It all started with a flight over Lake Union and the Model C, Boeing’s first production aircraft. Ever since, the Boeing name has soared through the North Puget Sound skies. This July, the trailblazing, innovative aerospace company celebrates 100 years of business with special events, exhibits, and features.
William Boeing incorporated Pacific Aero Products Co. in July 1916. Later renamed Boeing Airplane Co., the business took off when the United States entered World War I the next year. After the war ended, the company continued its relationship with the military while also branching out into mail delivery and securing a contract with the U.S. Postal Service.
Through the decades that followed, Boeing has established itself as a major player in the aerospace industry, manufacturing jetliners and pioneering space exploration. The business has constructed numerous types of aircraft, sent astronauts to the moon, and built many of the complicated parts that comprise the International Space Station.
Boeing has played an important role in Snohomish County’s economy with its Everett production facility, which is the largest manufacturing building in the world by volume. The Centennial provides many opportunities to learn about the company’s history, and especially the history of its founder, William Boeing.
William E. Boeing was born in 1881 in Detroit to Wilhelm and Marie Boeing. His father left Germany when he was twenty-years-old and emigrated to the United States, where he found employment in farming. He later found work with a lumberman who eventually became his father-in-law. Wilhelm Boeing bought land in California and near what is now known as Ocean Shores, Washington.
When his father died in 1890, William Boeing was eventually sent to school in Switzerland. After his mother remarried, Boeing and his stepfather did not get along well. Boeing eventually enrolled in the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, but not for long.
As adventurous as his father, Boeing left Yale without completing his degree when he was 22 and moved to Grays Harbor, Washington, where he learned the logging business. He got started with the land he inherited from his father. In the early 1900s, when Boeing was 27, he moved to Seattle and started Greenwood Timber Co. This was back when the Smith Tower was the tallest building in the Seattle skyline, and the city had a population of about 100,000 people.
In 1914, Boeing and his good friend Conrad Westervelt celebrated Independence Day by purchasing tickets for rides on a barnstormer airplane. The rides were flown off of Lake Washington. The two of them took turns riding the airplane all afternoon and soon began discussing manufacturing airplanes.
On July 15, 1916, Boeing planned the first test flight of his aircraft. It was a seaplane/biplane Bluebill B&W (Boeing and Westervelt) Model 1. It was on that date that the world’s biggest aerospace company began. To commemorate 100 years of the Boeing Co., celebratory events will begin on July 15, 2016, on the company’s actual birthday. The Museum of Flight in Seattle will host the Founders Day Celebration, a three-day commemorative spectacle. This community celebration will include fly-ins, special shows, and unique exhibits. These events will be open to the public and family-friendly with free but limited admission.
The Centennial is a fine time for children and students to learn about flight and careers in aerospace. “Above and Beyond” is a brand new hands-on exhibit at the Museum of Flight. The 5,000-square-foot exhibit commemorates the aerospace of the past and explores the enterprising ideas for the future. Visitors can engage in interactive simulations that allow you to “experience flight as a bird or a futuristic wingflapping aircraft,” hear stories about innovators of flight from our past and present in a series of video montages, and take a walk on the wild side through a simulated elevator ride to the edge of space. This awe-inspiring exhibit will close on September 12.
Now is also a great time to visit Snohomish County’s beloved tourist attraction, the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour of the Everett Production Facility