The company was founded in Seattle by William E. Boeing on July 15, 1916, together with George Conrad Westervelt, a U.S. Navy engineer, and was named "B&W" after their initials. Soon the name was changed to "Pacific Aero Products" and, in 1917, the company became the "Boeing Airplane Company." William E. Boeing had studied at Yale University and worked initially in the timber industry, where he became a rich man. There he also acquired knowledge about wooden structures which was later revealed to be of value for the design and assembly of airplanes. In 1934, Boeing had become a very large corporation, when the founder sold his share because of the legislation which came into effect after the Depression, forcing companies to split into smaller units.
The Boeing 314 Clipper.
Shortly after, an agreement with Pan American World Airways was reached, to develop and build a commercial flying-boat able to carry passengers on transoceanic routes. The first flight of the Boeing 314 Clipper was in June 1938. It was the largest civil aircraft of its time, with a capacity of 90 passengers on day flights, and of 40 passengers on night flights. One year later, the first regular passenger service from the US to England was inaugurated. Subsequently other routes were opened, so that soon Pan American flew with the Boeing 314 to destinations all over the world.
During WWII Boeing built a huge number of bombers. Many of the workers were women whose spouses had gone to war. In the beginning of March 1944, production had been scaled up in such a manner that over 350 planes were built each month. To prevent an attack from the air, the plants had been covered with greenery and farmland items. During these years of war the leading aircraft companies of the US cooperated. The Boeing-designed B-17 bomber was assembled also by Lockheed Aircraft Corp and Douglas Aircraft Co, while the B-29 was assembled also by Bell Aircraft Co and by Glenn L. Martin Co
After the war, most orders of bombers were canceled and 70,000 people lost their jobs at Boeing. The company aimed to recover soon business selling its Stratocruiser, a luxurious four-engine commercial airliner developed from a military aircraft. However, sales of this model were not as expected and Boeing had to seek other opportunities to overcome the situation. The company sold with success military aircraft adapted for troop transportation and for aerial refueling.
In the mid-1950s technology had advanced very significantly, which gave Boeing the possibility to develop and manufacture totally new products. One of the first was the guided short-range missile used to intercept enemy aircraft. At that time the Cold War had become a fact to live with, and Boeing used its short-range missile technology to develop and build also an intercontinental missile.
In 1955, Boeing began delivery of its B707, the United States' first commercial jet airliner, in response to the BritishComet and the FrenchCaravelle, the world's first commercial jet aircraft. With the B707, a four-engine, 156-passenger airliner, the US became leaders in commercial jet manufacture. A few years later, Boeing added a second version of this aircraft, the B720. A few years later, Boeing introduced the B727, another commercial jet airliner of similar size, which had however three engines and was designed for medium-range routes. The B727 was immediately well accepted as a comfortable and reliable aircraft by passengers, crews, and airlines. Although production was discontinued in 1984, at the turn of the millennium nearly 1,300 B727s were still in service at airlines around the world. In 1967, Boeing introduced another short- and medium-range airliner, the twin-engine B737. It has become since then the best-selling commercial jet aircraft in aviation history. The B737 is still being produced, and continuous improvements are made. Several versions have been developed, mainly to increase seating capacity and range.
In the beginning of the 1970s Boeing faced a new crisis. The Apollo program in which Boeing had participated significantly during the preceding decade was almost entirely cancelled. Once more, Boeing hoped to compensate sales with its commercial airliners. At that time, however, there was a heavy recession in the airlines industry so that Boeing did not receive one single order during more than one year. Boeing's bet for the future, the new B747 Jumbo Jet was delayed in production and originated much higher costs than forecasted. Another problem was that, in 1971, the Congress decided to stop the financial support for the development of the supersonic2707, Boeing's answer to the British-French Concorde, forcing the company to discontinue the project. The company had to reduce the number of employees from over 80,000 to almost half, only in the Seattle area. In 1970 the first B747, a four-engine long-range airliner, finally entered service. This famous aircraft changed completely the way of flying, with its 450-passenger seating capacity and its upper deck. Until 2001, Boeing had been the only aircraft manufacturer to offer such an airliner and has delivered near to 1,400 units. (Airbus Industrie now offers the A380, which when delivered will be the largest of all airliners.) The B747 has undergone continuous improvements to keep it technologically up-to-date. Larger versions have also been developed by stretching the upper deck.
In 1983, the economic situation began to improve. Boeing assembled its 1,000th B737 passenger airliner. During the following years, commercial aircraft and their military versions became the basic equipment of airlines and air forces. As passenger air traffic increased, competition was harder, mainly from a European newcomer in commercial airliner manufacturing, Airbus Industrie. Boeing had to offer new aircraft, and developed the single-aisle B757, the larger, twin-aisle B767, and upgraded versions of the B737. An important project of these years was the Space Shuttle, to which Boeing contributed with its experience in space rockets acquired during the Apollo era, in which the company also participated. Boeing participated also with other products in the space program, and was the first contractor for the International Space Station. At the same time, several military projects went into production, like the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, the Avenger air defense system and a new generation of short-range missiles. During these years, Boeing was very active upgrading existing military equipment and developing new ones.
In 1994, Boeing introduced its most modern commercial jet aircraft, the twin-engine B777, with a seating capacity of 390 passengers, in between the B767 and the B747. Despite having only two engines, the B777 is certified to fly routes over oceans and deserted zones (see ETOPS), and is being sold very successfully. This aircraft, affectionately known as the "triple seven," reached an important milestone by being the first airliner to be designed "entirely by computer," i.e. by using CAD techniques. Also in the mid-1990s, the company developed the revamped version of the B737, known as the "Next-Generation 737." It has since become the fastest-selling version of the B737 in history.
In recent years Boeing has faced an increasingly competitive Airbus, which offers commonality between models and the latest fly by wire technology. From the 1970s Airbus has increased its family of aircraft to the point where they can now offer an aircraft in every class Boeing does. Indeed Airbus is now competing in markets that Boeing once had a monopoly over, e.g. the Airbus A320 has been selected by two low-cost operators (the aircraft to fit this model has been the 737) and the very large aircraft market, the A380 has won every major order over the 747 since its launch.
In 2001-10-26 against fierce competition for the contract to the JSF, Boeing lost to rival Lockheed Martin in the multi-billion dollar contract. Boeing's competitor was the X-32, which lost out to Lockheed's F-35 entrant. The X-32 may have been hampered by the requirement for a redesign after several flaws were found in the original concept.
After Darleen Druyan, an ex-Pentagon procurement staffer came into the employ of Boeing, it was discovered that there may have been a conflict of interest in regards to her employment. Druyan was a key in procuring officer for a $23 billion contract from the Air Force to purchase a fleet of 767 tankers replacing the ageing fleet of KC-135s. The fallout of this resulted in the resignation of Boeing CEO Phil Condit and the termination CFO Michael M. Sears.
The company acquired an ex-Lockheed Martin employee, who possed proprietary documents regarding the EELV competition. After this was discovered, Boeing was penalized, with the Pentagon taking several launch contracts away, and giving them to Lockheed.
Boeing won the KC-767 contract from USAF, but due to abnormalities with the purchasing structure, this deal was placed on hold, to be resolved some time during 2005.
Finally, Boeing achieved several consecutive successes, beginning with the formal launch of the 7E7 for delivery to All Nippon Airways and Air New Zealand. More orders are expected by the end of 2004.