Thursday, 17 May 2007

William 'Bill' Edward Boeing 1881-1956

William Edward Boeing was the son of a German immigrant who had built a successful timber business in the Northwest. After graduation from Yale's Sheffield Scientific School, Boeing followed this father in the lumber business, as well as buying a small Seattle boatyard. In 1914 he had his first airplane ride and became interested in the science of aeronautics, took flying lessons from Glenn Martin and bought a seaplane from him. Teaming that year with then-USN Lt Conrad Westervelt, they designed and built the B&W, based partly on the Martin. When Westervelt was recalled by the Navy in 1916, Boeing formed Pacific Aero Products Co, and changed its name to the Boeing Airplane Co in 1917. As well as producing a few of is own designs, the new company profited by producing Thomas-Morse Scouts under contract for the Army and rebuilding De Havilland DH-4s with welded steel-tube fuselages—the first American company to use welded tubes.Boeing Co prospered and dwelt heavily on research, producing a series of innovative civil and military aircraft through the '20s and '30s. In addition, he established his Boeing Air Transport for the San Francisco-Chicago passenger and mail route in 1927—the first airline to offer stewardesses—which served as a basis for United Air Lines in 1930. The United Aircraft & Transport Corp resulted from Boeing's formation in 1929 of his operations with the Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton, Stearman, and Vought companies, all of which continued to make products under their own names. However, in 1934 the government considered UATC a monoply and ordered it broken up, at which time Boeing announced his retirement. In 1934 he was also awarded the Guggenheim medal for his part in pioneering and for achievements in aviation and air transportation. Despite official retirement, he remained active in his company's development, contributing to aircraft designs, even returning during WW2 to help reorganize the workforce to build B-17 and B-29 bombers.