American corporation that is the world's largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft. By the 1996 purchase of McDonnell Douglas Corporation, they are also the world's largest manufacturer of military aircraft

Started in 1916 as Pacific Aero Products by William Boeing (1846-1956) in Seattle who was fanatically interested in flying, which was a modernity at the time. Boeing had the same year built the seaplane B & W together with his friend and navy engineer George Conrad Westervelt. William Boeing, 35 years old when he started the company, had made a small fortune in the forest industry. A year later the company name was changed into Boeing Airplane Company. Out of Seattle, Boeing hired several of the very few aeronautical engineers in the country at the time, and also started collaborating with the University of Washington for research studies. Although the market for airplanes weren't exactly profitable - has it ever been ? - the company had a total of 28 employees in 1917. 

This would all change with the outbreak of World War I. The Navy ordered 50 Model C seaplanes, and in 1918 the company had grown to over 300 people. When the war ended that same year, so did also most of the orders from the military. The company started focusing on the civilian market, and more specifically bi-planes which were common at the time. The company sold a few of these for use with mail deliveries in the Nortwest and Canada, where distances are great. It was however the army that kept the company alive by purchasing 200 Thomas-Morse MB-3A fighter bi-planes for the Army Air Service. These were not Boeing design however, so the company only put them together. 

In 1923 Boeing managed to win a contract for design and production of a pursuit fighter for the Army Air Service, and starting with the Model 15 and forward to the P12/F4B, Boeing became the largest supplier of fighters to the military. They also managed to become the vendor of mail planes to the US Post Office in 1927 and even started the airline Boeing Air Transport to run the postal service between San Francisco and Chicago. In the late twenties, the company bought several competitors, vendors, contractors and even airlines to be included in Boeing. At this time the Boeing airline changed its name to United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation... you can see where this one's going, can't you ? 

In early 30s there was an increased interest in monoplanes and Boeing soon developed both civilian and military variants. The civilian Monomail, not surprisingly intended for mail services, was also used as an airliner under the name Model 247. The greatest competitor at this time was Douglas with its DC-2

In late 30s the antitrust legislature of the United States caught up with the companyt. It was decided that airplane manufacturers could not own airlines, or more specifically mail carriers. The result was that William Boeing resigned as his company was split in three: 

The remaining company now focused on manufacturing larger passenger planes and military bomb planes. The result was the B-17 Flying Fortress and its civilian counterpart Stratoliner. The latter was a great success with millions of passengers every year in the booming market in the beginning of 1940s. The B-17 was also a great success and the company produced several hundred a month of these and its successor the B-29 during the World War II

After the war came trouble for the company, with as many as 70,000 people fired. The company started focusing on smaller jet fighters and larger commercial planes such as the Stratocruiser. The future did not lie in propellers, however, so the Stratocruiser was soon cancelled. The company instead came up with the jet bomber B-47 Stratojet and later in 1952 the legendary B-52 Stratofortress, which still is in use. The B-52 were also used as the base for the commercial jet 707 which also came in the 1950s

Following the 707 came a long row of different sized commercial jets, most of which come in both passenger and freight versions:

  • 727 (1964), 130 passengers
  • 737 (1967), 107 passengers, smaller version of 727
  • 747 1970, the jumbo jet four-engine which is still the world's largest commercial aircraft, up to 500 passengers
  • 757 (1982), up to 290 passengers
  • 767 (1981), up to 400 passengers
  • 777 (1995), up to 400 passengers

As mentioned, Boeing now owns McDonnel Douglas, and with them the airplanes MD-11 and more, but I won't include them here. 

On the military market, the B-2 stealth fighter is the larger of recent projects. They also work on the Joint Strike Fighter. Boeing was also heavily involved with the Apollo Program, lending over 2000 executives to NASA for coordination and they also built large parts of the rockets. Boeing also has manufactured satellites, helicopters and missiles and the International Space Station.

After the acquisition of McDonnel Douglas, the company now has over 220,000 employees and over $51 billion in revenues.  The company has recently moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.

source: Boeing

A Cursory Look At Boeing Scandals and Litigation

The Boeing Corporation has not had the shiniest of records, even by the generally tarnished standards of corporate America. Let's take a look at the highlights reel.

1974 - Out of court settlement with the SEC, who had charged Boeing with making a total of $81,000,000 in payoffs to foreign customers. Those customers purchased Boeing products totalling $943,000,000 in sales.

1987 - Workers at the Auburn, Washington plant were exposed to high levels of phenol formaldehyde without adequate warning or protection.

1987 - Boeing was fined eight times by the state of Washington for releasing high levels of acid into the Renton sewer system, and for failing to properly file reports regarding the emissions.

1987 thru 1992 - Seattle issued three separate citations to the Kent Space Center (Boeing) for high-level copper emissions, again into the sewer system.

1988 - Boeing eventually admitted to dumping trichloroethylene (a carcinogenic and mutagenic solvent) onto the ground near Moses Lake, Washington. When trichloroethylene subsequently appeared in area well water, Boeing denied responsibility for the contamination and also claimed to have lost pertinant records. The area was declared a Superfund site in 1993.

1988 thru 1989 - Seattle issued four separate fines to Boeing for dumping illegally high levels of chromium into the Seattle sewer system.

1989 - $11,000,000 settlement with the USAF over allegations of overcharging for refitting KC-135 tanker aircraft. The USAF claimed that Boeing gave them misleading information which led to overpayment.

1990 - A jury found Boeing 50% liable for toxic waste cleanup in King County, Washington. Witnesses at the trial claimed Boeing had been continually warned, for 25 years, that their toxic dumping was probably illegal, and that they should build their own treatment plant.

1990 - The EPA fines Boeing $42,000 for failing to report five toxic chemical releases.

1992 - The EPA fines Boeing $334,325 for illegal handling of toxic wastes at the Everett, WA plant. This fine, a record amount, was a reduction (at Boeing's request) from the intended fine of $620,475.

1992 - The Justice Department sued Boeing for $11,500,000 for cleanup costs related to contaminated drinking water in Tacoma, WA.

1992 - Seattle fines Boeing $228,000 for releasing 1,392 pounds of chromium into the city's sewer system. Boeing confessed to "inadvertent" discharge, but appealed the fine.

1994 - Boeing settles out of court with the Pentagon for $75,000,000. The settlement covered "overcharges" itemized thusly: $52,000,000 for "computer related work", $14,000,000 for "non-domestic government work", and $9,000,000 for hazardous waste disposal.

1998 - Settlement of $10,000,000 to the U.S. government for violations of arms export control laws.

1998 - The Washington State Department of Ecology fined Boeing $148,000 and ordered the company to "correct its toxic waste problems immediately".

1999 - Payment of $15,000,000 to 19,000 African American employees (then current and former) to settle complaints about biased advancement policies and other racial labor problems. The Department of Labor has accused Boeing of withholding information and interfering with DoL's inquiries.

2000 - The United States Department of Justice sought a $20,000,000 penalty payment from Boeing for improper equipment installation on AH-64A Apache attack helicopters. The fleet of AH-64As has been grounded three times since 1999 due to mechanical problems.

2000 - Boeing Corporation (and Cascade Corporation) are declared liable by a federal judge for contaminating drinking water wells in Portland, Oregon. Portland is claiming $6,600,000 in damages. Payment is pending.

2001 - (case pending) International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 751 (the largest labor union at Boeing) files suit, claiming that recent outsourcing of jobs has violated the Boeing/Union contract.

2001 - The State Department fines Boeing $3,800,000 for violations of export laws.

Boeing is the largest exporter in the U.S., the second largest weapons manufacturer, and is Lead Systems Integrator for the National Missile Defense program. Boeing, in addition to its government contracts, was given a $2.2 billion federal subsidy in 1998. That subsidy, combined with the massive incentives being offered by the state of Illinois to move Boeing corporate headquarters to Chicago, makes Boeing Corporation one of the largest proponents of socializing the costs of business while privatizing the profits.


Thanks to Kevin Martin, Tim Nafziger, Jeremy Shenk and Mark Swier for the article "Boeing Corporation" in Z Magazine, vol. 14, no.11. The information above was taken from their article.

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