Not many companies can lay claim to a hundred years of history, but aerospace giant Boeing is looking forward to celebrating its centenary in 2016. When William Boeing saw a piloted flying machine for the first time in 1909, it launched a curiosity for flight that would one day make him a household name. He purchased and learned to fly an aircraft in 1915 but realised he could manufacture an improved version to his own design. In June 1916 he built his very first aircraft, the Model 1 seaplane, and decided to make aviation his business. Boeing designed, manufactured and sold seaplanes to the US Navy during World War One. The end of the conflict marked a lean spell for aircraft production so the company switched to making furniture to survive until the market became more buoyant.
The 1920s saw Boeing produce seaplanes, military fighters and mail-planes, with the Boeing Airplane Company fast becoming a leading light in a rapidly developing aviation industry. By 1938 Boeing opened up world travel with legendary aircraft like the Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat, carrying Pan-Am passengers on trans-oceanic routes. During World War Two, European skies saw the silhouettes of thousands of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.
William Boeing and the Model 1 seaplane
William Boeing passed away in 1956 but lived long enough to see the company he founded enter the jet age. In 1967 Boeing produced an airliner which became the best-selling commercial jet worldwide, the 737. Still in production today, this short-range passenger jet was joined three years later by an equally famous Boeing creation. With it’s instantly recognisable bulbous forward upper deck, the 747 Jumbo Jet remains a fond favourite of pilots and passengers all over the globe. Boeing’s technological expertise saw the company’s equipment reaching even greater heights when they began working with NASA, initially providing rocket technology for the Apollo space programme and the Space Shuttle, later becoming the first contractor for the International Space Station.
During the last century, Boeing has continually released innovative designs for both the military and civilian world. They have greatly improved the speed, safety and comfort of airline travel, with the 787 Dreamliner the latest addition to their fleet. The company headquarters are now in Chicago, but Boeing still retains a strong Seattle history manufacturing at the factories around the city where the brand story began. As one of the largest aircraft manufacturers and defence contractors in the world, Boeing’s hundredth anniversary in 2016 is a major milestone in aviation history.