I was raised in the shadow of Paine Field, near Everett, Washington. I was in 9th grade when the population of our school exploded with the arrival of what I assumed was the entire transplanted student population of Wichita, Kansas. And I stood on our deck in December of that year watching in awe as the inaugural flight of the 747 jumbo jet flew over the house.
On this day in 1916, the Pacific Aero Products Company was incorporated. The next year the name was changed to the Boeing Airplane Company. William Boeing hired Wong Tsoo, one of the first aeronautical engineers in the country, to design new planes. Boeing also paid for a wind tunnel at the University of Washington, so the school could offer courses in aeronautics.
A year later, the 28-person payroll also included pilots, carpenters, boat builders and seamstresses. The lowest wage was 14 cents an hour, while the company’s top pilots made $200 to $300 a month. When the first seaplane, built in Boeing’s boathouse on Lake Union, did not sell to the Navy, Boeing used his own financial resources to guarantee a loan to cover all wages—a total of about $700 a week.
Often when I see the plumy contrail from a jet flying over, or get aboard an airliner for some long-distance transportation, I think of the Boeing Company, and its long-standing impact on the economy of our region. And when I’m flying economy, I think not such pleasant thoughts, wondering if Mr. B. ever sat cramped, with his knees up his nose, for a flight across the country. I bet not.
Nevertheless, I’m thankful for the convenience of flying. Atta boy, Bill!