When we look throughout the history of innovation there seems to always be a flashpoint, a big bang, a moment that would change the course of something forever.
Over the last 100+ years there have been many of these moments: Alexander Graham Bell and his Telephone, Thomas Edison and his Light Bulb, Henry Ford and his Assembly Line, The Wright Brothers and their moment at Kitty Hawk, Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit Of St. Louis….the list can go on for pages.
To this collection of great achievers and their respective accomplishments, I submit that Boeing’s Joe Sutter be added to this list.
For those of you not familiar with Mr. Sutter, he can be considered in my opinion the person responsible for commercial aviation as we know it today. In his work with Boeing, he led a team that developed the 747 in the 1960’s and is in large part responsible for the birth of affordable intercontinental travel as we know it today.
In his Autobiography, 747: Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation he covers his entire career with Boeing from his first tasks as a new hire, to Vice President and beyond.
What I especially enjoyed about his book was the way in which he put you into the situations that he was dealing with as if you were beside him. He involves you in the many “spirited” meetings with engineers during the design and build phase of the 747, various debates with Boeing leadership regarding the direction of the project and hence the company as well as his conversations and sometimes arguments with airline customers (including Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am) and various Boeing vendors and suppliers.
This was one of those books I could not put down because of how he brought the 747 development to life for the average non-engineer. He leaves you understanding and appreciating exactly what had to go into developing the most popular commercial aircraft of all time.
In many regards, I believe his vision and determination to see the 747 program succeed single handedly saved Boeing from complete failure at a time when commercial aviation was barely out of infancy. Could we imagine a world without Boeing? It could have happened very easily had it not been for the 747.
I’m glad to have read this book at this point in time. With this year’s launch of the next iteration of the 747 known as the 747-8i, I can appreciate the new aircraft even more knowing what was involved in creating the 747 family. Had it not been for Mr. Sutter, it is unlikely that the 747 would have ever existed.
One piece of advice however, WHEN you do read the book, read it while in flight. For some reason when I would read the book while flying, it gave me pause to stop and reflect on the fact that I am flying somewhere on an aircraft that he in some fashion had an influence upon. It doesn’t matter whether it is a Boeing or Airbus aircraft, the fact is that the commercial airliner industry owes a great deal to Mr. Sutter and his body of work with Boeing.
The book can easily be found on any retail site or in bookstores. It can also be downloaded for E-readers, iPads, Nooks, etc.
If anyone has already read the book, I would like to hear your impressions!
Lastly and selfishly, if anyone knows how I can go about sending my copy of the book to Mr. Sutter’s attention for his autograph, please let me know!