14 May 2016

CHECK SIX: The Rollout of the Boeing 367-80

14 May 1954: The rollout at Boeing's Renton Field facility of the aircraft that would change jet transport, the Boeing 367-80. Bill Boeing was 72 at the time and had long since divested his holdings in the company he founded, but he was present at the rollout of the the Dash 80 and Boeing's wife, Bertha, christened the aircraft with champagne while the Renton High School band played "Wild Blue Yonder", the USAF theme. I always thought this Boeing photo was cool- it's the Boeing president at the time, Bill Allen, showing the 367-80 to Bill Boeing. 

Allen bet the company on Dash 80, investing $16 million of the company's money to gear up for production tooling before having an order from either any airline or the US Air Force. 

But then again, taking a bold risk was something the company did three times undeniably in its history. The first time was in 1934. Boeing president Claire Egdtvedt proceeded with the Boeing 299 without any orders or contracts from the US Army Air Corps for a four engined bomber- the 299 is better known as the B-17 Flying Fortress. When Egdtvedt took his gamble on the 299 prototype, he asked his friend for guidance- who happened to be Bill Allen, who at the time was the company lawyer.

Almost twenty years later Bill Allen found himself in the same position when he launched what become both the KC-135 Stratotanker and the Boeing 707 with the Dash 80 prototype. 

And about 10 years later, Bill Allen was fishing in Puget Sound with Pan American chairman Juan Trippe when Trippe pressed Allen on building a jumbo-sized jetliner- legend has it that Trippe asked Allen "Would you build it if I buy it?" and Allen responded "Would you buy it if I build it?" and by the end of the day, the Boeing 747 was launched on a handshake. According to aviation author Robert Gandt, Allen thought to himself the 747 "would be the perfect swan song if he could step down knowing that he had launched the world’s mightiest ship of the sky. It would secure Boeing’s future well into the century. Or it could ruin Boeing".

Further reading: 

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