“Mr. 747” – Joe Sutter Takes His Last Flight West at 95!

“Mr. 747” of Boeing Aircraft Dead at 95.

A younger Joe Sutter stands by the engine cowling of his creation, the Boeing 747

A younger Joe Sutter stands by the engine cowling of his creation, the Boeing 747

Joe Sutter, the father of the first operational Jumbo Jet, the man who led development of Boeing’s 747 jumbo jet, has passed away yesterday, August 30, 2016, at the age of 95.

Ensign Joe Sutter, U.S. Naval Officer in WWII

Ensign Joe Sutter, U.S. Naval Officer in WWII

Boeing’s commercial aircraft boss Ray Conner said Joe was “an inspiration” not just to Boeing but “to the entire aerospace industry”.

The 747, which ushered in the long-haul travel era, first flew in 1969 before making its commercial debut in 1970.

To see today’s Boeing manufacturing process, far more automated than it was 47 years ago, please visit this FASF story from last July in which you’ll see the dramatic birth of the beautiful new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Just click here.  And be sure to turn up your sound!

Roll out of Boeing's first Jumbo Jet, the 747-121, is presented in this poster, along with its creator, Joe Sutten.

Roll out of Boeing’s first Jumbo Jet, the 747-121, in 1970,  is presented in this poster, along with its creator, Joe Sutter.

It only lost its status as the biggest passenger aircraft in 2007 with the launch of the Airbus A380.

Sutter was in charge of the Boeing engineering team that developed the 747 in the mid-1960s.

Joe Sutter in the front office of a current 747

                                                     Joe Sutter in the front office of a current 747 model

The growing worldwide demand for air travel during the 1960s led to the development of this new giant of the skies, the 747, the world’s first “Jumbo Jet.” Merely recalling the early days of the 747 program “brings sweat to the palms of my hands,” Boeing’s then-president, William Allen, said years after the giant aircraft had been developed. Requiring the company to risk much of its net worth, the development of the world’s largest passenger aircraft was a formidable undertaking. It is taller than a six-story building, had seating for 374 passengers (up to 550 in some configurations), a takeoff weight of more than 300 tons (or ten fully-loaded 18 wheel trucks), and enough fuel in its tanks to power a small automobile around the globe 36 times. The 747 is one the most recognizable aircraft in the world and represents a milestone in the evolution of aviation design.

Sutter stands in front of one of his famous Jumbo Jets

                                                      Sutter stands in front of one of his famous Jumbo Jets

Sutter and his team became known as “the Incredibles” for producing the world’s largest jet transport in just 29 months.  When one considers the staggering degree of internal complexity in the Jumbo’s design, and that it was a pioneering first, the feat is all that much more remarkable.  Even more astounding is how the plane so quickly proved to be incredibly reliable and profitable for its purchasers.

An artist's depiction of the "Father of the 747"

An artist’s depiction of the “Father of the 747”

In 2011, on his 90th birthday, Boeing’s building number 40-87, in Everett, WA, the main engineering building for Boeing Commercial Airplanes Division, was renamed the Joe Sutter building.

At the time of this photo of the Boeing Factory, it was known as the world's largest building.

At the time of this photo of the Boeing Factory, home to 30,000 workers, was known as the world’s largest building.

With supersonic aircraft on the drawing board in Europe and the U.S., the 747 was initially expected to be used more as a freighter than as a passenger airliner.  But history would write quite a different story.

747-roll out-ceremony-Sept 30

September 30, 1968, Boeing held its roll out-ceremony for the 747, with a bevy of Flight Attendants from its customers

The First Aero Squadron had many of its own firsts, as you know, but one of them for which it is not often enough given full credit, is for the way it successfully helped re-launch American Civil Aviation, after a dozen years of national apathy and decline, which, in turn led to America’s Airline Industry taking front and center stage in the world of commercial aviation – a position it has never relinquished to this day.

Joe Sutter interviewed on one of his new 747 Jumbo Jets

  Sutter was interviewed on his new 747 Jumbo Jet for its customer, Germany’s Lufthansa.

Bill Boeing, Jr. and Joe Sutter in 2010

Bill Boeing, Jr. and Joe Sutter in 2010

University of Washington honored graduates, Joe Sutter '43 and Bonnie Dunbar '71 & '75

University of Washington honored graduates, Joe Sutter ’43 and Bonnie Dunbar ’71 & ’75

Two Pioneers: (Photo at Left) Dunbar is one of the world’s most experienced female astronauts, with 50 days in space covering 20.4 million miles on five shuttle flights. Sutter, known as “the father of the Boeing 747,” invented the concept of the “wide body” aircraft and served on the presidential commission that investigated the Challenger explosion. They were photographed at Seattle, Washington’s Museum of Flight, where Dunbar is now the President and CEO. Photo by Kathy Sauber.

 

 

Karlene Petitt, Airline Pilot of both 747 and Airbus A330, had interesting conversation with Sutten at a party.

Karlene Petitt*, Airline Pilot of Boeing’s 747 and Airbus A330, had an interesting conversation with Sutter at a party. When I told Joe that I was now flying an Airbus, the outspoken and blunt Engineer said, “Airplanes are supposed to do what the pilot tells them not the other way around. The difference between Boeing and Airbus is the Airbus tells the pilot what to do. That’s wrong!  The pilot should tell the plane what to do. And you can tell those Airbus people I said that. What are they going to do to me anyway? I’m ninety years old!”

* About Karlene Petitt:  Married for 31 years, she is mother of 3 daughters, and the grandmother of Kadence, Miles, Khoyn, Carter, Ellis and Anthony.  A pilot for 8 airlines, 7 type ratings, 2 Masters Degrees, and her 1st novel, Flight For Control, is now published!  She recently closed one chapter of her career, flying the 747-400 with Northwest Airlines, and has opened the next three chapters…

 

 

One thought on ““Mr. 747” – Joe Sutter Takes His Last Flight West at 95!

  1. R.V(Virg)Hemphill

    I had the the opportunity to fly co-pilot on this new machine in 1970 for a year & when the plane was larger that the air terminals we served in LAX, HNL & Hilo! Taxi to the gates & we were 48′ above ground-level in the cockpit, with great views of terminal roof-tops….also, both pilots had a “tiller control” & either could taxi the aircraft from their seat. The center-gear would caster & by extending the nose far over the grass areas, a fairly sharp turn could be made with the main-trucks remaining on the taxiway….it took some getting ‘use-too’!
    And so it was! ✈️
    🚶,Virg Hemphill

    Reply

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