could be to engage in aerial adventures!
Last year, my family visited the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour in Mukilteo. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but was pleasantly thrilled to find an interesting adventure for all ages. We arrived earlier than our reservations for our Boeing assembly plant tour, so we spent time in the Aerospace Gallery where there were hands-on exhibits to learn about aerodynamics. We were all captivated and engaged. We joined our tour, where we were bussed to the humungous assembly plant (it’s the largest building by volume on the earth). From several stories up, we observed the commercial jet assembly lines for the Boeing 747, 777, and 787 Dreamliner. Even though it was the weekend, we were able to see one Dreamliner nearing the end of production and witness the amazing activity that doesn’t stop on a production line.
For part two of our aviation adventure, we stepped from the future into the past. Just around the corner from the Boeing plant is the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, which features vintage aircraft from the late 1920s to the 1960s. We were given a personal tour by one of the volunteers. He shared intricate details of each plane undergoing restoration, which absolutely thrilled my husband, who knows his aircraft well! We were even able to climb up into a 1950s passenger plane and see what the interior looked like in the early years of aviation. This is certainly not a stop to overlook on an aviation journey in Snohomish County!
Our tour, spanning a couple weeks, also included two other aviation collections at Paine Field. The Historic Flight Foundation boasts a collection of the most important aircraft produced between 1927 and 1957 that are carefully restored to airborne condition. We were able to get up close and personal with every piece in the collection and uncover its role in aviation. While my husband and boys could appreciate all the aircraft (think G.I. Joe), my daughter and I were tickled by the names on the aircraft, including “Bad Kitty” and “Impatient Virgin.” There also is a story behind the names, which is interesting, so be sure to ask the volunteer guides.
The final stop on our tour was the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, which features impressive and rare aircraft from 1935-1945. Though with my limited knowledge of aviation I could tell the collection was phenomenal, it was the tanks that most caught my attention. The collection includes a white Soviet T-34 tank, a M4A1 Sherman tank, and even a motorcycle tank!
Now, the danger in learning about aircraft is that it can instill (or reawaken) a desire to be up in the air. Shortly after our tour I made my way to Harvey Field in Snohomish to the home of Skydive Snohomish, where I learned about a VERY small plane with a door that you’re supposed to open in flight. At 13,500 feet, I jumped out of that airplane on a tandem skydive. The experience was phenomenal! From that height, I could see Paine Field where we’d toured, along with the majestic mountains of Snohomish County and even the skylines of distant Seattle and Bellevue. The adrenaline I experienced and the pressing desire to do it again echoes the desires of pilots, who have a physical need to get into the cockpit and once again take to the skies.
There are many ways to take to the skies, and Snohomish County features the means to do so – from the lessons of the past and the hopes of the future in aviation, to the opportunities to literally take to the skies. There are still more things to explore, and I’m excited for the opportunity to check things off my bucket list!