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787's Dreamlifter is one huge plane

On the tarmac at Seattle's Boeing Field, the Dreamlifter, a modified 747-400 that carries the 787 Dreamliner's fuselage, sits and waits.

SEATTLE--I was driving into Seattle from the airport today, on my way up to Boeing's Everett, Wash., factory--the world's largest building by volume--for the official launch of its brand-new 787 Dreamliner, when I saw something interesting off to the side of the highway.

For anyone who's driven in from Sea-Tac airport, the sight of Boeing Field on the west side of Interstate 5 is very familiar. But today, I noticed that the "Dreamlifter" was parked on the tarmac there. The Dreamlifter is the mammoth plane--it's a modified 747-400 with a huge hump--that flies in the 787's fuselage.

So this was a pretty cool sighting, I thought, given my destination. The only problem was that I was on the freeway and, well, that's not the safest place to take pictures from.

But I had a little time, so I jammed over to the nearest exit and backtracked, turned up a hill and drove around until I found a spot that looked like a promising place for a vista onto Boeing Field.

Sure enough, at the end of a dead end dirt road, I found it, on the other side of a fence, and through a wide swath of blackberry bushes and other weeds: a perfect view of the airfield and the plane.

Boeing's Dreamlifter is the plane that flies in the 787's fuselage. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

After yelling out some rather loud exhortations of my glee, I snapped off a few dozen pictures.

Then I noticed some small planes taking off and landing from the airfield, and as one of them taxied in, I was able to get it in the same frame as the Dreamlifter.

Boeing's Dreamlifter, which is based on the 747, dwarfs nearby small planes. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

And, wow. Seeing the two planes in the same frame gave a pretty good sense of just how big the Dreamlifter really is.

Anyway, stay tuned for more coverage later today of the 787 launch event itself. It should be even bigger.