Learn About Boeing

Boeing is a multinational corporation focused on aerospace and defense engineering. The company was founded and based in Seattle, Washington until 2001 when it moved its headquarters to Chicago, Illinois. Boeing is one of the largest companies in the world and a component the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Foundation and Early History

William E. Boeing became interested in flight after seeing aircraft in 1909 at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. In 1916, he and collaborator George Conrad Westervelt built their first plane, the B&W seaplane.

After successful test flights, Boeing founded his company, soon helped by the United States’ entrance into WWI. He sent two of his Model C planes to the Navy seaplane training facility, impressing officials who offered Boeing a contract to build 50 seaplanes.

Until the end of the 1920s Boeing was concerned mainly with manufacturing planes for the military and U.S. Postal Service. These contracts allowed Boeing to expand significantly, acquiring several other aircraft companies.

Commercial planes and WWII

Boeing expanded to commercial flight with the Boeing 80, a biplane that carried twelve passengers. Boeing manufactured the first modern airplane, the Boeing 247, in 1933. It was an all metal monoplane, faster and safer than other available models.

Boeing operated the 247 exclusively, but this severely hindered competition from other airlines. In 1934 the Air Mail Act prohibited aircraft manufacturers and airlines to be operated by the same company; therefore, Boeing was forced split into three separate companies.

The new Boeing Airplane Company soon landed a contract with Pan Am, developing airplanes for trans-Atlantic flights. The Boeing 314 Clipper made its maiden flight in June 1938 and within a year Pan Am was using the Clippers for many of its routes.

During WWII, Boeing was a key manufacturer of bombers, including the B-17 and the B-29, and they continued to produce planes successfully for the military through the Vietnam War and beyond.

Jets and Rockets

After the war, Boeing began to concentrate heavily on commercial flight. Boeing created the 707, the first American commercial jet airliner, in the late 1950s. The 707s were designed to compete with Soviet, French and British models.

Boeing also won a major contract with the U.S. government to help build the Saturn V rockets, which propelled NASA’s Apollo and Skylab projects. During this time Boeing rolled out the first wide body planes, the iconic 747.

After the Space Race

The end of the Vietnam War and the slowing of the space race was a difficult time for Boeing. However, the company was able to weather difficult economic conditions to remain a competitive company in the aerospace industry.

It contributed to NASA’s shuttle program, began producing light rail for city metro systems and continued to roll out new commercial jetliners.

In recent years Boeing has won several large government contracts and its newest jetliner, the 787 Dreamliner entered commercial service in 2011.

The Dreamliner was designed to compete with the European manufacturer Airbus. Boeing has touted the Dreamliner as the most fuel efficient airliner, and the majority of the plane is built from composite materials, another first. It has more legroom and space than many of the Airbus models and broke the Airbus flight records, flying over 10,000 miles nonstop.

Revenue, Workforce and Environmental Record

Boeing is one of the largest companies in the world, employing nearly 175,000 people. Its total revenue in 2011 was $68.735 billion with profits of $4 billion. Boeing has stated that it is the top American exporter of goods by value.

Boeing has been criticized for being one of the largest corporate polluters in the U.S., and it has been connected with over twenty EPA Superfund toxic sites, including its field laboratory in Simi Hills, California. Plans for more environmentally friendly jets and fuels remain in the exploratory stage.

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