On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan toured Boeing's factory in Everett, Wash., which executives boast is the largest factory in the world. The Washington Examiner was allowed to tag along to see what it's like for a VIP to get a look inside the gargantuan plant.
The first thing you notice as you approach the plant from the outside is that it is so big that it's actually hard to get a sense of its size, because it's difficult to see where it begins or ends.
After entering a side door, we were whisked to what would be the first stop on Ryan's tour: An unfinished 767-2C.
This plane is destined for the military, where it will become a KC-46 tanker that refuels other planes mid-flight. Behind it is a 767 in final assembly to be sent to FedEx. This line produces about 2.5 planes a month.
Ryan showed up at the plane with his entourage, which included Boeing executives and Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican who represents a different part of Washington state.
The nice thing about being the House speaker is that the tour waits for you. Ryan made three stops along the tour, and at each stop factory workers were waiting to greet him and tell him about what they did.
As soon as the introductions were done and the photos were taken, Ryan began lobbing questions at the Boeing employees. They told him that ultimately this tanker will be able to refuel an F-35 in four minutes.
Before Ryan was done asking questions, though, our host grabbed us to take us to the second location. Because the factory is so big, we traveled by golf cart. While driving we could see how giant planes get lost in this massive factory. These aircraft we passed weren't part of the tour.
As we drove, we could hear a drill somewhere in the background that was so loud it sounded like a machine gun firing.
A bunch of camera crews were waiting at the second location, which was the unfinished body of a 777. Media had to wear bright yellow reflective vests and goggles.
The footage from this stop would be used in media broadcasts in the Seattle area.
Every move that Ryan made generated a big reaction. When he went to take a look at the outside of the aircraft, several cameras followed him, in addition to Boeing executives and employees.
While he was still talking, we once again were on the move to get to the next location, the line where they make 787s.
When we got there, another group of employees was waiting. For a brief moment, they stood awkwardly about 50 feet away while the Boeing execs and Ryan paused to talk.
Just seconds later, Ryan's group came over and they all shook hands and joked around.
What Ryan was looking at here is a 787, the second sold to El Al, the Israeli carrier. That's why the plane has a big Star of David on its tail.
The vast majority of the big planes made in Everett will be sold overseas, to carriers such as El Al.
This one is almost done. One major item left, though, is to attach the jet engines to its wings. For now, instead of engines, it has 17,000-pound weights attached to the wings to prevent it from tipping.
This plane provided the backdrop for Ryan's "town hall" with Boeing employees, as seen in this shot from Ryan's photographer.
First, though, Ryan had to tour the inside of the plane.
We went in ahead of him and got a good firsthand look of the first-class cabin. Although it doesn't have engines or power yet, the plane does have fully upholstered and decked-out first class seats, with tons of space. Ryan asked — yes, these fully recline.
Each seat has a personal television, which rotates out so that it's facing the passenger.
Walking back to economy class, the seats still have their own screens.
We walked out of the tail side of the plane. And there we saw an engine, waiting to be moved.
It's not that unusual for media to tour Boeing's Everett plant, a press representative said. When a new carrier from a foreign country, such as El Al, buys a plane, some of that country's media often comes over to take a look.
After we descended from the plane, our tour was over. But Ryan and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg immediately started the town hall.