Two years after the arrival of the first Boeing 777-300ER the time had come, and in March 2018 SWISS collected its tenth and – for the time being – last Boeing 777-300ER from the Boeing factory at Everett, Seattle. To celebrate this last delivery, SWISS invited a team of around 50 people along, including business customers, journalists and three social media bloggers, and on Saturday 10 March we all flew from Frankfurt to Seattle.
Once there, and having acclimatised somewhat, on Sunday 11 March we set off on a little sight-seeing tour of the charming and extremely varied city of Seattle. It really is well worth seeing because although it has the feeling of a city, there are also several rural areas. In the afternoon we visited the American subsidiary of the Swiss company Bucher Aerospace. Bucher produces various interior designs for the aviation industry, including the galleys for the SWISS Boeing 777-300ER.
A very special programme had been lined up for Monday 12 March: we were to visit the Boeing factory in Everett, the birthplace of the Triple Seven. In terms of volume, the Boeing factory is the largest building in the world! It is where all Boeing’s large aircraft are assembled. And it takes about 14 weeks to complete a 777, which is made up of a total of three million parts.
The half-finished aircraft are lined up nose to tail in a large building, waiting to be sent to various cities all over the world. Walking through these vast halls and seeing how the aircraft are assembled is amazing. It makes you realise just what is required before an aircraft can take off for the first time and then, as one of the safest forms of transportation, carry thousands of people around the world.
In the afternoon, we visited the Boeing Customer Experience Center in Renton, where there are various cabin mock-ups of Boeing aircraft. We visited the mock-up of the Triple Seven and the Dreamliner. It was extremely exciting and highly fascinating to learn just how much psychology there is behind the entire cabin lighting concept, and that so many factors influence the passenger’s well-being on-board.
In the evening, we enjoyed the traditional evening meal at the lovely Chateau St. Michelle a short distance from Seattle with the entire Boeing and SWISS delivery team, where we duly celebrated the completion of the project.
Tuesday 13 March was the big day: it was time for the official delivery event, and later on the ferry flight from Boeing Paine Field back to Zurich on the new HB-JNJ. Our aircraft was at the departure gate when we arrived at the Delivery Center in Everett, and it seemed to us as if it were waiting for its big moment. Of course, we also greeted HB-JNJ appropriately, admiring it and taking photos from every side.
This was followed by an extensive brunch and then, shortly after noon, it was time to board! We were greeted warmly by the crew as we entered the brand-new aircraft, and much to our delight we were then able to take a seat in comfortable Business Class. As the aircraft started up, we twice heard the loud and typical sound made by the two large General Electric GE90-115BL engines of the Triple Seven. On take-off, the power of the two engines pushed us back into our seats, as on this occasion the aircraft was much lighter than it would be with a normal load.
After a steep ascent, we soon broke through the grey cloud cover and reached our cruising altitude in the most glorious sunshine. A short while later we were over the breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. Every single one of us had our camera up against the window. As soon as we were told we could release our seatbelts, we all set off to explore the aircraft. It will be a while before any of us flies on an aircraft where Economy Class is completely empty and we are free to explore every possible corner.
The wonderful sunset above the clouds was the perfect ending to the whole experience.
What also set this exceptional flight apart from a commercial one: the cockpit door remained open except for take-off and landing. So over the course of the almost 10-hour flight, all the passengers were able to visit the three friendly and welcoming pilots on the flight deck. The view to the front is even more spectacular and unique.
The display in the morning after a few hours’ sleep in the comfortable Business Class seats was wonderful. There were fabulous views of the crescent moon as it slowly rose on the horizon, bringing the new day with it. A moment later, we could see the first pink spots in the clouds over England as the sun gradually filled the blue-tinted atmosphere with its light, and it slowly became lighter in the cockpit.
This spectacle was followed by breakfast, and before we knew it we were flying over France and approaching the Swiss border. The Captain then made an announcement that caused tremendous excitement among the passengers. From the Swiss border, we were to be accompanied by two Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornets from Payerne.
Just past the border, we spotted two grey specks against the massive backdrop of the Swiss mountains that were the two F/A-18s, gradually approaching us from the right. A few minutes later the two jets were right beside us. What an experience it was to be escorted by two military jets! However, the absolute highlight was when we flew over Zermatt and saw the Matterhorn in the background – pure Swissness!
Around Emmen the two jets bade us farewell, and our pilots started the approach. A perfect touchdown, and at 08:38 we landed on runway 14 in Zurich – the new home base of HB-JNJ. Then it was time to say our final goodbyes.
HB-JNJ was already scheduled to go into normal line operations with SWISS next day, and will fly to long-haul destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
From start to finish, the whole trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Every single moment was an individual highlight, and the ferry flight was the crowning glory. Congratulations and a huge thank you to the entire SWISS Team that made this trip and the delivery of the tenth Boeing B777-300ER such a memorable event!
Delia Frauenfelder / @deliafrauenfelder