NAGOYA, Japan — Remember back on Dec. 15, 2009, when the first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner test plane – known as ZA001 – took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, for a thrilling, three-hour maiden flight?
That 787 Dreamliner is now the giant celebrity centerpiece of an aviation attraction called Flight of Dreams opening in central Japan at Chubu Centrair International, an airport built on an artificial island south of Nagoya.
The four-story complex, built between the airport’s two terminals, welcomes visitors to a Flight Center with high-tech and hands-on aviation experiences, including a look inside the 787’s cockpit and a virtual tour of Boeing’s Everett factory.
The second and third floors of the facility, dubbed Seattle Terrace, overlook the 787 and include branches of some of Seattle’s most iconic shops and restaurants, including Starbucks (of course), Pike Brewing, Fran’s Chocolates and Beecher’s Cheese.
Why is this all here?
Many of Boeing’s Japanese aerospace partners are based in the Nagoya area and produce an estimated 35 percent of all the parts that go into the 787 aircraft. That includes the main wing and fuselage sections, which so big that they must travel from Centrair to Boeing’s U.S. assembly plants in Everett and North Charleston, South Carolina, in Boeing’s 747-400 Large Cargo Freight Dreamlifters.
Boeing donated the first 787 built to Nagoya’s Centrair International Airport in 2015 to honor the role the airport and the people of the region played – and continue to play – in the Dreamliner’s development and production.
“The wings and other major structures manufactured by our partners in the region literally took flight from here,” said Brett Gerry, president of Boeing Japan. “You could say that ZA001 has come home.”
Rather than just park the notable aircraft on the airport grounds, Centrair decided to build a destination aviation theme park around the plane.
While the first 787 Dreamliner test plane is visible from just about everywhere inside the Flight of Dreams facility, visitors pay an admission fee of 1,200 yen (about $11) to gain access to the Flight Park exhibition area on the first floor.
Activities here include a walk-through, animated virtual tour of Boeing’s Everett assembly plant, a space to fold and fly paper airplanes that trigger sound and light depending on how far they fly, and a look inside the ZA001’s cockpit.
There’s also an app-powered scavenger hunt to spot all the parts of the 787 airplane, a chance to draw and scan an airplane and then fly it in a 3D dome, a "pretend you work in the airline cabin" experience, and a twice-an-hour colored light show that projects onto the Boeing 787 and across the floor of the hall.
The 787 simulator is also in the Flight Park, but this activity requires an advance reservation and an extra fee.
As with all theme parks, visitors exit through the souvenir shop, which is itself quite the attraction.
The first Boeing Store outside the United States is here and is stocked with around 500 aviation-related items, including furniture and artwork made from re-purposed airplane parts and many Boeing-branded items that will only be sold in this store.
There is no charge to access the restaurants and shops on the Seattle Terrace, where most of the tables look out onto the ZA001 test plane. The carefully curated selection of the Emerald City’s well-known foods and brands are an homage to Boeing’s hometown and include a sushi restaurant operated by Shiro Kashiba, the Japanese chef who opened Seattle’s first sushi bar, and a ramen shop featuring menu items made with ingredients from the Pacific Northwest.
At the Pike Brewing Restaurant & Craft Beer Bar, “The goal is to replicate as closely as possible, the experience that guests have in Seattle at the downtown Pike Brewing Company,” said company co-founder Charles Finkel. “Pike Centrair features the same beer, similar cuisine, and is decorated in classic American breweriana.”
And while Fran’s Chocolates are already available in a few select Japanese outlets, the company’s shop inside the Flight of Dreams in Nagoya will be its first retail location outside of the Seattle area.
“The team working in the [Nagoya] shop traveled to Seattle to train with our team and learn how to check quality, pack chocolate boxes, tie ribbons and present the chocolates,” said company CEO Andrina Bigelow. “This is such a good fit and we are all so excited. Also, it is a great excuse to visit Japan.”
If you go
The Flight of Dreams complex at Japan’s Chubu Centrair International Airport in Nagoya opens to the public on Friday, Oct. 12.
Flight Park: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry: 4:30 p.m.); Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last entry: 6:30 p.m.). Admission: Adults: 1,200 yen (about $11), Children (3 years to 6th grade): 800 yen (about $7).
Seattle Terrace: Food and dining venues open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Shops open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Harriet Baskas is a Seattle-based airports and aviation writer and USA TODAY Travel's "At the Airport" columnist. She occasionally contributes to Ben Mutzabaugh's Today in the Sky blog. Follow her at twitter.com/hbaskas.