William E. Boeing, Yale graduate and Seattle timber merchant, flew in Curtiss seaplane 1914 and said to Cdr. G. Conrad Westervelt USN, 'I think we could build a better machine'. Result was two B&W seaplanes, first flown 29 June 1916 - both had long career in New Zealand. Registered company as Pacific Aero Products Co. 15 July 1916, and quickly gained Navy and civil orders. Company re-registered Boeing Airplane Co. 26 April 1917, with growing business in landplanes and marine aircraft. In 1920 low bidder for 200 Thomas-Morse fighters, and among prototypes earned money by building or modifying DH-4 versions, 298 by 1925. In 1923 built prototype fighter which led to Army PW-9, Navy FB-1, followed by numerous derivatives culminating in over 600 F3B/F4B/P-12 family 1928-33. Mail route operated 1 July 1927 by 25 Boeing 40A biplanes, followed by 16 3-engined Model 80 airliners from 1928. In 1929 joined with other companies in giant United Aircraft & Transport, among other things swallowing Stearman and setting up Boeing Canada. Air Mail Act 1934 forced break-up of UATC, leaving Boeing still owning Stearman. 'Bill' Boeing retired at this point, succeeded by Clairmont L. Egtvedt, former chief engineer, who masterminded move into stressed-skin cantilever monoplanes with Model 200 Monomail, B-9 bomber, Model 247 airliner (8 February 1933) and P-26/Model 281 fighter. Boeing Airplane Co formed Boeing Aircraft Co. 5 August 1933 as wholly-owned subsidiary to manufacture aircraft. Model 294 XB-15 remained giant prototype, but Model 299 (28 July 1935) led to 12,731 B-17 Fortress bombers and 10 Model 307 Stratoliners, first pressurized transport in service. Model 314 Clipper flew (later with 115-grade fuel, first in world) June 1938, and totally new Model 345 XB-29 (21 September 1942) led to 1,122 B-29A Superfortress bombers made at new Navy-funded Boeing plant at Renton, neighbouring city to Seattle, plus 1,644 from equally large new Boeing plant at Wichita (adjoining Stearman), plus 668 by Bell at Marietta, GA, and 536 by Martin at Omaha. From B-29 stemmed B-50, civil Model 377 Stratocruiser and C/KC-97 transport/tanker of which 888 were built. On 31 December 1947 Boeing Aircraft vanished on merger into parent. Willingness to adopt superior but high-risk solutions never more evident than in Model 450 XB-47 Stratojet (17 December 1947), leading to 2,272 of many versions. Model 464 XB-52 Stratofortress (15 April 1952) led to 744 of some of biggest and most powerful aircraft ever used by any air force, production being shared by Seattle (277) and Wichita (467). Under lawyer Bill Allen Boeing took crucial decision in 1952 to risk over $20 million, about net worth of company, on 4-jet Model 367-80 transport. This paid off, first with KC-135 tanker/transport for USAF (732 built at Renton, plus 88 C-135 variants), and secondly with commercial 707 and derivatives with bigger fuselage cross-section and, in most, larger airframe altogether (725 plus 153 lighter 720s), plus 125 derived military variants. During 1950s work diversified into wide range of missiles and spacecraft, gas-turbine engines and hydrofoil ships, reflected in name change to The Boeing Company May 1961. Giant gambles had to continue: 727 short-haul trijet (9 February 1963) broke all records with 1,852 sold; smaller 737 was even greater risk, launched on an order for 10 from a foreign airline, but today new record-holder with sales far exceeding 3,000. By far biggest risk of all - over $1 billion in 1966 - launched 747 'Jumbo Jet'; but this has never had a competitor, and today has gone well beyond 1,000 at up to $180 million each. Two further big gambles were narrow-body 757 and wide-body 767 twin-jets, both announced in 1978. In dollar terms greatest risk of all was launch of 777, world’s biggest twin-jet, in 1990. Today largest operating unit is Boeing Commercial Airplane Group. On 2 January 1990 remainder of company formed into Boeing Defense & Space Group, main elements being Military Airplanes (Seattle), Product Support (Wichita), Helicopters (Philadelphia), Electronic Systems and Missiles & Space. Military Airplanes Division handles E-3, E-6, E-8 and 767-AWACS, and participates in Lockheed F-22A and Grumman A-X. Product Support Division handles KC-135 and 707 modification, A-6E wings, and support of B-1B, B-52 and other aircraft. Helicopters Division, former Piasecki/Vertol/Boeing Vertol, handles Chinook; with Sikorsky will produce RAH-66 Comanche and with Bell V-22 Osprey.

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