What an exciting and interesting day we spent with Mike’s sister, Marie who works for Boeing building the Apache Longbow Helicopter. Boeing hosted a family day and boy did we get a tour. Marie has worked on the Apache for 15 years and really knows her stuff…we couldn’t have had a better tour guide. From watching where and how the parts are made, Marie showed us how the different parts are molded, many of which are made from composite material. Wish you all could see the samples of some of the material she labeled and sent to the kids. While the frame is still made from metal, more and more of the Apache is being made from composite material which has to be kept frozen until ready to use in order to keep its strength and moisture so it is pliable to shape into the different molds. Some of the composite material is bullet proof while others are for keeping away lightening strikes and others look like honycombs. Every part has many layers of composite and then is baked so it is hard so it can be trimmed to become the perfect piece. The different kinds of composite is cut by a huge laser machine after the computer lays it out on the material, much like a sewing pattern. The Apache’s we sent to the kids were all cut on the laser machine. We were able to see many of the molds, parts, testing area as well as the assembly line where they install the parts once they have been molded and cured and the “breadboards” where all the wiring is strung before it is bundled for assembly. Boeing is continually working to improve the Apache and it can now fly higher, faster and lift more weight with the new blades as well as last longer versus the current metal blades. Apache helicopters are designed to survive heavy attack and inflict massive damage. It is being used in Afghanistan right now and the pilots love it saying things like “When Apaches are flying, no soldiers are dying” and “No need to run because you’ll just die tired!” I wish we could have taken photos of all we saw but cameras are strictly prohibited (very understandable). The Apache is an awesome machine to see up close and we all decided we would sure hate to see one coming over the hill towards us. It was a “once in a life time” experience for us. We came away feeling mighty proud of the dedicated employees in the Apache plant who work hard every day to keep our military men and women safe.