History of Boeing: Pioneering aviation for 100 years
Gen. Carl Spaatz, the U.S. air commander in the Old Continent once said: “Without the Boeing B-17, we may have lost the WW2.”
By spring 1944, production of Boeing military aircraft ramped up so much that over 350 planes were built each month, mainly by women, whose husbands had gone to war.
Connecting the two continents
After WW2, the need for military bombers dropped rapidly as most orders were canceled, making thousands of workers lose their jobs at Boeing. The company tried to recover from slowing demand by developing commercial airliner that would be powered by turbofans instead of propellers, and would be able to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Boeing was not the only company that offered transatlantic flights. The trips could have been made British De Havilland Comet, French Sud Aviation Caravelle and Soviet Tupolev Tu-104. Therefore, in 1958, Boeing created the 707 - a four-engine airliner, capable of carrying 156 passengers on a transatlantic route. Due to shorter journeys and more comfortable travel, 707 quickly won the hearts of passengers. The model was followed by the 727 trijet and 737 twinjet, the latter becoming world’s best-selling commercial plane by the end of 20th century.
The Incredibles era
In order to keep up with growing number of aircraft sales, in 1966 Boeing commenced the monumental engineering challenge - the construction of the Everett Factory. Despite the fact that the manufacturing facility was world’s largest building by volume (13,385,378 m3) it was built in only 16 months by the group of staggeringly efficient workers, later nicknamed “The Incredibles.”
The Everett Factory became home of the first wide-body jetliner Boeing 747, capable of carrying 490 passengers - more than twice as much as 707. The aircraft held a capacity record for 37 years and was sold over 1,500 times.
On the brink of bankruptcy
Even though 747 gave monopoly in this wide-body market segment, the start of the 1970s was hard for the plane manufacturer - it faced a $2 billion debt from 747 production. In addition, U.S. military reduced spending for Vietnam War, which meant less military aircraft orders for Boeing. The company struggled so much that it went more than a year without a domestic order and had to lay off around half of the employees.
The massive cuts at Boeing lead to a billboard that read: “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?"
Boeing’s economic situation began to improve only in the 1980s, when the air traffic demand increased. However, the competition for new orders was harsher as Airbus, the new European plane manufacturer, arose with A320. In response, Boeing developed single-aisle 757, twin-aisle 767 and upgraded 737.
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