RIP Joe Sutter — Father of the 747

Joe Sutter, “the father of the 747” died yesterday.

He was the lead engineer and project manager for the development of the original 747 in the late 1960s, and below, we offer a video featuring an interview with him at the first flight of the 747-8 in 2010. But before that, here is a tribute, published yesterday by Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes:

Joe Sutter, 1921 – 2016. RIP

“This morning we lost one of the giants of aerospace and a beloved member of the Boeing family. Joe Sutter, the “Father of the 747,” passed away at the age of 95.

Joe lived an amazing life and was an inspiration – not just to those of us at Boeing, but to the entire aerospace industry. He personified the ingenuity and passion for excellence that made Boeing airplanes synonymous with quality the world over.

Early in Joe’s career, he had a hand in many iconic commercial airplane projects, including the Dash 80, its cousin the 707 and the 737. But it was the 747 – the world’s first jumbo jet – that secured his place in history.

Joe led the engineering team that developed the 747 in the mid-1960s, opening up affordable international travel and helping connect the world. His team, along with thousands of other Boeing employees involved in the project, became known as the Incredibles for producing what was then the world’s largest airplane in record time – 29 months from conception to rollout. It remains a staggering achievement and a testament to Joe’s “incredible” determination.

Long after he retired, Joe remained very active within the company. He continued to serve as a consultant on the Commercial Airplanes Senior Advisory Group, and he was still a familiar sight to many of us working here. By then his hair was white and he moved a little slower, but he always had a twinkle in his eye, a sharp mind and an unwavering devotion to aerospace innovation and The Boeing Company. Fittingly, he was on hand to celebrate our centennial at the Founders Day weekend. He was one of a kind.

Joe was loved. He made a difference in the world. He made a difference to us. We will miss him and cherish our time with him.”

And now, here is an interview with Joe Sutter, filmed in 2010 on the day of the first flight of the 747-8F. The interview is particularly interesting, because in it Joe discusses how cargo considerations drove the design of the 747, right from Day One. Also interesting is to hear him discuss how rapidly the new airliner progressed from concept to first flight – done with slide rules and drafting pens in the age before computers.



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