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The great Boeing metal-airplane shop (pictures)

Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan. manufactures both composite and aluminum fuselage sections for Boeing jets. Today, CNET Road Trip takes a look at the metal side of the shop.

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Daniel Terdiman

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1 of 21 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Cockpit section

WICHITA, Kan. -- When most people think of Boeing commercial jet production, they likely think of Seattle, and the aviation giant's major facilities there.

But if you want to know where the Boeing 737 -- the world's best-selling jet -- is really born, you have to come to Wichita.

That's where Spirit Aerosystems, formerly a Boeing division, now a standalone company, manufactures 737 fuselages, as well as major components for every other Boeing commercial plane, including the composite 787 Dreamliner, and the aluminum 747, 757, 767, and 777.

As part of CNET Road Trip 2014, I visited Spirit in Wichita to see how the 737 comes to life.

Here, we see a Spirit technician working inside the all-aluminum front of a 737 cockpit, seen inside Spirit's massive facility here.

Please click here for my story on the production of the 737 fuselage in Wichita.

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Scenic overlook

This is "Integration," where all six major sections of a 737 are fused together into a full fuselage. At Spirit Aerosystems, the spot from which this photo was taken is known as the "scenic overlook."

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By train

Last month, a train carrying 737 fuselages to Boeing in the Seattle area derailed in Montana, causing three of the fuselages to end up in a river. But normally, the trains make it to Washington safely, looking just like this.

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Entry and galley panels

Spirit technicians work on 737 entry and galley panels.

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Trim and drill

Large 737 sections are being worked on inside what are known as "trim and drill," where many of the holes and windows are drilled and cut out of the fuselage.

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Forward sections

At Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, technicians work on several 737 forward sections, which include the cockpit area.

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Underneath entry and galley panels

A look at the underside of the unfinished entry and galley panels.

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Cockpit sections

Two 737 cockpit sections sit on the floor at Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan.

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Robot working

Spirit employs a system of "master and slave" robots, in which one on the inside, like the one seen here, works in tandem with another one on the outside, each tracking the other as they drill holes and add small components.

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Section on a truck

A 737 side section, which includes a number of windows, sits on a trailer, awaiting further work by Spirit Aerosystems technicians.

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Fuselage without nose

A 737 fuselage, minus its nose, at the Integration position, where all the plane's major sections are fastened together, at the Spirit Aerosystems facility in Wichita, Kan.

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Looking into cockpit

A look into the interior of a 737 cockpit.

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Fuselage interior

The interior of a 737 fuselage, at the Integration position. Once Spirit's work on the fuselage is complete, it's shipped by train to Boeing in Washington state, where the rest of the airplane is put together in the aviation giant's final assembly facility.

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Empty cockpit

The empty cockpit section of a Boeing 737.

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Working in floor

A Spirit Aerosystems technician works in the floor of the passenger section of a Boeing 737.

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Lifted by crane

A major 737 section is lifted across the facility by a ceiling-mounted crane.

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Lifted by crane underneath

A look up at the underside of the 737 section being lifted by crane.

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Tail section

This tail section is one of six major sections that, together, make up the 737 fuselage.

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Fuselages from behind

A look at two 737 fuselages in Integration, at Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kan.

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Windows

A panel of windows that will be added to a fuselage sits on the floor at Spirit Aerosystems.

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Ready to go

Two complete 737 fuselages sit outside the Spirit Aerosystems facility in Wichita, Kan., ready to be shipped to Boeing in Washington state.

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