Boeing (The Boeing Company)

The Boeing Company, established by William Boeing, was the most successful company to get its start during the World War I era. Boeing, the son of a well-off Detroit family, moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1903 and launched a successful lumber business. He met and became friends with Navy Lieutenant Conrad Westervelt. Neither man had ever flown before but both had become interested in aviation after watching the 1910 air races at Belmont Park, New York. On July 4, 1914, the two took their first plane ride with a barnstorming pilot. From then on, they were hooked. Boeing was convinced he could build a better plane and decided to learn to fly and begin manufacturing aircraft. The next October, Boeing enrolled in Glenn Martin's flying school and bought a Martin plane of his own to fly.

Together, Westervelt and Boeing built the Bluebill seaplane, better known as the B&W. Westervelt was reassigned to Washington, D.C., before the plane could be completed, however, and Boeing took the B&W up on its first flight on June 15, 1916. One month later, on July 15, Bill Boeing incorporated the Pacific Aero Products Company; a year later it became the Boeing Airplane Company. Two B&Ws were offered to the U.S. Navy, but the Navy turned them down. Boeing then sold the planes to the New Zealand Flying School—the company's first international sale. New Zealand used the planes for express and airmail deliveries, and one made the country's first official airmail flight on December 16, 1919. The plane also set a New Zealand altitude record, reaching 6,500 feet (1,981 kilometres) on June 25, 1919.

In 1916, Boeing hired Tsu Wong, one of the country's few aeronautical engineers, as an aircraft designer. He also hired Claire Egtvedt and Phil Johnson, who would both later become Boeing company presidents.

As the United States entered World War I it became clear that the Navy would need training airplanes, and to fill this need Wong designed the Model C training seaplane for Boeing. This was the company's first production order and its first financial success. Fifty-six were built—55 for the U.S. military and one for Bill Boeing, which he called the C-700. Boeing and Eddie Hubbard flew this plane on March 3,1919, on the first international mail delivery, carrying 60 letters from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Seattle, Washington.

When the war ended, orders for aircraft disappeared. The market was saturated with surplus biplanes. To survive, the company built 25 HS-2L flying boats for the Curtiss Company and also built bedroom furniture. The company's lone B-1 flying boat probably set the record for the most miles flown by a plane up to then. Launched on December 27, 1919, Eddie Hubbard flew this plane more than 350,000 miles (563,270 kilometres). It outlasted six engines in eight years of international airmail runs between Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia. But in all of 1920, it was the only plane that Boeing sold. Bill Boeing, in the meantime, used his own funds to meet the payroll and cover the company's expenses.

An order from the Army Air Service in 1921 to build 200 Thomas-Morse MB-3A pursuit fighter biplanes kept Boeing in business and put them on the road to financial success. Boeing underbid Thomas-Morse, which had to absorb the aircraft's development costs but who retained no rights to the design. Boeing also demonstrated its efficient production methods that allowed it to profit while still charging the customer a lower price. For Thomas-Morse, however, the order spelled the beginning of the end for the company.

Boeing also modified and rebuilt De Havilland DH-4 fighters, moving their fuel tanks to a location where they were less likely to burst into flames and trap the pilot (thus the nickname the "Flying Coffin"). In 1921, the company also won an order for a new type of bomber that General Billy Mitchell favored, the Ground Attack Experimental, or GAX. Boeing produced 10 GA-1 models, based on the GAX.

Using the experience gained from the MB-3A, Boeing began to develop its own pursuit designs. The XPW-9, which would become the Model 15, beat out Fokker and Curtiss fighters in Army evaluations in 1923. The Army ordered 30 of the biplane, designated PW-9, and the Navy ordered 14, designated FB-1 through FB-6.

With these aircraft, Boeing became recognized as the leading designer of military aircraft and received in 1923 a Navy order for a trainer—the Model 21, or NB-1 and NB-2. The company delivered 70 Model 21s in 1924 and 1925. Early in 1928, Boeing also built and delivered 586 of two new fighter biplanes, the P-12 and the F4B, to the military. These planes used bolted aluminium tubing rather than welded steel tubing as in earlier models. The fuselages of later versions had aluminium coverings rather than fabric or wood. The model designed for the Navy could land on an aircraft carrier. The Army's version could hold a 500-pound (227-kilogram) bomb.

The development of airmail led to Boeing's first transport, the Boeing Model 40 biplane of 1925, to replace the DH-4. The Post Office had solicited bids for a new plane that would use the Liberty engine and be able to carry 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) of mail. Although the Post Office bought one Model 40, initially Boeing lost out in its competition with the Douglas entry.

Not until early 1927, when the Post Office began turning airmail service over to private industry, did a modified Model 40, called the 40A, win another competition. This plane was redesigned for a lighter, air-cooled Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine; used a steel tube and fabric-covered structure; and had a redesigned fuselage that could carry two passengers. It was the first Boeing plane to carry passengers. Although an initial investment of $750,000 would be needed for the 25 new aircraft, Boeing was able to submit a low bid for the San Francisco-Chicago airmail route partly because it could take advantage of the income that two passengers would provide. Boeing Air Transport (BAT) was formed as a subsidiary to Boeing Airplane Company to handle the route. The decision was right—it proved to be a profitable venture. In its first year, BAT carried 837,211 pounds (379,753 kilograms) of mail, 148,068 pounds (67,163 kilograms) of express packages, and 1,863 passengers.

The growing popularity of passenger flight inspired Boeing to build the first plane specifically to carry passengers. The three-engine Model 80 biplane could carry 12 passengers, and an upgraded Model 80A could hold 18. The Model 80 first flew on July 27, 1928, and the 80A on September 12, 1929. An innovative feature was its removable wooden wingtips that allowed the plane to fit into the hangars along its route. Its cabin had hot and cold running water, a toilet, forced air ventilation, leather upholstered seats, and individual reading lamps. It also had a separate enclosed flight deck, which some pilots objected to, being accustomed to an open cockpit. Seeing the need to attend to the passengers full time on the Model 80A, Boeing was the first to hire females—all registered nurses—to work as flight attendants.

By 1928, Boeing had 800 employees. That year saw the start of Boeing's expansion and consolidation of power with the purchase of Pacific Air Transport and its merger into BAT.

During this time, Bill Boeing had become friends with Fred Rentschler, president of Pratt & Whitney, whose engines were used on Boeing aircraft. In fall of 1928, Rentschler suggested merging Boeing Airplane Company and BAT with Pratt & Whitney into a holding company. Boeing agreed, and consolidation and acquisitions began.

On February 1, 1929, the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC) was incorporated. UATC was a powerful holding company that included the engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney and two aircraft manufacturers, Hamilton Metalplane Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which had become a division of Boeing earlier in the year, and Chance Vought Corporation, a manufacturer of naval aircraft. UATC also established the subsidiary Boeing Aircraft of Canada, which began building C-204 flying boats. UATC also acquired three airlines and on July 30, 1929, Sikorsky Aviation, which then specialized in amphibian aircraft, joined UATC. Standard Steel Propellers of Pittsburgh was acquired in September 1929, and merged with Hamilton to become the Hamilton Standard Division. Stearman Aircraft of Wichita also joined, which gave UATC a role in the personal plane market. The transport group consisting of BAT, National Air Transport, Varney, Stout Airlines, and others evolved into United Air Lines.

Over a very short time, UATC, with Boeing as a major holding, had become one of the strongest aviation companies in the world. It would soon become the target of congressional investigations into airmail and military procurement contracts.

By the end of the 1920s, biplanes were becoming obsolete and manufacturers turned to building all-metal monoplanes. Boeing Aircraft led this technological revolution with welded steel tubing for fuselage structure. This soon became standard in the industry until it was replaced by monocoque sheet metal structures in the mid-1930s.

Boeing's first all-metal monoplane was the Monomail, designed to carry cargo and mail, and the single unsuccessful XP-9 monoplane fighter. The Monomail had a sleek, aerodynamic low-wing design, cantilever construction, retractable landing gear, a streamlined fuselage, and an engine covered by a cowling. The Monomail Model 200 was a mail plane, and the Model 221 was a six-passenger transport. Only one of each plane was built. Their first flights were in May 1930. Both were later modified for transcontinental passenger service as Model 221As.

The major drawback of the Monomail was that its design was too advanced for the engines and propellers that were available. The airplane required a low-pitch propeller for takeoff and climb and a high-pitch propeller to cruise. By the time the variable-pitch propeller and more powerful engines were available, newer, multiengine planes were replacing it.

The Monomail inspired the B-9 bomber, which first flew in April 1931. The B-9 was the U.S. Air Corps' first all-metal monoplane bomber. It could reach top speeds of 186 miles per hour (299 kilometres per hour), faster than fighters in service at the time, and a cruise speed of 165 miles per hour (266 kilometers per hour) with a five-person crew and carrying a 2,400-pound (1,089-kilogram) bomb load. The two-engine plane had semi-retractable landing gear and metal construction. Even though the Air Corps production contract went to Glenn Martin's B-10 bomber and the B-9 never progressed beyond the prototype stage, the plane influenced the development of the Boeing 247.

The twin-engine Boeing 247 made the three-engine airplane obsolete and gave an enormous boost to the U.S. airline industry. United Air Lines, a member of the holding company United Airlines and Technology Corporation (UATC), purchased 60 of the planes and soon outdistanced all of its competitors. The remaining 15 went to other customers including Col. Roscoe Turner and Clyde Pangbourne, two air race competitors, and Germany's Lufthansa airline.

Company conflict accompanied its development. Boeing's chief engineer R.J. Minshall had called for a plane no larger than the planes in current production, claiming that pilots liked smaller planes and a larger plane would create problems such as the need for larger hangars. Fred Rentschler of Pratt & Whitney Engine Company, a member of the UATC, as well as Igor Sikorsky, who had been building large planes for years and also a member of UATC, favoured a larger plane and claimed that it would offer more comfort to their passengers on long flights. Those in favor of the smaller plane won, and performance prevailed over comfort. Extra headroom was added, though, to try to make it easier for passengers to get around the wing spar that protruded across the cabin aisle.

Disagreements also ensued over whether to have a co-pilot, which would increase passenger safety and comfort but would also add to the weight. The co-pilot was added. The propeller was also a source of controversy. Frank Caldwell's two-position variable-pitch propeller had already been perfected in 1932. But Boeing argued that the device weighed too much, and decided to use a fixed-pitch propeller. Nevertheless, with some foresight, the plane was designed so that there would be sufficient propeller clearance if a variable-pitch propeller was added later. This turned out to be a smart decision, since the 247D switched to the newer propeller.

United ordered its 60 planes at $52,700 each. Production problems delayed delivery and Boeing was forced to increase its workforce to 2,200, working in three shifts, to complete the planes. The inexperienced work force created additional problems, and the cost per plane to Boeing rose from the original $45,000 to $77,000 for the first 10 planes. Final costs per plane for the 60 that United had ordered came to $68,000. Boeing figured it would just break even.

The first 247 didn't fly until February 8, 1933, a year later than planned. It went into service with United on March 30, and most of the first 25 planes were delivered during April and May.

The modern twin-engine 247 demonstrated new aerodynamic qualities. It was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane with retractable landing gear and powered by two 550-horsepower (410-kilowatt) Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engines. Lightweight alloys reduced its weight. It had enough power to climb on one engine with a full load, and it was also the first airliner to use wing flaps. Its final version, the 247D, had variable-pitch propellers and improved performance at higher altitudes to compete with the Douglas DC-2. It had room for 10 passengers, two pilots, and a stewardess (as flight attendants were then called), plus mail and baggage.

When the plane's rollout finally occurred, some 15,000 visitors came to watch. It was an outstanding plane—capable of cruising at 150 miles per hour (241 kilometres per hour) and flying 485 miles (781 kilometres) before needing to refuel. The passenger cabin had soundproofing, a lavatory (although no mirror or running water), individual air vents and reading lights, and heating and cooling that were thermostatically controlled. Its navigation instruments included an autopilot and two-way radio.

On display at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, it was estimated that 61 million people viewed it. The success of the plane provided a response to the aerial feat of Italy's air minister, General Italo Balbo, who had just led a fleet of 24 Savoia-Marchetti flying boats across the Atlantic Ocean from Rome to Amsterdam, Iceland, and Canada, before landing on Lake Michigan near the fair at Chicago and then returning to Rome ten days later. On June 12, 1933, the 247 made its first transcontinental commercial flight, flying from Newark Municipal Airport to San Francisco in only 21 hours. On its return flight, it set a record for flying coast-to-coast, reaching Newark in just 19 hours 45 minutes, cutting travel time eastbound by seven hours.

The all-metal monoplane structure was also adopted by the military with the P-26 "Peashooter," a favourite of Army pilots, which had developed from the unsuccessful 1930 XP-9 monoplane, The Peashooter was the first monoplane fighter produced in quantity for the U.S. Army Air Corps and the first that was all metal. (The first all-metal monoplane fighter was the 1932 Model 248—only three were built.) The prototype P-26 first flew in March 1932, went into production in January 1933, and entered service in 1934. It could fly 27 miles per hour (43 kilometres per hour) faster than its biplane counterparts. The wings on this plane were braced with wire rather than with the rigid struts used on other airplanes, so the airplane was lighter and had less drag. The P-26 was also the last Army Air Corps pursuit aircraft accepted with an open cockpit, a fixed undercarriage, and an externally braced wing. Significantly faster in level flight than previous fighters, the P-26A's relatively high landing speed led to the introduction of landing flaps to reduce the speed.

The U.S. Army ordered 136 Peashooters, and 12 versions were designed for export. For almost five years, they were front-line equipment in the United States, the Panama Canal Zone, and in Hawaii. Nevertheless, the Peashooter seemed outmoded next to the Martin B-10 bomber that was introduced in 1934 with its enclosed cockpit, retractable landing gear, and 212-mile-per-hour (341-kilometer-per-hour) top speed. And compared to the 1936 Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-36 fighters, the Peashooter seemed even more ancient. It had become obsolete within three years and was the last fighter that Boeing produced in quantity.

In 1934, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that forced aircraft manufacturers to separate from airline companies. The giant holding companies that had formed during the 1920s were dissolved. For the aircraft company Boeing, this meant that it became an independent company, no longer part of the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC) that had included United Air Lines, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, and several other companies. Only Stearman Aircraft, which built some 8,500 Kaydet training biplanes between 1936 and 1944, remained. Bill Boeing decided to retire from the company chairmanship, and Phil Johnson, who had been company president, resigned. Claire Egtvedt, who had become president of the Boeing Airplane Company in 1933, took over the company's reins.

Boeing began its independent existence with only about $500,000 in cash and hardly any business. In August 1934, 1,700 employees were laid off, leaving only 700 workers. Egtvedt decided that the company's future lay in large passenger airplanes and in bombers.

The country's first true heavy bomber was the XB-15 that Boeing developed in response to a small 1934 Air Corps contract. It was larger than anything that had been built before, with a 149-foot (45-meter) wingspan and weighing 37,709 pounds (17,105 kilograms) empty. A one-of-a-kind aircraft, it proved that a large bomber was practical.

While the XB-15 was still being developed, Boeing received an Army contract for a sample multiengine bomber that was supposed to lead to an order for at least 20 aircraft. Although it was quickly running out of money, the company decided to take the risk of producing this four-engine plane, called the Model 299. Borrowing some features from the still un-built XB-15, Boeing designers came up with a low-wing monoplane, the B-17, that, when unveiled only 12 months later, was so large that a reporter dubbed it a "flying fortress." With later modifications this aircraft became legendary, and the more than 10,000 built served in every theater of World War II and in Europe it became the mainstay of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany.

Tragically, the plane crashed on its first flight test in 1935 because a lock had not been released before takeoff, killing three of the four crewmembers. The Army awarded a competitor, Douglas Aircraft, a contract for its B-18 instead even though the plane was slower and had been surpassed in all categories by the B-17 in its flight tests. Boeing did manage to eke out a small contract for 13 B-17s, and its performance with the Army's Second Bombardment Group won praise. Government orders then began trickling in, and models equipped with the Norden bombsight for precision bombing were delivered in 1939 and 1940. By the 1940s, Boeing was building the plane at a rapidly increasing rate. To disguise its production facility during World War II, the company built burlap houses and chicken-wire lawns on its roof, so from the air, it looked like a suburban neighbourhood. Although the plane had a number of faults, and it was necessary to add more armaments to every model, it remained in production through World War II and served in every theatre. When production ended, Boeing had built a total of 6,981 B-17s, with Douglas and Lockheed building another 5,745.

The B-29 Superfortress was the second Boeing plane to become famous during the war. The plane received the strong endorsement of General Hap Arnold, who was convinced that the United States badly needed an airplane that was larger, faster, and which could travel farther without refuelling than the B-17.

Plans for such a plane were drawn up in 1939. So when Poland was overrun in September, Boeing was ready with its design while General Arnold worked on getting authorization from the War Department. Larger than the B-17, the B-29 fuselage was divided into three pressurized compartments, and the plane had a crawl tube that went from the cockpit to the tail. Its wing was extraordinarily strong, able to support nearly twice the weight per square foot of wing area as the B-17. It also used a welding method adopted from the German Heinkel 111 bomber that reduced its weight and made assembly easier.

Boeing began producing the B-29 bomber in 1942, and there were many problems. Its flight-testing was also marred by a tragic accident. In February 1943, during a test piloted by the skilled Eddie Allen, the new 2,200-horsepower (1,641-kilowatt) Wright R-3350 engine caught fire, then the wing. The flames spread, and the plane fell onto the roof of the Frye meatpacking plant in Seattle, setting the building on fire. All 11 aboard died, as did 19 Frye employees and five firemen. Modifications were made, and the first Superfortress rolled out in September 1943. It flew its first mission on June 5, 1944. Altogether, 3,970 B-29s were built before production ended in 1946, and Boeing had produced 2,766 of them. The B-29 was used primarily to bomb large areas in Japan. On August 6, 1945, a B-29, the Enola Gay, dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days dater, another B-29, the Bocks Car, dropped another bomb on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered soon after.

Meanwhile, Boeing was also producing a small number of commercial airplanes. In the mid-1930s, Pan American Airlines had asked for a long-range, four-engine flying boat for its trans-oceanic routes. Boeing developed the Model 314, nicknamed the Clipper after the ocean-going sailing vessels of an earlier time. The plane drew on the wing design of the XB-15 and added powerful new Wright 1,500-horsepower (1,119-kilowatt) engines. Its first transatlantic flight was on June 28, 1939, and by the end of the year, the luxurious Clipper was making routine flights across the Pacific Ocean. Boeing built 12 Model 314s between 1939 and 1941. During the war, the plane ferried troops and supplies across the ocean, and a Clipper carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to his meeting with Winston Churchill at Casablanca in 1943.

In 1940, Boeing built the first high-altitude commercial transport and the first four-engine airliner in scheduled service within the United States, the Model 307 Stratoliner. Used by Pan American Airways and Trans World Airlines, its pressurized cabin allowed it to fly above the weather, and its wide fuselage had space for sleeping berths. Multimillionaire Howard Hughes bought one and converted it into a flying penthouse. The Stratoliner was the first plane to have a flight engineer as a crewmember. In 1942, the 10 Stratoliners that had built were stripped of their luxurious décor and drafted into service by the Army as C-75 military transports. With the end of Stratoliner production, commercial production was halted until the war's end.

Boeing's Post-War Commercial Aviation Activities

When World War II ended in August 1945, the U.S. government cancelled most orders for bomber aircraft, which had been a mainstay of the aircraft industry. Total industry production dropped from 96,000 airplanes in 1944 to 1,330 military aircraft in 1946. Companies like Boeing turned to the commercial market to try to supplement whatever military orders they could find, as well as find ways to diversify into entirely non-aeronautical activities such as building automobiles.

The Stratocruiser, a luxurious version of the C-97 transport plane, was Boeing's first commercial venture after the war. First flying in 1947, it was moderately successful—55 were sold—but it was not quite enough to pull the company out of its post-war slump. The company's doldrums were further aggravated by a strike of 14,800 union members in April 1948 over the issue of seniority. The strike lasted into September and virtually shut down production.

Boeing's first successful commercial aircraft in the post-war era was the 367-80, called the Dash 80. Its development began in 1952, and the plane first flew in July 1954. This plane combined features of the military B-47 and B-52 with a large cabin size. Although the Dash 80 was a gamble—Boeing sank $16 million of the company's profits into its development—it was a success. It became the model for both the KC-135 Stratotanker and the Model 707-120, Boeing's first commercial jet airliner and a direct competitor to the Douglas DC-8.

Pan American Airway's Juan Trippe ordered the first 707s after their 1957 introduction. He ordered 20 at the same time that he ordered 25 DC-8s from Douglas. The 707 was soon flying across the Atlantic Ocean. Two 707s, designated VC-137C, were specially adopted for use as Air Force One, and remained in service until 1990. It also was modified for use as the E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), produced until 1991.

The 727 airliner followed in 1963. This plane was designed to serve smaller airports and could operate on shorter runways than the 707. It was Boeing's only tri-jet and its sales started out slowly. To help create interest, Boeing sent the plane on a 76,000-mile (122,310-kilometer) tour of 26 countries. The gamut worked and more than 1,800 planes were sold, many more than the 250 Boeing had originally planned to build.

The 737 debuted in 1967. Smaller than the 707 and 727, it faced heavy competition from the Douglas DC-9 and the British Aircraft Corporation BAC-111. It was quieter and vibrated less than earlier planes and could be flown with just a two-member flight crew. On June 12, 1987, orders for the plane surpassed the 727, making it the most ordered commercial plane in history.

Boeing's most famous aircraft is undoubtedly its 747 wide-body jumbo jet. Conceived in the spring of 1965, largely at the instigation of Pan Am's Trippe, the first 747 rolled out on September 30, 1968. The first flight took place on February 9, 1969, and it entered service in January 1970. In 1990, two 747s became the new Air Force One, replacing the 707s that had served in that role for almost 30 years.

About the same time that Boeing was sinking its money into the 747, it was also attempting to develop America's first supersonic transport (SST). In the early 1960s, fearful about being left behind in the SST race, the U.S. government asked its aerospace companies to submit a design to compete with Europe's future Concorde. At the end of 1966, the government chose Boeing's design over Lockheed's, and the company began work on a prototype. Hard economic times and mounting environmental concerns, though, combined to force the program's cancellation in March 1971, after more than $500 million of federal funds had been sunk into the program.

From 1968, Boeing carried out a major internal restructuring. Eliminating some divisions and creating others, its Commercial Airplane Division remained the largest in the company. Thornton "T" Wilson became president in 1968 and had to deal with the problems associated with the 747. In 1969, company profits declined to only $10 million.

The 1970s were extremely hard times for Boeing. The United States was in a recession, and sales of commercial aircraft were slow. The 747 had not yet established itself in the market, and the company went for one 18-month period without a single new domestic order for any of its airliners. In the Seattle area alone, Boeing's workforce plummeted from 80,400 in early 1970 to 37,200 in October 1971. All of Seattle suffered, and a billboard on the city's edge read: "Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights." Wilson remained as president until 1972, when Malcolm Stamper, who had led the 747 program, took the post, which he held until 1985. Another reorganization at the end of 1972 resulted in the formation for three largely autonomous companies: Boeing Commercial Airplane, Boeing Aerospace, and Boeing Vertol for helicopters.

The country began to recover by 1983, and airlines once again began buying Boeing aircraft. The environment had changed, however, during the downturn. Fuel prices had risen and environmental concerns had come to the forefront. Planes had to be faster, quieter, and more energy efficient. The export market also grew, and in 1988, Boeing was ranked third among all industrial exporters, with $17 billion in sales. Cost control was a high priority, and Boeing cut its workforce from a 1989 peak of 165,000 to below 120,000 by 1993.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Boeing concurrently developed the 767 and 757. The 767 served in the medium to long-range market, carrying about 220 passengers. Like the 747, it was a wide-body plane with two aisles but with the efficiency of the smaller 757. In December 1991, a modified 767 was adopted to carry the AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System)—an airborne system of radar and electronic equipment that allows control of the total air effort in a battle area. The twin-engine 757, designed to replace the 727, rolled out in 1982. It could seat about 200 passengers in its original model and up to 290 passengers in its newer model. Orders for the two planes were slow after their initial group of orders but increased significantly in 1980 when Delta Air Lines ordered 60 757s.

The model 777, first flown in June 1994 and delivered in May 1995, was the first entirely new Boeing airplane in more than a decade. It represented a major advance in being designed almost entirely by computer. A large twin-jet, it could hold more than 400 people, about the same as the 747. About the same time, Boeing introduced updated 737 versions with various passenger capacities. Total 737 orders neared 3,000 in 1996.

At the end of 1996, Boeing surprised industry observers by announcing a bid for acquisition of McDonnell Douglas, one of Boeing's main competitors. McDonnell Douglas agreed to the merger, and a single company with more than 220,000 employees was formed. In 2001, Boeing remains the only American provider of commercial aircraft, competing with Europe's Airbus Industrie for the world's airliner market.

Boeing's Post-War Military and Space Activities

When World War II ended in August 1945, the U.S. government cancelled its orders for bomber aircraft. Boeing plants that had been producing the B-17 and B-29 bombers in large numbers shut down and soon, 30,000 Boeing employees were out of work. In September 1945, William M. Allen took over as Boeing president from Claire Egtvedt. He remained until 1968.

The C-97, which first saw use during the war, helped bring Boeing out of the post-war slump that affected all aircraft manufacturers. The C-97 was used during the Korean War to evacuate casualties, and the KC-97 had a boom for aerial refuelling. Almost 900 were built by 1958. It was Boeing's last propeller-driven plane.

Boeing entered the field of rocket technology with its Ground-to-Air Pilotless Aircraft, the first Boeing missile. The GAPA travelled at supersonic speeds and reached a record altitude of 59,000 feet (17,983 meters) in November 1949. It was the basis for the Bomarc missiles, the world's first long-range anti-aircraft missiles. The Bomarc began mass production in 1957.

Boeing's most important program immediately after the war was the B-47 Stratojet bomber, America's first swept-wing multiengine bomber and the first plane that depended on the wind tunnel for its design. The concept of swept-wing design, which every large jet airplane since has followed, was developed when wind tunnel tests indicated that a straight wing plane did not use its jet power to its full potential. These results were confirmed when George Schairer, a Boeing aerodynamicist, saw wind tunnel data at a German aerodynamics laboratory at the end of the war. The first major production version, the B-47B, debuted in April 1951. The plane was fast enough to elude Soviet jet fighters of the early 1950s, and with aerial refuelling, became an important strategic weapon. The 1000th Stratojet rolled out from Boeing's Wichita plant on October 14, 1954.

The B-47 was followed by the B-52 Stratofortress, America's first long-range swept-wing heavy bomber and arguably America's most significant multiengine aircraft ever built. This plane had an interesting birth. It was originally conceived as a straight-wing, propeller-driven bomber. But, in 1948, the Air Force told Boeing to design a jet bomber instead. At the time, its design team was visiting the Air Force's Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, and realized that if they delayed, the Air Force might invite other companies to compete for the project. Not wanting to lose the project, the group, led by chief engineer Ed Wells and George Schairer, sequestered itself in a hotel room and, using only the notes with them and their slide rules, constructed a balsa model and a proposal over the weekend. The Air Force approved the design. Production began in 1951, and the first production B-52A flew in August 1954.

During the 1950s, the B-52 garnered numerous distance and speed records. It halved the round-the-world speed record and in January 1962, flew 12,500 miles (20,117 kilometres) non-stop from Japan to Spain without refuelling, breaking 11 distance and speed records on the way. The B-52 served with the Strategic Air Command (SAC), in the Vietnam War, and in the Persian Gulf. It remained at the end of the 20th century a critical weapon system for the U.S. Air Force.

Boeing's KC-135 was derived from its commercial Dash 80. It was the only jet airplane designed specifically for aerial refuelling. It replaced the KC-97 tanker, which was too slow for the jet planes it needed to refuel. The first KC-135 rolled out in 1956 and it entered the U.S. Air Force fleet in 1957. It remains the Air Force's prime refuelling airplane.

As the Cold War continued, Boeing developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system. Development of the Minuteman ICBM began in 1958. Its first full-scale test firing came on February 1, 1961, and it became operational with the SAC in 1962. By 1967, 1,000 Minuteman missiles were operational and installed at six U.S. sites. At peak production 39,700 Boeing people worked on various Minuteman projects. Boeing engineers used this rocket-based technology to design the Dyna-Soar, a crewed reusable space vehicle. Although the project was cancelled in 1963, with a loss of some 5,000 jobs, the concept reappeared 20 years later in the Space Shuttle.

Boeing bought Vertol Aircraft Corporation in 1960, the helicopter company founded as Piasecki Helicopter in 1943, builder of the "Dogship" and "Flying Banana." Piasecki became Vertol Corporation in 1956 after a takeover. The company introduced the H-46 Sea Knight and the CH-47 Chinook in 1958, two very successful helicopters. The Chinook made its first flight in 1961 and was first used in combat in Vietnam in 1965. The Sea Knight was first delivered in 1964 and began military service in Vietnam in 1965, serving primarily in a transport and rescue role.

In the 1960s, Boeing's aerospace division became a large part of its business, employing some 55,000 people by 1962. Boeing had space facilities at two NASA centres and at Cape Canaveral in Florida, site of many space launches. The division built the first stage of the Saturn launch vehicles that sent the Apollo spacecraft toward the Moon. It also built the lunar orbiter, which photographed the Moon's surface in 1966 to help NASA find a safe place for Apollo astronauts to land. It also built the Lunar Roving Vehicle that astronauts used on three Apollo missions. Boeing also became responsible for integrating all the technical aspects of the Apollo program, a huge task that began following the launch pad fire that killed three NASA astronauts on January 27, 1967. The project acronym was TIE, and it "tied" all the facets of the Apollo effort together.

In spite of its past successes, at the beginning of the 1970s, Boeing was in a precarious position. The Apollo program had ended, the Vietnam war was over, the country was in a recession, the 747 jumbo-jet had not yet begun to make money, and the SST program had been cancelled. The company diversified into non-aerospace areas with projects as varied as irrigating an Oregon desert, managing housing projects, building a desalinization plant, constructing three gigantic wind turbines, and producing light-rail vehicles.

Space and military programs also continued to provide a relatively small but dependable source of cash. In 1973, the Boeing-built Mariner 10 probe was launched, heading for Venus and Mercury. On the military front, Boeing produced the Advanced Airborne Command Post (E-4) in 1973, using the 747 airframe. The E-4 provided safe airborne headquarters for military and civilian leaders during emergencies. In August 1994, the upgraded E-4B assumed the additional role of supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency when a natural disaster occurs.

Boeing also continued to produce the short-range attack missile (SRAM), which was first deployed as a strategic weapon to be carried by FB-111A and B-52 bombers. By 1975, when the last of 1,500 SRAMs rolled out of assembly, they had become a key element in the SAC's weapon inventory. Production of air-launched cruise missiles also began. From December 1982, more than 1,700 were built. These missiles were first used in combat during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 1977, the first Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), using the Boeing 707 airframe, rolled out. In 1996, the Model 767 began carrying the system.

Frank Shrontz became company president in 1985. Under him, Boeing's military and space divisions combined. Boeing developed the Inertial Upper Stage, a booster rocket designed to carry spacecraft into higher orbits after launch. NASA also chose Boeing as the prime contractor for the International Space Station in August 1993—a program involving 16 nations.

In the early 1990s, Boeing began to pick up more military business. The RAH 66 Comanche armed helicopter was a joint project, begun in 1991, with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and others in the aerospace industry. First flying in 1996, it was designed to replace the U.S. Army's Vietnam-era helicopters. The V-22 Osprey, which takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter but can fly horizontally like a plane, was built with Bell Helicopter Textron. Its first flight was in 1997, and in 2001, the U.S. military has about 12 flyable Ospreys. In the mid-1990s, Boeing teamed with Lockheed on the F-22 Raptor, an advanced tactical fighter. The first production F-22 was unveiled in April 1997, and the plane is presently in the assembly stage.

Phil Condit followed Shrontz as president in 1992. During his tenure, the aerospace industry has continued to evolve, and he has presided over a series of important mergers. In December 1996, Boeing merged with Rockwell International's aerospace and defence units. On August 1, 1997, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged and began operations as a single company with more than 220,000 employees. In 2000, Boeing purchased Hughes Space and Communications, a major satellite builder that became Boeing Satellite Systems. For all of its history, Boeing has been a major participant in the aviation and aerospace industry. It clearly seems positioned to retain that role.