P_7878

Joe Sutter: Father of the B747

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Posted (edited)

I see (and greatly enjoy) the (occasional) 747-8/8F simulation images, here, in our virtual skies. I also happened to recently read an old Lufthansa Magazine article on Joe Sutter, chief design engineer of the original B747 project, and credited to be the father of this legendary plane. The article impressed me much coming especially from Lufthansa, a respectable and highly regarded Airline, which, of course, has a very long history w/ Boeing, including being the original proponent and launch-customer for the most modern version of B747, the B747-8. So, this post and a few accompanying images relate to the significant role Joe Sutter played in the creation of B747 (the iconic plane with the characteristic and unmistakable hump), and its recent evolution to 747-8. Whereas Pan American World Airways was the driving force on the customer side at the time of the original 747 (747-100), it was actually Lufthansa that urged Boeing to develop the latest generation plane. Lufthansa, in 1972, also owns the distinction of being the first European airline to operate the B747 (747-200) on long-haul flights. BTW, in 2002, Lufthansa donated a retired Boeing 747-230B aircraft to the Technik Museum Speyer in Germany. The aircraft, impressively positioned above the grounds (a striking sight indeed), appears from a distance as if it's just taking off (or maybe landing)! Here is an URL for it and you may enjoy a look: https://acesflyinghigh.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/technik-museum-speyer-lufthansa-747-soaring-high/

Anyway back to Joe...he was a young U.S. Navy veteran finishing his degree when both Boeing and Douglas offered him jobs. Boeing was focused on jet aircraft, so he went to Boeing. It's believed that Douglas would probably own Boeing today if he had chosen otherwise, and the subsequent history of commercial aviation may have looked different.

Back in the 1960s, Joe, as the chief engineer, was responsible for building a plane of hitherto unheard-of dimensions. The four-jet, long-haul aircraft would have twice the number of seats of any of its contemporaries. As far as safety was concerned, Joe Sutter had gone far beyond all standard requirements of the day. The production schedule was breathtakingly tight: it dictated that the 747 be rolled out less than two-and-a-half years after the first technical drawings had been completed. It would be a Herculean task, but then there was Herculean spirit in the air back then. Joe Sutter remembers: “...The 747 team was inspired by and filled with the same ‘can do’ attitude that put human beings on the moon.”. “Think of the scale of the program and then consider how such projects are conducted nowadays, with all these computers,” Sutter adds. Instead of high-performance computers, he only had first-class engineers (4500 of them). To this day they are reverentially known as “The Incredibles” at Boeing. It remains a staggering achievement and a testament to Joe’s “incredible” determination.   

Joe (a Seattle native) recalls his childhood days, and comments, "The airplanes I observed [as a boy growing up near the Boeing plant] made me determined to give an airplane the ability to survive bad circumstances. Everything won’t be great all the time. That’s why [the 747 has] four flight control systems, four hydraulic systems, four landing gears. You know things are going to happen, and sometimes it’s going to be severe. You still should be able to come home." And, he has always maintained, “The most important thing in the early stages of a development program is to ask questions. If you don’t understand what a customer wants, you won’t end up with a successful product.”

He was quite at home in the “aquarium”, the glass-walled room overlooking the Boeing production hall, as the newest 747-8 gradually took shape below. “I make suggestions,” he had remarked casually, narrowing his eyes a little as he spoke. “Sometimes they listen to me, sometimes they don’t.” While in this vantage point of the aquarium, he was probably also reminiscing the glorious day when his (original) 747 took off so majestically into the sky for the 1st time. “Patches of snow dotted Paine Field. The clouds bunched thickly but we elected to proceed because of a radio report from a 707 on a test flight over the Olympic Peninsula.” It would be up to the “three W’s” in the cockpit, pilots Jack Waddell and Brien Wygle, and flight engineer Jess Wallick, to assess the 1st flight. He recalls, “In an hour and a quarter aloft, Waddell, Wygle and Wallick had learned that the 747 flew well, was stable and had light controls with well-balanced forces,” - dispelling any doubts in his mind of his creation.

Towards the end of his life (Joe Sutter passed away on Aug, 30, 2016, at the age of 95), he often liked to spend his hours in the “aquarium”. When the father of the 747 looked down from the aquarium onto the new jumbo production line, he saw an old, familiar aircraft and at the same time, one that is entirely new. “If you look at the latest version, the 747-8, it looks just like the original airplane, except for the stretched upper deck. Technically, the new generation is far more advanced, of course, but the basic design has survived. It’s absolutely amazing, so my comment is: Those guys working with me, they did the right thing.”

The 747 had made it successful maiden flight, on February 9, 1969. Then, Pan American World Airways, launched 747-100 service, in January 1970, and Northwest followed with (what would become the most popular variant) 747-400, in February, 1989. And, half-a-century after the 747 flew for the 1st time, its current version (747-8/8F) continues to fly the skies and still be in current production - a remarkable credit to Joe and his team's original design. And, of course, the unique and lasting legacy of his giant-baby continues to fascinate us in our virtual skies too.

Joe Sutter was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

Please find below the following images (took a bit of detective work to gather these historically correct liveries/variants...except two...). Thanks for reading this account, and hope you enjoy these few (only eight) images below.

  1. Pan American 747-100 (first/launch customer of 747 - FW/Opensky)
  2. Lufthansa 747-200 (first/launch EU launch customer of 747 - JF/CLS)
  3. Northwest 747-400 (first/launch customer of 747-400 - FW/Opensky)
  4. Cargolux 747-8F (first/launch customer of 747-8F - couple of fantastic repaints (available in the Library), of PMDG 747-8F, by Master Painter, Steve D, himself a great fan of Joe Sutter. I especially like these images because of the added Joe Sutter Tribute on these repaints - re-posted here with kind consent from Steve).

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Edited by P_7878
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Posted (edited)

Superb piece of aviation history P_7878, thanks for posting it. Btw, if I'm not mistaken, Lufthansa was also the company that convinced Boeing to develop the B 737, which took a bit of doing, as Boeing was initially very reluctant to initiate this project

Edited by bernd1151
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The 747 has carried me aloft many times over the US, the Atlantic, and the Pacific.  My last flight was in a 747-400 in 2017, a British Airways nonstop from London to Phoenix.

John

 

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My last 747-400 flight was on an internal Davao-Manila flight in the Philippines. There must have been only about 80 on board for this short hop.

I'll always treasure that moment. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Folks; Thanks for the comments and memories!

If I recall correctly, most likely I flew the B747-400 in my very 1st oceanic travel (or was it an MD11?!?)...unfortunately, to admit further ignorance, those days, my aviation interest/knowledge was not advanced enough to count the engines right...:smile:....and identify aircraft correctly...

Edited by P_7878

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Posted (edited)
On 5/10/2019 at 5:59 PM, bernd1151 said:

Superb piece of aviation history P_7878, thanks for posting it. Btw, if I'm not mistaken, Lufthansa was also the company that convinced Boeing to develop the B 737, which took a bit of doing, as Boeing was initially very reluctant to initiate this project

Bernd: Thanks for the kind words. You're absolutely correct about 737. Lufthansa was indeed the primary "instigator" of the 1st 737 - its true origin in 1964. Boeing went with the project after some assurance from LH. B737-100 first flew for LH in Feb 1968, exactly a year before the 1st flight of B747 in Feb, 1969. Only 30 737-100s were built, and LH grabbed 21 of those....one of the most rare B737 variants...

BTW, CS has a remarkable B737 (100/200) SIM..., hope they convert to P3Dv4, still shows as P3Dv3..I have it and fly it often....no GPS/FMC at all...but great fun...Here, below, for your pleasure, is the direct (CS) URL to a beautiful picture of the earliest 737-100 in LH color (please check the CS website for more details)...

https://www.captainsim.com/cgi-bin/imgview.pl?i=/products/x737/img/screenshots/x730_21.jpg;x=1

 

Edited by P_7878

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**Wonderful Piece of Aviation History**

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On 5/12/2019 at 3:45 PM, P_7878 said:

BTW, CS has a remarkable B737 (100/200) SIM..., hope they convert to P3Dv4, still shows as P3Dv3

Yes, I have it too and it works on my system also in P3D v4 😉

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