William Edward Boeing

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William Edward Boeing

Inducted 2013

Founder of the Boeing Airplane Company

1881-1956

Years after attending his first air show in 1910, he became fascinated with aviation. After his first airplane ride, he purchased a Martin hydroplane, took flying lessons, became a pilot, and became obsessed with the notion that he could build a better plane than those currently in the air.

Boeing enlisted his engineering friend, George Conrad Westervelt, to design and build the B&W, a twin-float seaplane. He was so encouraged that he decided to begin his own plane-building business, Pacific Aero Products Company, a small airplane manufacturing company that became the Boeing Airplane Company a year later in 1916.

In 1917, just before America’s entry into World War I, Boeing knew the Navy needed planes. He delivered a Model C seaplane to Navy officials in Florida to test, and his business was firmly secured when the Navy sent his company an order for 50 of the planes. Expanding first in production of military aircraft during the war and then in contracts for scheduled mail delivery and regular commercial passenger service, the Boeing empire eventually included all aspects of aviation, from technological development and aircraft production to international airline transportation systems.

In 1934 new anti-trust laws forbid air mail carriers and aircraft manufacturers to be part of the same company. Boeing’s air mail contracts were cancelled, and he was forced to split his business into several different companies. Later that year, he sold all of his stock in the company he had founded. It had been an eventful and productive 18 years in the aviation industry.

Boeing was awarded the Daniel Guggenheim Medal for notable achievements in aeronautics, only the sixth man to be so honored. Orville Wright had received the first such award.

He never lost his enthusiasm for planes. After selling the stock in his company he never actively participated in its operation except to volunteer his time as a consultant during World War II. By the time he passed away in 1956, his company had grown into a major aircraft manufacturer about to enter the jet age.

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