Wednesday, December 7, 2011


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For my paper on the commercial aspect of flight training, I saw it fit to examine the history of the biggest producer of commercial airplanes in the world, Boeing. In this report we will look at the history of Boeing from the early beginnings, such as the B&W’s, to the 777’s that fly the sky’s as you are reading this report. After all, if we are to become commercial pilots, then it is definitely in our best interest to know the heritage of the planes that we will be flying.

The year 10 can easily be considered the birth of flight, as we know it. Most people will say that because it was the year that the Wright Brothers made their first flight. But not to be outdone, it was also the year that William Boeing, born in Motor City, Michigan in 1881, left Yale engineering for the sunny west coast.

Boeing was a brilliant businessman who made a fortune selling land rather quickly. After amassing great wealth he moved to what would become the home of Boeing, Seattle. Boeing was determined to learn as much as possible about this new science called aviation.

In the first years he mostly did theoretical work, which was mainly conversations between himself and a Navy engineer by the name of George Conrad Westervelt. Together they explored the different dynamics of the early biplanes, and even got to take them up in the air. But neither of them was satisfied, and both believed that they could build an even better airplane.

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Boeing set the task before Westervelt to build a better airplane while he was taking flying lessons. So construction began on their twin-float seaplane called the B&W (their initials) in Boeing’s boat house. A setback came in 116 when Westervelt was shipped to the east, leaving the project in Boeings’ hands. Boeing would not be discouraged however, and continued the project on his own despite the tremendous amount of

money that he was losing. But nonetheless the first two B&W’s were finished in 116 and took to the air at the hands of Boeing himself. After becoming incorporated in 116 Boeing changed the name to Boeing Airplane Company and brought three key people to his team; Tsu Wong, Claire Edvedt, and Phil Johnson. He also built a wind tunnel in which to test his planes. Claire and Phil were just collage grads, and would both eventually become Presidents of Boeing, what a first job!

Boeing however, was still struggling to make any kind of money, but in 117 WWI was under way, and the Navy needed planes to train pilots with. Wong had designed a plane called the Model C, and was ready to show it to the Navy, except that it couldn’t make the trip from the west coast to Florida. So what did they do? They took two of the planes apart, packed them into crates and had them shipped by train to Pensacola where they were reassembled and tested by the Navy. It worked, and 50 were ordered making it the first production order for Boeing.

Good times were short lived. After the war was over the government didn’t order any more planes, and because of all the biplanes that flooded the market, the small company had to build dressers and furniture just to stay afloat. All hope however was not lost. Even though they were in the furniture business they did not stop making planes, and it was during this time that some very historic things happened. A C-700 made the first ever international airmail deliver from Seattle to Vancouver, and Boeings BB-L6 became the first plane to fly over MT Rainier. But the company was not making enough money, so something needed to happen, and it did in the form of fighter planes, mail carriers, and passenger planes.

In 1 Boeing was awarded the first ever Army Air service contract, by selling the army 586 fighters in the P-1/F4B series. They also found the time to produce a mail plane called the Model 40A. This plane began to make airmail runs from San Francisco to Chicago, and it was also the basis for the formation of the BAT, Boeing Air Transport, which was designed to run that airline. BAT airfields were soon set up, and pilots were trained to run the new airmail service. Soon it was seen that these mail planes could also carry people, and this led to the Mode80, which was Boeing’s first plane built specifically for passenger transport. The Model 80 could hold 1 people and made its first flight on July 7th 1. After this flight Boeing became one of the largest airplane manufactures in the country.

After Lindbergh’s famous flight in 17, there was a huge interest in aviation. Boeing expanded to not only produce mail carriers, and flight service stations, but also pilot schools. The aviation industry was advancing and biplanes became obsolete, the new wave quickly became METAL MONOPLANES. These planes became the future of Boeing and they introduced the Monomail, which carried cargo and mail, and the single XP-. The Monomail was revolutionary for it’s time, and led to the development of the first ever Boeing bomber, the B.

After the depression in 14 the antitrust act was issued causing Boeing to split into different entities, United Airlines, which was responsible for air transportation, United Aircraft, responsible for manufacturing in the east, and Boeing Airplane Company, which is responsible for the manufacturing in the west. The reason that I mention this is because it was when the company split that William Boeing became disheartened and decided that it was time to retire. From that point on there have been different Presidents and heads of engineering. For simplicities sake I will not indulge into all of them or this paper would become very long.

After the depression it was decided that the future of the company was in large transport airplanes, and new types of bombers. They couldn’t have been more right. It was in 14 when Boeing would first develop the XB-15 and the four engine Model at the request of the Army. These planes were the prototypes for the B-17 bomber, also known as the flying fortress. These planes are what many of the Japanese and German soldiers saw above in the skies during WWII.

Besides serving as the backbone for the war effort, the bombers main features were incorporated into the development of both the Model 14 Clipper and the first ever pressurized aircraft the Statoliner. Again darkness crept into Europe as WWII took its hold, and Boeing was kicking out B-17 bombers like they were hotcakes. While building the bombers in Seattle they would disguise the rooftops of the factories with chicken wire lawns and burlap houses so that from the air it would look like a quiet suburb.

The war effort struck the Boeing plants head on. All of the men were going off to war so that meant that all of the women were going to the plants to build airplanes, and oh how they ever did. During this time instead of kicking out 60 planes a month they were producing 6 planes a month. It was also during this time that they developed the B-, also known as the superfortress. These planes were made in Wichita, Kansas with the women working 10-hour shifts day and night.

After the war was over the same song was sung. The Army stopped buying airplanes, and Boeing factories began to shut down. Times were looking tough for Boeing, but wind tunnel testing had helped them design their first ever jet bomber known as the XB-47. It was here that they knew their future lay, in jet airplanes.

The wind tunnel that was developed in 144 became very useful as Boeing started creating jet engines. They used the tunnel to their advantage by creating the B-47, and the B-5 which would become the backbone of the nations bombing fleets. It was from these planes that Boeing saw it’s future and decided to sink a huge portion of their profits into the creation of the Dash 80. This airplane was to combine the aerodynamics of the B-5, and incorporate a much larger cargo space to hold whatever was necessary. This was a huge gamble for the company, but it paid off in the end. This design led to the Model 707-10 which ended up being the first commercial jet airliner produced by Boeing. It was fast and very fuel efficient, making it the perfect machine for the job.

After becoming interested in guided rockets, which would eventually lead to the development of the Dyna-Soar, a reusable aircraft that could glide through the earth’s atmosphere after being lifted up into orbit, they decided that it was time to take a serious look at traveling in space.

In 161, President Kennedy decided that it would be a great idea if American’s traveled into space, and Boeing was able to help out by integrating all of their ideas into the Apollo project. Along with that, Boeing built the lunar orbiters, and the lunar roving vehicles that the astronauts used to get around when they were on the moon. They also designed the S-1C which was the largest single engine rocket ever produced in the United States.

After going into space Boeing started working on breaking the speed of sound, and in 166 they began work on America’s first supersonic transport, the SST. It was also during this time that Boeing helicopters were flying over the jungles of Vietnam in the form of the Chinook and the Sea Knight. But as the war was settling down a recession kicked in and in 171 Boeing almost lost it all.

There were a number of reasons why Boeing fell into crisis during this time period. The 60’s were over and the Apollo project came to a close, along with the cancellation of the SST project meaning that most of their hopes lied in the 747 that they had created. But high start up costs, and the recession in the industry meant that even these gems weren’t flying out the door anytime soon. It was because of this that Boeing had to lay off over half of its work crew, and there didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

Boeing would not give up. They decided that in order to stay alive, they would need to diversify the types of things that they did. They moved away from airplanes and even got involved in computer products. Employees of the company irrigated the western dessert of Oregon, and headed up housing projects for the government. They created a light rail system for Boston, scramblers for police radios, and even converted seawater to fresh water for a resort in the Virgin Islands. But all along they couldn’t get rid of the taste of the aerospace industry. They still continued to work on different innovations that were still in use such as the Mariner 10, that was a space probe launched to examine Mercury and Venus. It was also during this time that they were able to come up with the first types of cruise missiles, and attack missiles. By 18 however the recession let off, and soon the commercial airliners began to roll out the door again.

77’s began to sell again and Boeing was known throughout the nation as the largest producer of passenger airliners. They saw the need for bigger jets, and came out with the 757, and the 767. They also stayed involved in the development of different military devices as well such as the V- Osprey tiltrotar and the Comanche helicopters as well. They also helped develop the F- raptor, which is the most advanced fighter jet in history.

Once the 10’s rolled around Boeing was still working hard on different ideas. They developed the B- Stealth Bomber, and they developed the Sea Launch which would have the capability to launch commercial satellites into orbit. They have also expanded their fleet to include upgraded 77’s, and also 777’s, which have been able to land all over the world. Right now they are messing around with the idea of supersonic travel, and have set a goal to make a plane that could carry 00 people at Mach .4 speed.

Boeing has come a long way since the B&W days, and now is the most recognized airplane manufacturer on the planet. I guarantee that everyone in the flight program has flown on one of their jets, or has seen them fly overhead. As a future commercial airline pilot I found it fascinating to learn about how this superpower came about, and blossomed into the company that it is today. Hopefully one day I will be able to pilot their supersonic jet. Hey! You never know, it could happen.

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