On Monday November 4 Lufthansa will honor retired Boeing Engineer Joe Sutter in a ceremony at Lufthansa’s US Headquarters in Long Island, NY and will present him with Lufthansa’s ‘Achievement In Excellence’ Award.

Mr. Sutter, 92,  is often credited as the ‘Father of the 747’  ever since he and his team of engineers created the 747 from a concept and imagination.   Beginning in 1965, after successfully helping to develop the 737, Mr. Sutter and his team began work on a project that most thought was impossible to complete.  The goal was to deliver the world’s first true wide-body jet that could reach most corners of the world.   With the blessing of a $525 million dollar order from Pan Am for 25 of the yet to be built aircraft,  the team set out on a mission that would ultimately revolutionize the way the world would travel.

To put things into greater perspective, Mr. Sutter and his team (affectionately known as the ‘Incredibles’)promised that the first 747 to Pan Am would be delivered in 28 months.   This promise was made even though Boeing had yet to have a facility large enough to handle to manufacturing of what would be the world’s largest production aircraft at the time.   Ultimately, Boeing settled on building the facility in Everett, Washington and the rest is, shall we say, history…..

The first ever 747 was completed on September 30, 1968 and her first flight would take place on February 9, 1969.  Deliveries to Pan Am began on time with the first 747, Pan Am’s ‘Clipper Victor’ being christened by First Lady Pat Nixon at Dulles Airport in Washington DC on January 15, 1970.   Considering the technology of the day, for an aircraft to go from concept to reality and be delivered on schedule is simply amazing.    This feat is made even more incredible when you consider all the delays that take place with new aircraft being developed today.   Today, its not unusual for programs to be delayed by months and even years, yet 45 years ago, it was not an issue for the 747.

Lufthansa would become the second customer for the 747 and began taking deliveries in 1970, with the first Lufthansa 747-100 entering service on April 26, 1970.   After being the launch customer and reason behind the development of the 737 in the mid 1960’s, Lufthansa and Boeing were creating a relationship that would span decades.

To honor Mr. Sutter, Nico Bucholz, Lufthansa’s Executive Vice President in charge of Fleet Management will travel to New York to present the award to Mr. Sutter on behalf of Lufthansa’s Executive Board.


Mr. Sutter's Lifetime 'Achievement In Excellence' Award presented by Lufthansa

Mr. Sutter’s Lifetime ‘Achievement In Excellence’ Award presented by Lufthansa


Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this fantastic tribute because I am leaving for Hong Kong on the next day and logistics just did not work out.  However I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Sutter for his contributions and helping pioneer the way so that all of us can travel safely, quickly, and comfortably virtually anywhere in the world!

To learn more about Mr. Sutter and the development of the 747, I strong recommend you read his book, 747: Creating The World’s First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation.  I’ve read it 3 times and each time I would learn something new about him or the program.  Honestly, its a book I specifically read when I’m on a 747 just to help put things into better context.