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Boeing: The Complete Story

by Alain Pelletier, Quayside Publishing, Minneapolis, Minn., 2010, $44.95.

 Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the United States and one of the key players in the aerospace industry throughout the world. Renowned worldwide for its highly successful line of commercial airliners, as well as for its military transports and strategic bombers, Boeing is also engaged in many other aspects of aerospace development, including rotary-wing aircraft, fighters, guided missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and spacecraft. In addition, Boeing founded and operated its own airline, the descendant of which still exists today as United Airlines.

Originally in the lumber business, Boeing entered the airplane industry in 1916 and has been responsible for numerous aviation landmarks throughout of the 20th century. In 1933 it introduced the first truly modern airliner, the Model 247. Two years later Boeing unveiled the B-17 Flying Fortress, the four-engine bomber that became a mainstay of the U.S. Army Air Forces throughout World War II. In 1938 it created the Model 307 Stratoliner, the first airliner to have a pressurized passenger compartment. Its B-29 Superfortress was the first bomber to drop a nuclear weapon, and after the war Boeing developed a successful airliner from the B-29’s airframe: the Model 377 Stratocruiser.

During the 1950s the introduction of Boeing’s B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress bombers, as well as the KC-135 aerial refueling tanker, provided a quantum leap in the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force’s new Strategic Air Command. On the civil side, its 707 jet airliner, which was flown for the first time in 1954, became the symbol of the so-called jet set, marking the end of the propeller-driven airliner era. In the 1960s the 707 was succeeded by Boeing’s equally successful 727, 737 and giant 747 “jumbo jet” airliners.

French aviation historian Alain Pelletier and the Quayside Publishing Group have done justice to the company’s legacy in Boeing: The Complete Story. Magnificently produced, it describes in great detail how an obscure company from the Pacific Northwest came to globally dominate the aerospace industry. Included is a history of its foray into the airline business, as well as its associations with Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Standard Propellers, Stearman, Vought, Sikorsky, Vertol, North American Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas. Boeing’s famous aircraft are covered, as well as many of its lesser-known and stillborn projects. Complete specifications are given for all of Boeing’s aircraft, as well as for those developed by subsidiary companies and aircraft designs acquired through corporate mergers. The hefty volume includes hundreds of spectacular photographs, many rarely seen before. It will undoubtedly become a standard reference for those with an interest in Boeing and the history of the American aerospace industry.


Originally published in the November 2011 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.