Just as air travel is an essential part of modern society, so Boeing is an integral element in aviation industry. On July 15th, the Boeing Company celebrates its 100th anniversary. In order to commemorate the occasion, AeroTime presents series of articles, dedicated to the US-planemaker. The first one describes Boeing's centennial journey into nearly every commercial airport in the world.

Development of military and mail delivery aircraft

The Boeing Company was established by aviation pioneer William Edward Boeing on July 15th, 1916. The company was located in Seattle, and was called Pacific Aero Products Co., but the name was changed one year later in honor of the founder. The company’s first airplane, Model C two-place training seaplane, was designed in November 1916.

The Model C had a single main pontoon and small auxiliary floats under each wing and was powered by a Curtiss OX-5 engine. When the U.S. entered the first World War in 1917, the Navy purchased 51 out of 56 seaplanes built, making the model company’s first financial success and establishing a long-standing partnership with the U.S. military.

Throughout the 1920s, Boeing developed many aircraft models, both for the military and transportation purposes. However, its first commercial airplane, the B-1, was not used to carry passengers, as coast to coast journeys often took more than 24 hours to commence. The aircraft delivered mail instead and Boeing won several major delivery contracts from U.S. Post Office. In order to operate growing airmail business, the company founded Boeing Air Transport in 1927, that gave birth to United Airlines four years later.  

Major impact on WW2 outcome

The Great Depression had a tremendous effect on aviation industry in the 1930s, delaying the production of the first financially successful commercial aircraft. Only in 1939, Boeing’s rival, McDonnell Douglas Corporation created first profitable commercial airplane Douglas DC-3, used to carry over 90% of U.S. air travelers by the beginning of WW2. In response to Douglas DC-3, Boeing developed a long range 314 Clipper that was largest civilian aircraft of its time. It featured dressing rooms, dining salons and was able to carry 90 passengers.

The success in the scheduled flight field did not last long, as the WW2 came. During the war, Boeing mainly produced military aircraft. The B-17 “The Flying Fortress” and "B-29 Superfortress" are among the most famous Boeing models of those times. The B-29 had a great range that was fundamental in winning the war in the Pacific region, while B-17 was used for high altitude missions in Europe.