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Boeing tour guide delivers with flair

Whether they live a few miles down Interstate 5 highway or traveled from across the world, nearly 200,000 visitors take the ninety-minute tour of Boeing's sprawling Everett, Washington factory to see how the company's twin-aisle jetliners are assembled.

As the tour begins, Boeing guide Christopher Summitt introduces himself in a booming and theatrical voice, occasionally rolling his R's for emphasis in near-Shakespearian delivery. He wears a black beret-like cap and sports a pair of shocking mutton chop sideburns that extend well past his chin. They are a critical component for his after-hours work as a volunteer in historical reenactments. Regardless of Summitt's unexpected appearance and delivery, the audience quickly succumbs to his character and charisma.

First stop is the extensive tunnel system that runs beneath the factory. After an elevator ride up, the tour group peers over a balcony alongside the 747-8 bay where they can see the airplanes in all stages of production. "This is right up my alley," Summitt says between tours. "The story of Boeing is so significantly a part of the story of aviation as a whole. It's an epic story! And as a guide, I like to tell it in a truly epic way."

Summitt grew up just a bike ride away from the runway at Paine Field adjacent to the Everett factory. His father worked as an engineer on the hydraulics and flight controls of several models of Boeing airplanes. Summitt is one of nearly a dozen Boeing employees who conduct year-round public tours at the Everett factory. During busy summer months, the staff doubles to accommodate demand.

Summitt is a history buff. Working for a time at the Custer battlefield site in Montana, he learned how to speak to large audiences as a guide. There, too, he first grew the mutton chops that are his trademark today. He still volunteers in historical re-enactments and serves on the board of Mukilteo's Historical Society. But it is as a tour guide at the Everett factory for the past four years that Summitt feels he's found his niche. And even though he may resemble the historical figures he re-enacts in his spare time, Summitt describes himself in less lofty terms. "I am a cheerleader," he says. "And I am proud of that."

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