You have probably heard that Boeing is about to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday but you may not be aware of some related data bits like revenues, divisions and so on. You must fully realize that roughly 1600 congratulatory words cannot begin to do the company, or the birthday, justice. However, here is possibly the world’s shortest tribute summary – Happy Birthday Boeing!

In 1916 William Boeing started Pacific Aero Products and the following year the company was renamed The Boeing Airplane Company. The company became a leading producer of commercial and military aircraft (including helicopters, satellites and more). However, you might not know that over the years the company completed a series of strategic mergers and acquisitions to become the world’s leading aerospace company. Last year alone, (2015) the company posted revenues of $96.11 Billion USD. As we noted, over the last 100 years, they absorbed a large number of other aerospace pioneers and here is a list of names you might, or might not know: Douglas Aircraft Co (1921), Stearman Aircraft Co. (1927), North American Aviation Inc. (1935), Piasecki Helicopter (1940), McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (1945), Hughes Space & Communications (1948), McDonnell Douglas Corp (1967), and Rockwell International (1968).

The history of the Boeing Company is no easy challenge to describe and outline successfully in a weekly newsletter… so we won’t even try to do it. After a lot of research and a few wonderful books on the subject, we found one story that really sums up the effort, skill and luck involved in developing modern airplanes. In this case we will be talking about jet airplanes, and it is the story about the discovery of jet technology developed by the German Luftwaffe’s R&D efforts and the impact on the first Boeing commercial jet planes. Here is the setup: A US General (Henry “Hap” Arnold) who was instrumental in the development and deployment of the prop driven B-17, B-24 and B-29 aircraft, was tasked in 1946 with defending the future and he called on Theodor von Karman, Director – Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory – Cal Tech, to head a committee of scientists and set up a research plan to assess how German discoveries could be best used for future defense. We note that at the same time, the Boeing prop-driven Stratocruiser was faltering on low sales so new CEO, William Allen, who was very research minded, provided his Chief Aerodynamicist, George Shairer to help review the discoveries. It was probably a coincidence that he, at that time, was developing the XB-47 aircraft that would greatly benefit from the Luftwaffe’s secret research and engine discoveries. Here is how one Boeing story author noted the find:

“Military Intelligence experts were unsure where the Third Reich’s secret aeronautical facility was located. It turned out to be deep in the countryside of the municipality of Volkenrode, east of Hanover and North of the Hartz Mountains. The facility was camouflaged much like Boeing’s wartime plant in Seattle”….”When the Operation LUSTY team arrived, he (Superintendent) greeted them warmly and invited them inside. What they discovered would change the course of aviation history and elevate Boeing to the top position as a manufacturer of commercial airplanes.
The group uncovered a cache of priceless aeronautical data indicating that the Luftwaffe was far more technically advanced than previously believed. This intellectual treasure included research reports describing a jet plane with novel wings that were swept back at a diagonal toward the tail, as opposed to crossing the fuselage in the shape of the letter T.
Germany had already produced the first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, near the end of the war, which looked like a conventional plane minus the propellers. The new swept-wing jet was a startling departure. The treasure trove of data also included assessments of the unique jet’s performance in a German wind tunnel, which indicated it could fly at nearly the speed of sound. The team was awed by the findings.
Even better, they were given the opportunity to interview the facility’s director, Adolf Busemann, who had worked with Von Karmen before the war and he was considered the Luftwaffe’s top aerodynamicist. Busemann elaborated on the research findings and reminded the group that he had given the paper on swept-wing developments at a conference in 1935, which several of the team members had actually attended. Back then they did not see the promise of the research. Now they had a different reaction: Busemann had all but built a near supersonic jet.”Higher: 100 years of Boeing, by Russ Banham

We should mention that Banham noted the following: “Shirer made the very gutsy call to immediately stop all design work on the XB-47 and transform it instead into a swept-wing turbojet bomber.” The rest is certainly history for the B-47… and the 707, but to give you a better idea of Boeing’s excitement of first swept winged, jet powered commercial aircraft flight, we found a book written in 1959 that wonderfully describes that first flight experience off a 5382 foot Renton runway (one side on Lake Washington), on July 15, 1954:

“Ever since that time [First Flight at Kitty Hawk, NC] people have continued to hold their breath, or at least to build up to a state of nervous tension on subsequent “First Flights.” The situation fifty-one years later, along the runway of the municipal airport at Renton, Washington, has changed in respect to the type of airplane involved, but human emotions are at least consistent, and the tensions were much the same.
At fourteen minutes past two o’clock on the afternoon of July 15th, 1954, Boeing Chief Test Pilot, Tex Johnston advanced the throttles of the 707-jetliner prototype. It was a beautiful day. Clouds washed in sunlight, and a gentle breeze at seven miles per hour out of the west-northwest.
Thirty seconds after the four jet engines reached their maximum thrust output, Johnston released the brakes. And at that moment, the decades-old practice of sweating out the first take-off was renewed in all its intensity.
Sixteen million dollars of private enterprise began to roll. The 707 was light, down to a bare one hundred and ten thousand pounds for her flight debut.
An enormous gamble was being put to the test. Aviation companies do not invest sixteen million dollars in a single airplane as a matter of course!”…”If the prototype failed and plunged to a crash, much more than sixteen million dollars would be lost.”….”For all these reasons, the people who designed and built the sweptwing giant must have surely have held their breath that afternoon in 1954!”BOEING 707, by Martin Caidin

Obviously, if you are only in the airplane business, it’s a daily gamble. But today, diversification has helped reduce that terror, but there are still many other issues that make Boeing an interesting, creative, and challenging place to work.

Next, is a bigger picture of that “new” Boeing.

We should mention that over the years, the divisional layout has changed but if you look at today’s triumvirate, you will have a big picture of the present company: A) Commercial Airplanes, B) Defense, Space & Security, and C) The Boeing Capital Corporation. Let’s break down each group to give a better idea of who and what.

A. In Commercial Airplanes, the company features the Popular “7 series” aircraft. The other entity there is Commercial Aviation Services that supports air carriers worldwide. Headquartered in the Puget Sound region, the airplane folks and services generate some $66 Billion dollar part of the revenue pie with approximately 33,000 employees. Also, we should mention Boeing has some 10,000 airplanes flying (approximately half of the world fleet) which is where a lot of your IFEC is involved.
B. Next, in Defense, Space & Security, features Military Aircraft (the world’s largest manufacturer), Global Services & Support that provides training, maintenance, and other services to government customers worldwide, while Space is the world’s largest provider of commercial and military satellites (and major service provider to NASA), and finally, Security delivers large-scale systems integration and support and develops networking technology and solutions. The Defense, Space & Security group, formed in 2000, delivers some $30 Billion in revenue and has approximately 50,000 employees.
C. And lastly, Boeing Capital Corporation, that provides financing solutions focused on customer requirements. This group is headquartered in the Puget Sound (WA) and is the financing subsidiary of the Boeing Company.
Globally Boeing sells products and services in over 150 countries, 70% of which are outside of the US. Further, the company has contracts with over 20,000 suppliers and partners all over the world. All told, there are some 160,000 Boeing employees in over 65 countries worldwide. So there you have a big picture of the company and its major products and/or services.

In honor of the birthday, Boeing is hosting a Founder’s Day Celebration from July 15 – 17 at the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle and we note that the museum will offer free admission those three days. If you will be nowhere near Washington State, you might want to view the Founders Day Ceremony live webcast featuring senior executives on Friday, July 15, 2016 at noon (PDT) at

We would like to wish all the present Boeing and past-Boeing readers a hearty congratulations on bringing a better aviation experience to our lives.