Happy Birthday, Boeing

How a local company became a global giant.

The all-metal, twin-engine Boeing Model 247D is considered the first modern passenger airplane. But when Boeing refused to sell the 247 to carriers other than its own United Air Lines, the airlines turned to competing manufacturers; the 247 was soon eclipsed by the larger and faster Douglas DC-3. More than 15,000 DC-3s in civilian and military versions were manufactured through 1946. By comparison, Boeing built just 74 Model 247s.
The first scheduled transatlantic 707 flight by Pan Am was made on October 26, 1958; passengers walked to the boarding stairs on a red carpet flanked by red-velvet cords draped from brass stanchions. The jet was marketed as a luxurious alternative to cruise lines, reducing transatlantic travel time from days to hours. Boeing eventually sold more than 1,000 707s.
On March 1, 1919, Bill Boeing (above, at right) and Eddie Hubbard flew between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia—the first international mail flight.
Boeing’s Phantom Ray UAV prototype gets a preflight inspection.
The Model 40A—below, in Boeing’s assembly building in 1926—was the company’s first commercial airplane, and the vehicle that served its airline, Boeing Air Transport. Transporting mail, other freight, and passengers, BAT was profitable from its first day of operations.
The largest and most powerful rocket ever built, the Space Launch System (SLS) will take Orion and its crew to the International Space Station, the moon, and eventually Mars. Boeing is the primary contractor for the SLS core stage.
The B-29 Superfortress was the most technologically advanced bomber mass-produced during World War II. The B-29 above was named for Ernie Pyle shortly after the beloved war correspondent died in 1945.
Boeing’s entire 7-7 series of jetliners, lined up numerically from the 707 on the right to the 777 at the left, on display during the 787 Dreamliner’s 2007 debut.
The largest passenger airplane of its times, the Model 314 (called the Clipper) was also renowned for luxury. The seaplane featured dressing rooms, sleeping berths, lounges, and even a honeymoon suite. Like its sibling the B-17, the 314 was gigantic: It weighed 82,000 pounds, was 106 feet long, and could transport 74 passengers over 3,500 miles. Service from San Francisco to Singapore commenced in March 1939.

Higher: 100 Years of Boeing

In this lavishly illustrated book, published to coincide with Boeing's 100th anniversary, Pulitzer Prize–nominated author Russ Banham recounts the tale of a company and an industry like no other—one that has put men on the moon, defended the free world, and changed the way we live.

One hundred years after Bill Boeing and George Westervelt built a canvas-and-wood seaplane in a Seattle boathouse, the name Boeing has become synonymous with flight. Starting with the company’s first major contract—an order from the U.S. Navy for 50 seaplane trainers in 1917—to today’s $6.5 million contract from DARPA for Phase 1B of the XS-1 reusable experimental spaceplane, Boeing has been a pioneer in every field of aerospace. To celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary, Russ Banham has written Higher (Chronicle Books, 2015), a book outlining the company’s successes, as well as its setbacks.

In its first 50 years, Boeing went from building open-cockpit biplanes to creating an unmanned spacecraft that could circle the moon and take photographs of Earth. We can’t wait to see what the next century brings.

Copyright © 2015 The Boeing Company, from Higher: 100 Years of Boeing published by Chronicle Books LLC.