Renton Boeing plant: a beehive of activity | Editor's note

Something amazing happens in north Renton every day: a Next Generation 737 rolls off the assembly line, if you think averages.

I had a chance to see at least a part of that sprawling plant on Tuesday during a media tour to mark the start of the production of 38 737s a month. That’s a big deal; an even bigger deal is the next production ramp-up next year – 42 planes. Who knows? Maybe the number will increase even more.There will be thousands of 737 MAXs to build, along with filling a huge backlog of orders for Next Generation 737s.

Of course, we didn’t see every step taken to build a 737 on the tour. But something I did see struck me.

Building a 737 is really hands-on. It’s almost as if each one is handcrafted. Certainly, Machinists had their hands all over wing spars as they prepared them for assembly. There was this huge machine that actually put them together, but it was under the direction of a human.

I saw workers with flashlights getting a well-lit look at parts of the wing. A 737 has about 400,000 parts, all of which need to fit perfectly. It’s detailed work.

Then came the short bus ride to the final-assembly building, that beehive of activity where 737s become, well, airplanes.

The tour took us to Line 2, where we could over look this vast production floor with the American Flag proudly attached at one end. There’s another line pretty much just like it, too.

High above the floor and far to the other side, 737 fuselages are fitted with all manner of important stuff. I know that’s not the technical term, but it is important.

The engine goes on last, one of the most expensive single pieces of equipment on a plane.

We got just a glimpse of the 737 plant. But it’s clear to me that it takes thousands of dedicated people to build this most-popular airplane in the world.

And it’s all happening in north Renton.

Helping the homeless

A group of dedicated volunteers fanned out and spent three dark hours early on Jan. 25, trying to put a number to homelessness in Renton.

The volunteers found 83 individuals living without shelter. Many were in their cars or trucks; some were just walking around; others were spotted in doorways or hidden in underbrush.

They weren’t confronted, just observed. If only we knew their stories, we might be able to do more to help them.

But interestingly the region is starting to look at the best way to provide shelter to the homeless. There has been an emphasis in planning to build permanent housing. But now the thinking is that more shelters will also provide the immediate “roof over the head” that the homeless need.

For sure what’s needed is additional financial support to find a roof for the homeless in Renton and throughout King County.

After all, for some of us, we’re just a few missed paychecks away from finding ourselves on the street.

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