Back in 1989, the old Boeing Archives shared a metal roof with part of Plant 2's manufacturing operation. At the back, behind stacks of cardboard boxes and blocked from general access by rows of shelves, there was a long room furnished with a shiny boardroom table and about a dozen old wood and leather chairs.
One of these chairs had once belonged to Claire Egtvedt, who became president of the Boeing Airplane Company, Aug. 2, 1933; another to William Allen, elected company president Sept. 1, 1945.
In 1991, Boeing celebrated its 75th anniversary. A group of us sat around the table sorting archived letters and documents so we could write about three generations of Boeing traditions. We discovered that this company's history was about people. People built the airplanes. People tested the airplanes. People saw problems and left the beaten track to solve them. The Boeing "spirit" and Boeing "pride" took root when the company began in 1916 and bore the fruit that changed aviation history.
That spirit and pride were still evident on the factory floor as years passed. A worker about to retire at the Everett plant in Washington decorated the wire fencing around his area with newspaper clippings about company history. I remember visiting a fellow Boeing worker who lived in Georgetown, down the hill from Plant 2. An airplane flew overheard; my friend's 6-year-old daughter pointed up and told me, "Mommy helped build that plane."
Now, as Boeing celebrates its 100th anniversary, I thought I'd take an imaginary trip to that old room at the back of the archives and reconstruct conversations with some of the people who helped shape this company's tradition. My discussions were fueled by old Boeing News interviews and the oral histories of key Boeing innovators.
Since then, there have been many more Boeing people all over this country setting aviation industry standards. There are even more people all over the world engaged in keeping the Boeing spirit alive today.
So let's look up like that 6-year-old, and be glad to have been part of that jet flying overhead, and feel proud to have been part of that shuttle, or that satellite or the magnificent dream that transcends space and time. For 100 years, Boeing has been the wind beneath the wings of the world and continues to propel mankind to the stars and beyond.