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Boeing Rolls Out 1st F-15SA for Royal Saudi Air Force

The F-15 is an interesting airframe.  It has had a messy, and at the same time a storied history.  The single seat F-15s had a little debacle when one fell apart, and later an F-15E flew with only one wing.  Plain and simple though, it is just one sexy bird that can bring all kinds of pain.
This latest variant is one more in the 65 year history between Boeing and Saudi Arabia.  What is even cooler about their relationship is the other businesses and schools that Boeing has helped to establish in Saudi Arabia.  You can find specific details in the press release below.  I always think it is awesome when companies provide not only their service, but also try to improve life in the countries they do business with.
Latest international F-15 variant brings enhanced mission capability at lower life-cycle cost

ST. LOUIS, April 30, 2013 — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today rolled out the F-15SA, ushering in a new era in fighter aircraft capability and affordability for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The F-15SA, the newest variant of the combat-proven F-15, provides improved performance and increased survivability at a lower life-cycle cost. The aircraft has two additional wing stations for increased payload and capability.

“We look forward to receiving the advanced capabilities of the F-15SA aircraft to continue to protect the security and stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Lt. Gen. Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al-Ayeesh, commander, Royal Saudi Air Force. “Our relationship with the U.S. Air Force and The Boeing Company has helped to ensure the Royal Saudi Air Force remains among the best-equipped air forces in the world.”

Flight testing began this year on the F-15SA. The Royal Saudi Air Force has operated F-15S fighters since the 1990s.

“The Kingdom and Boeing have been partners for 65 years and our partnership goes beyond the innovative products and services we provide,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing Defense, Space & Security president and CEO. “Equally as important are the excellent collaborations between Boeing and Saudi educational and industrial organizations.”

Boeing established many of the offset companies in Saudi Arabia, including Alsalam Aircraft Company, in which Boeing currently holds the largest stake. Boeing also co-founded Alfaisal University, the first private university in Saudi Arabia, as well as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Industrial Collaboration Program. Boeing is also developing educational and training projects with the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology and the Technical & Vocational Training Corporation.

“The F-15SA will enhance the national security objectives of both the United States and the Kingdom with improved interoperability and common training and support well into the 21st century,” said Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore, the U.S. Air Force’s decision authority for the F-15SA program.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $33 billion business with 59,000 employees worldwide. Follow us on Twitter: @BoeingDefense.

April 30, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Every AvGeek’s Dream: My Adventures in Everett: Part 3 Boeing Factory Tour

After spending my first day waiting for the 787 and admiring some amazing warbirds, it was time to go into the Boeing Factory itself.  There are actually multiple Boeing factories, including the 737 factory in Renton, WA just a little to the south of Everett.  At the factory in Everett they manufacture the 747, 767, 777, and 787.  If I am not mistaken they will also be manufacturing the new KC-46 since it is a variation of the 767.

The tour starts at Future of Flight which is located in the Northwest corner of Paine Field.  From there you board a bus which drives you around the runway and through the flight-line over to the factory.  The building is the largest building by volume in the world, and once you get inside it is easy to see why.  Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take any pictures on the tour, but you can see some pretty cool ones from this year’s Aviation Geek Fest that is an annual event which takes place over President’s Day Weekend.

The tour takes you through two different sections of the factory where you walk on the catwalks to get a bird’s-eye view of these beautiful, massive pieces of machinery coming together.

The first area you see is where they build the 747-8.  The assembly line takes up two of the huge bays which is understandable considering how huge the plane is.  On one side they assemble the wings, wing boxes, and flight deck.  From there all of the pieces move into the second bay where the whole thing gets put together.

It is incredible to see how many planes they are building at the same time, and how it all comes together before they pull it out the doors.  They have a nice computer setup that allows you to look at all of the different processes and how the plane comes together in all of its different sections.

The second area provides views of the 777 and 787.  What is really cool about the 777 assembly line is that it never stops moving.  The planes are built on platforms that constantly move at something like one inch per hour.  The platforms move in a U shape around the factory floor acquiring the fuselage, wings, engines, and finally landing gear and interior before they get pulled out the door.

In the past each aircraft had to be towed from position to position which took excessive amounts of time just in moving all of the pieces around.  With this new method they have been able to speed the process along in a much more efficient manner.

After viewing the 777 you walk to the other side of the catwalk where the 787 is assembled.  The 787 line is simply a straight line through the factory.  The fuselage sections come off the Dreamlifters from the flight-line, and enter the factory on the north side.  In the first station the three sections are put together.  In the second spot, the wings are attached to the body, and in the last spot the engines are attached along with all the other finishing tasks.

While I was there they had slightly slowed production, though they probably would never admit it, but when they are going full steam they will put out a new plane every 4-5 days.  That is pretty impressive, but not overly surprising when you consider that most of the fuselage pieces are assembled before they get to the factory.

They have also started painting the control surfaces on the tail and wings prior to assembly, which helps save time when it comes to painting them.  What is cool about that is that you can now tell who the plane will be going to while it is still inside the factory.  When I was there the first three British Airways 787s were going through, the first of which recently came out of the paint shop, and looks fantastic.

The painting takes place back on the south side of the road in three separate buildings depending on which plane it is.  Right now there is a little bit of a backlog with the 777s with two of them sitting outside in their green protective coats.

I found the tour guide to be entertaining and informative.  When I had the chance to just chat with him it was fun to get the perspective of someone who is constantly in the factory, something I would love to do.  They have all kinds of generic fun facts for the tour, but they also have their own opinions and observations that are certainly interesting given their position.

The tour only lasts about an hour and a half, but I can honestly say that it felt like it was about 15 minutes long because I enjoyed it so much.  I seriously could have spent hours in there just watching what was going on.  I guess that is what truly describes us avgeeks.  We can spend hour upon hour sitting around waiting to see something that lasts a minute or less.  For that matter we are happy to see something that is just sitting there if it is something we have been wanting to see.

Speaking of sitting around for hours on end waiting for one particular plane, I found myself doing just that on my last day in the Seattle area, but that will be for another day.

April 28, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Every AvGeek’s Dream: My Adventures in Everett: Part 2 Historic Flight Foundation

As I mentioned in my previous post about my adventures at Paine Field, I ended my first day with a trip to the Historic Flight Foundation.  They are located off of Kilo 7 on the field, or in the southwest corner of the airport off the Mukilteo Speedway if you are driving there.  If you don’t have the time to sit around and wait for modern planes to take-off and land then I would highly recommend you spend your time here.

According to their website:

“Historic Flight Foundation was established in 2003 as “John T. Sessions Historic Aircraft Foundation” with the intention to collect, restore, and share significant aircraft from the period between the solo Atlantic crossing of Charles Lindbergh and the first test flight of the Boeing 707. Throughout the intervening years, Historic Flight has acquired at least two aircraft annually and engaged the best restoration resources available to return the collection to original splendor.”

I must say that they are doing an amazing job of fulfilling their mission.  I was only able to take a few pictures (see below) before my phone died, but they are hands down the most impeccably maintained aircraft I have ever seen.  I had the opportunity to see Marine One up close once, and it was not as clean and shiny as these old warbirds, and they all still fly regularly which is an achievement in and of itself.

Their most popular aircraft is probably the B-25, named Grumpy.  It has all of the character that I love about these old planes.  It has a story that tells itself simply by being in its presence.  You can also climb inside and take a look around which gives the whole thing even more perspective.

I had the opportunity to climb into the navigator/bombardier’s seat, and as a current navigator it gave me a much greater appreciation of how they did the job back then.  The things that I take for granted were not even considered back then.  Yet they still had to accomplish their mission just like I do now.

What would a warbird collection be without a good old P-51 Mustang?  Their Mustang, Impatient Virgin? is simply stunning(sorry the pic is a little blurry).  One thing that also makes it unique is that the machine guns are still loaded.  Just one of the many awesome features at Historic Flight that make it special.

They also just recently acquired an old DC-3 that was actually the corporate aircraft for Johnson and Johnson.  Having climbed into a lot of private jets while working at an FBO I must say that the amenities have improved dramatically.  That being said, they once again did a stellar job restoring it, and even have a page from the original logbook when the plane flew most of the way around the world.

The plane that I was most impressed with was the Waco UPF-7.  It is the green fuselage with off-white wings in the pictures below.  Like all of the others it is stunning, but when you see the pictures they have on display of back when the entire thing was in boxes it is incredible how pristine it looks now, and once again, it still flies regularly.

They also had to re-manufacture the wings, so while they were at it they made an extra and turned into a conference room table.  The cool thing is that they could take the glass top off, wrap the frame and it would work just fine as an actual wing.

The thing that probably struck me most about my visit to Historic Flight was the people who worked there.  They are all passionate about their work.  They are well versed on the aircraft they have, and know way more than just the basic details of the model.  Each of the aircraft has a unique story, as many of these older aircraft do, and the staff all know the stories.

With all of the 787s parked all over the field there are actually three parked right outside of Historic Flight which you can see in my picture of the DC-3.  It was really interesting seeing these relatively ancient aircraft sitting next to arguably the most modern aircraft out there, yet it was grounded while these old birds still fly just fine.

Regardless of the technology involved, aircraft will never cease to amaze me.  Whether it is the rumble of an old P-51 or B-25, or the relative whisper of the 787, they all leave me in awe.  Watching them cruise down then runway and then lift off as if being on the ground was just the wrong place for them to be is something that I will never stop enjoying.

Coming up next: The Boeing Factory Tour.

April 25, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Every AvGeek’s Dream: My Adventures in Everett: Part 1

A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to spend a few free days at Paine Field North of Seattle, and it was everything that I had hoped it would be.  As a complete and utter AvGeek I will gladly take any opportunity to watch planes in all of their many states.  Paine Field just happens to be one of the best places to see planes as it is also the home of Boeing’s largest factory.

At the Boeing factory in Everett they manufacture the 747, 767, 777, and the recently reairborne 787.  I will talk about the tour another day, but will simply say that I highly recommend it to anyone who loves planes as much as I do.

When it comes to plane spotting at Paine Field I took the advice of some experts as to where to go.  Malcom Muir of wrote a great piece about all the ins and outs of plane spotting in the area.  Based on his recommendations I chose to spend the vast majority of my time on the Stratodeck at Future of Flight.

On my first day at Paine Field I was fortunate enough to check one aircraft off of my list that I wanted to see airborne.  While I had missed the 787 battery test flight the day before, I was fortunate enough to see one of numerous 787 flights that week.  You can see some of the pictures I took below, as well as a couple of shots from a newly discovered friend, PlaneInsight.  Of course that isn’t his real name, but I will leave that for you to learn by getting to know him.

It was awesome to see the 787 in flight.  It is just a beautiful aircraft, and it is a pity that it has been grounded for so long.  Fortunately, it will be back in the air soon.  I was able to see this gem of an aircraft numerous times throughout the week, but again, I will save that for another day.

I mentioned meeting a new friend while plane spotting, and that was probably the second best part of the day.  It was awesome to meet someone who loves planes as much as I do.  Many of us self-proclaimed AvGeeks live with people who simply don’t understand why we love planes and aviation so much, but when we get the chance to be around the people who not only understand us, but share our passion, it is something that you just never want to end.

I finished my day at another great attraction at Paine Field, Historic Flight Foundation.  But I will leave that for later in the week.

April 21, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.