Boeing: Soaring Since 1916

The first Boeing 787 shortly after its first takeoff on Dec. 15, 2009 at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. (Image by Dave Sizer via Wikimedia Commons)
The first Boeing 787 shortly after its first takeoff on Dec. 15, 2009 at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. (Image by Dave Sizer via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Boeing Company.

Here are some things you may not have known about the world’s largest aerospace company.

The company was founded as Pacific Aero Products Co. by William Boeing along with George Conrad Westervelt in Seattle, Washington.

The inspiration to start the company came when Boeing crashed a seaplane and found that replacement parts would take months to become available. Boeing and Westervelt built what was called the B&W Seaplane in a lakeside hangar on Seattle’s Lake Union.

In 1917, after changing the name of the company to Boeing Airplane Company, it began building seaplanes for the United States Navy for use in World War I. The end of the war created a glut of surplus military airplanes, which forced Boeing to diversify into building other products, such as furniture and boats. In 1928, Boeing produced its first model designed as a passenger plane, the Model 80. It was a biplane that could carry 12 passengers. In 1930, Boeing’s airline, Boeing Air Transport introduced the first female flight attendants, who were all unmarried registered nurses. Boeing Air Transport, through a series of mergers, would eventually become United Airlines.

In 1938, Boeing introduced the Stratoliner, which was the first aircraft with a pressurized cabin, allowing it to fly above most weather disturbances.

During World War II, Boeing was the 12th largest producer of military equipment, making as many as 350 planes per month. The assembly plant was such a valuable military asset that the vast roof was painted to resemble an ordinary neighborhood from the sky to prevent possible enemy air attacks.

Following the war, more than 70,000 Boeing workers lost their jobs. The company developed the Stratocruiser, a commercial airliner based on the B-29 bomber. It also developed military jets like the B-47 and B-52 in the 1950s. At the same time, the company began work on short-range guided missiles, and eventually intercontinental missiles.

1957 brought the delivery of the first American passenger jet, the Boeing 707. The 727 was introduced three years later, and would be the first jetliner to reach 1,000 sales. Eventually the company would produce more than 1,800 727s before discontinuing the line in 1984. Of that number, an estimated 100 remain in service today.

Following that success, Boeing introduced the most popular passenger jet, the 737 in 1967. More than 9,000 737s have been built. There are so many 737s, that two of them take off or land every five seconds, and there are an average of 1,250 airborne at any one time.

Boeing also committed to build the world’s first jumbo jet, the 747. As part of this, Boeing built the world’s largest factory, the size of 40 American football fields, in Everett, Washington.

The huge investment, combined with a decline in military spending, the end of NASA’s Apollo project and a recession saw the company cut almost 75 percent of its workforce in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was estimated that every job loss at Boeing resulted in the loss of another job in the general Seattle-area workforce. The Seattle area saw its unemployment rate rise to 14 percent, leading to an infamous billboard near the airport reading, “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights.”

As the economy improved, so did Boeing’s financial outlook. It developed the 757 and 767 in the 1980s, and began work on the 777, the first airliner designed entirely on computer.

In 2001 Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.

In 2009, the company introduced the 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing has delivered more than 17,000 commercial jets since 1957.

Our question: Which three airlines have been launch customers for more than one Boeing commercial jet? A hint: Two of them are no longer in existence.

Today is Elderly Men Day in Kiribati and the Sultan’s Birthday in Brunei.

It’s unofficially National Tapioca Pudding Day and Gummi Worm Day.

It’s the birthday of artist Rembrandt, who was born in 1606; writer Iris Murdoch, who was born in 1919; and astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who turns 73.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel at random.

This week in 1983, the top song in the U.S. was “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

The No. 1 movie was “Return of the Jedi,” while the story book version of “Return of the Jedi” topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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