I am researching a book on the DC-9/MD-80/MD-90 series and had the pleasure of visiting Long Beach on Friday.
I was given a personal tour of the Boeing 717 production line. While many have written this model off, the activity in the building certainly belies that.
The Long Beach facility is moving toward a moving production line, so new aircraft are built nose-to-tail instead of parked at angles along the perimeter of the factory floor. On Friday there were no less than a dozen 717s in various stages of completition. Several were destined to TWA and Air Tran, another to Impulse, another to Turkmenistan and others. The factory floor is clean and organized, the lines alive and the workers satisfied.
Outside of the production building, I saw an Air Tran awaiting delivery, along with a new Impulse 717, this one in the airline's new livery. It features a shade of light blue with the word "Impulse" on the side.
At this point I was able to go inside a factory-fresh Air Tran model. Boy, was I impressed. It is unlike any interior I have ever seen -- reverse bell-curve shaped ceiling, indirect lighting, handrails along the entire length, huge carry-on bins and larger windows. There's nothing like that new-plane-smell moment.
Along the tarmac, I spotted four TWA 717s awaiting delivery, one from Impulse, the first 717 in house colors, and the last two MD-11s ever made for Lufthansa Cargo. They will be delivered in early 2001.
While the former Douglas and McD facility is a little worn -- and very empty -- these days, it was nice to see a bright factory cranking out new jets. Given time, hopefully this baby Boeing will get additional orders so the Douglas twin-jet heritage can continue.