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Old 06-14-2021, 03:35 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Just decided to print off all this journal and sorry Ireland but your history has just taken a rest...for now. I will find it better to read off paperback than sitting over the Laptop for so long, the weather is ideal for lazing around just cool drinks and a good book. Life is just a bed of roses...sayings love sayings..I write poetry in jest form and it is all quite unprintable but funny to moi. must do stuff that makes you laugh...
loads of various sayings here.
https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/...-yourself.html

https://www.agence-berland-bennett.c...n_a_batir.html
This is the land adjoining our garden that we are buying as the fear of having something built on itand disrupting our life style is worth every Euro.
In fact the costs of the estate agents fees that the buyer pays that here in France also the Notaire fees so it amount to about half the cost of the land..paying around 15,000 Euros in all, so the price is ok just showing how robbing b's, these organisations are...everywhere I guess..money world only things that seems to count with um...Cheers for now, Dianne
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Old 06-14-2021, 05:06 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Wow. My journals have been printed. That's a first!
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Old 06-14-2021, 07:09 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Death from Above: Military Balloons

Almost since man first looked up into the sky and dreamed of flying, he has dreamed of using that power to destroy his enemies. Or, to put it another way, any new advance in technology, especially transport, tends to have the military sticking their noses in to see how they can exploit it. And so it was with balloons. Naturally, the first and most obvious use they were put to was that of observation, as balloons allowed an army the unprecedented view from the sky where they could spy on the enemy and relate troop positions and movements, or warn of planned attacks or manoeuvres. Lanterns had of course been used by the Chinese for yonks, as already noted in the introduction to this section, first to scare off the enemy but later too as a way of signalling their own troops.

Discounting that use though, it was once again our friends the French who cottoned to the idea of using balloons in warfare. Well, they had really invented them, hadn’t they? During the Battle of Fleurus in 1794, and again at the Battle of Mainz the following year the French Aerostatics Corps deployed balloons as observational tools. Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph had cause to rue his approval of the French balloons in 1854 when France went to war against Austria five years later, and these powerful new weapons were turned against him, sealing his country’s defeat. Six years earlier (1849) the Austrians themselves had tried to make weapons of balloons, loading over 200 with small bombs intended to be floated in over the city of Venice. However, the wind was as ever a cruel and fickle mistress, and most of the balloons got blown off course, some even sent back to the forces that had launched them!

The outbreak of the American Civil War provided another opportunity for balloons to be used, though wisely only in reconnaissance, as any sort of aggression on the part of a balloon against enemy forces would likely have resulted in the balloon being fired upon, and the pilot would have no means of defending himself. Two types of balloon observation were considered: tethered and free flight. Tethered was safer, as the balloon always remained anchored to the ground by men holding on to its ropes, allowed it to be returned to its point of origin despite the wind direction, and also enabled its pilot to send telegraph messages down the lines to report his findings. Free flight, on the other hand, risked a balloon drifting defenceless and directionless into enemy territory, and precluded any report until the balloon had returned and landed.

In charge of the newly-formed Union Army Balloon Corps was a man we met in the last section, Profesor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, a keen and successful balloonist who had been preparing for an Atlantic crossing when war broke out, and who instead offered his services to the President. Lowe had his detractors, including men under him, like John Wise and John LaMountain, who hated him and tried to discredit him. In the case of the latter, this may have been brought about by jealousy of Lowe’s achievements in ballooning, whereas LaMountain had, in concert with Wise, crippled his balloon, the Atlantic, and lost another one, the Saratoga, in a windstorm. LaMountain fought for free flight to be the standard in the UABC, while Lowe favoured tethered flight, and being in charge, this is what was chosen. Rather darkly hilariously, after an argument over which should be used eventually spilled out into a challenge, and LaMountain conducted a successful free flight reconnaissance, he was shot down by his own troops on his return, as they did not recognise him! By 1862 Lowe had had enough of LaMountain’s constant attacks on him and had him dismissed.

In September 1861 Lowe became the very first military spotter, ascending in his balloon over the Confederate camp at Falls Church, Virginia, and by having the Union artillery fire on the camp he was able to advise them by flag signal how to adjust their angle until the camp was quickly taking accurate fire. Balloons had, for the first time, progressed from being merely an observational tool of the army to actually taking part in, or at least assisting in an attack. Later, when the battle turned inwards to forested areas which were hazardous to balloon flight, Lowe achieved another first as he had his balloons launched from the decks of Union ships, thereby effectively becoming the first airborne vehicles to take off from a seabound vessel, turning the simple coal barges into embryonic aircraft carriers.

And what were the Johnny Rebs doing while all of this was going on, you may ask? Go on: I said you may ask, and I may answer. In fact, I will. Answer, that is. Well, the fact is that the Confederates came late to the party, saw what the Union boys was doing, and thought we can do that too. But they lacked a proper expert of the calibre of Lowe, or even LaMountain or Wise, all of whom supported the Union cause, so they were left to rely on inexperienced men, leading to one of the balloons spinning helplessly in the air, while another was shot down - again - by their own troops when it drifted over their territory. As well as this, the lack of coke gas, used extensively in the Union balloons, meant that the South had to put up with hot-air-filled Montgolfier style balloons, and short of silk for making the balloons the call was put out to the good ladies of the South to sacrifice their silk dresses, which were gathered up and made into one huge balloon. Which was promptly stranded on its boat and snaffled by the Union, surely another reason for those young ladies to have to blush.

Because the Union Army Balloon Corps was never formally inducted as a military organisation, none of those who served in it gained any sort of rank, which effectively made them civilians and meant that, should they come down in enemy territory during a reconnaissance mission, they would be liable to be treated as spies and executed. Further, the rank-and-file of the army treated them with disdain, considering them mere showmen and not appreciating or realising the important role people like Lowe and Wise had played in the war. Their impact was soon forgotten, as Lowe contracted malaria in June 1862, and when he returned a month later found all his equipment had been handed back. Having been then reduced to the rank of a common soldier (though still a civilian) he was sent to Fredericksburg to fight, but within a year he had resigned and the Balloon Corps died with his departure.

Tally-Ho Chaps! British Efforts in Military Ballooning

Just as the Americans were losing interest in ballooning the British were kindling theirs. Royal Army Engineers tried to plead their case in 1862, however the cost of hydrogen gas was at the time too expensive. By the time the Second Boer War began though (1899-1902) the idea of using balloons for military observation was accepted, and balloons were put into service, but it was the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) that really saw observation balloons come into their own, as they emulated the Yankees in the Civil War by using them to direct artillery. Of course, large and mostly stationary balloons such as those presented tempting targets to fighter aces, who often took on the challenge of taking them down. The balloons were protected by anti-aircraft batteries, so it could be a dangerous risk.

Later, of course, barrage balloons and dirigibles would feature in the war effort, and of course the feared and hated airships of Count Von Zeppelin would become the doodlebugs of the Great War.
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Old 06-15-2021, 05:37 AM   #14 (permalink)
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The Photo's are good and really for me add another dimension.
Had no time to even breathe today..but getting there with stuff. realise now how some stuff on this forum dragged me down a lot and now feel like myself again. Think we all need to step back and look at 'us' sometimes.
shall carry on enjoying your journals. Always loved reading amongst other things. My Husband never reads and instructions are not even considered unless the end of the world is nigh..cheers Dianne
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Old 06-25-2022, 06:41 PM   #15 (permalink)
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The Birth of Boeing’s Biggest Baby,
and the Midwife Who Made it all Happen:
Juan Trippe, Pan Am and the Genesis of the 747


Ask anyone, even today, to name an aircraft and the chances are high that they’ll say 747, or at least Jumbo Jet. For a very long time, from the late sixties really up to the 1990s, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet was king of the skies. It was the largest American airliner in the world, and its distinctive hump-cockpit shape was instantly recognisable, even by those who had only the most rudimentary knowledge of or experience with aircraft. At one time, it seemed every airline in every country flew 747s, and though mostly retired now, it’s still the aircraft of choice for the most powerful man in the world. I personally never got to fly in one - I only flew twice in my life - but I would imagine of the people reading this, a very large percentage would have travelled on a Jumbo Jet to or from their destination. It really was the most popular aircraft in the sky for decades.

But it was almost never built. The main driving force behind the effort to ensure it was, the man who set up and ran one of the most successful and recognisable airlines in the world, Pan American (known as Pan Am) was Juan Trippe, and his story is an interesting one.

And here it is.

Born in New Jersey into a tradition of naval service, Juan Trippe enlisted as a pilot in the US Navy Reserve in 1918, but by the time his flight training was completed the First World War was over, and he returned to college. After graduation he got a job in Wall Street, but although he soon realised the life of a trader was not for him, this experience would stand him in good stead for his later entrepreneurial life. He set up his own airline, Long Island Airways, in 1923, using surplus aircraft from the war to provide a “luxury air taxi” for wealthy clients, but the airline folded after two years. He then invested in Colonial Air Transport, then called Bee Line, which had been in operation since 1923. A year after Long Island Airways ceased trading, Trippe took over Bee Line and renamed it Colonial Air Transport, moving its headquarters from Boston to New York, and reoganising its fleet of mostly German Fokker biplanes. Colonial secured a contract to carry the US airmail, one of the first commercial airlines in America to do so. Three years later, Trippe would basically form Pan American Airlines.

It may seem odd, to those of us who grew up seeing the giant blue-and-white-liveried 747s fly into our city airports, that the airline which was for decades to become the unofficial flag carrier of the USA began in the Caribbean, and its first official flight was to Cuba. Worried that the German-owned Colombian airline, SCADTA, was likely to get the lucrative contract being offered by the US Postal Service to fly mail from Key West, Florida to Cuba, two US Army Air Corps officers teamed up with Trippe, who had just set up the American Corporation of the Americas (ACA) to enable him operate in the Caribbean and had acquired American International Airways, which had the all-important holy grail, the landing rights in Havana. The executives from Pan American, ACA and a third investor, Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean Airways all combined then under the banner of Pan American Airways, and won the contract. Pan Am had been born.

From the beginning, the airline was championed and protected by the US government, which saw it as the unofficial official US Airline, giving Pan Am an edge over the other emerging American airlines such as TWA (Trans World Airlines), Northwest Orient, Delta, Braniff, United and of course American Airlines. Pan Am’s all-but-monopoly on overseas routes must surely stand as one of the first instances of antitrust in America, and surely one of the few actually aided by the government. This unprecedented support by the White House helped Pan Am grow to become one of the biggest and most successful airlines, not only in America but in the world, and soon allowed it to use its tagline “the world’s favourite airline.”

Somewhat like a Mafia mobster wiping out or absorbing the competition, and in the vein of later mega-corporations swallowing up smaller companies, Pan Am bullied and bought its way across South America, sewing up routes across the continent as smaller airlines were bought out, forced to merge, or put out of business altogether, and all of this with the weight of the US government behind it. By the end of the decade South America had been divided between Pan Am and United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC), which would later give birth to the Boeing Company, essentially meaning that in effect the continent was controlled by Pan Am and Boeing. It would not be the last time the two companies worked so closely together.

1937 saw Trippe gaze across the Atlantic Ocean, as he eyed destinations in Europe, and his “Clipper” Sikorsky flying boats began services to the UK and Ireland, soon afterwards heading east towards Asia. Pan Am did its bit in the war, ferrying troops and supplies through the port of Foynes in Limerick to the battle zones from 1941 onwards, their clippers being the only aircraft at the time capable of intercontinental travel, and so very much in demand. After the war though, Pan Am’s protection dwindled and then ceased, as new regulations made such monopolies illegal, and the airline had to face competition from a whole host of new airlines all vying for its routes. In 1955 Trippe began his long association with Boeing when Pan Am passed on the chance to purchase the world’s first jetliner, the De Havilland Comet. As related elsewhere, this might have had something to do with the poor - almost abysmal - safety record the aircraft had. Whatever the reason, Pan Am became the first customer to order, receive and fly Boeing’s first ever jetliner, the immensely popular Boeing 707.

I suppose it would only be fair though to say that Trippe wasn’t putting all his Pratt & Whitneys in one basket (oh ho ho: aviation in-joke for nerds!) as he also ordered a fistful of Douglas DC 8s, the perennial rival to the 707. Trippe would be the man who all but single-handedly ushered the jet age into America, as, when other airlines were wary of taking a chance on the new jet aircraft, Pan Am’s maverick president boldly inked orders for Douglas DC-8s and Boeing 707s. More, as noted in the introduction above, it would be he who would all but force - and certainly partially bankroll - the development, building and launch of what would become the world’s favourite airliner, to go with the world’s favourite airline, but before we get into that, we should perhaps look into the man behind the company that would build it.


William Boeing was almost twenty years older than Juan Trippe, and like him, also attended Yale, but unlike the founder of Pan Am he did not graduate, dropping out in 1903 (as Trippe would have been crawling around, or possibly just learning to walk upright) to go into the lumber business. It’s interesting - hardly startling but still interesting - that both these men, who would go on to be absolute titans in the world of aviation, initially tried far different careers, Trippe on Wall Street while Boeing shipped wood, though in his case his business did involve transport, if by canal rather than by air.

Born of an Austrian mother and a German father, Boeing’s family name was originally Böing, which I suppose he thought was the kind of name that could get you laughed at, though I can’t so far find out where, when or how he changed it. It does explain though why the surname is one I have never heard applied to anyone else, though of course it may have done, but I’ve never come across it. Okay well this is interesting. I read that the Boeing name came about when William’s father (also called William, but the German spelling, so Wilhelm) decided to Anglicise it (not quite sure how adding an “e” Anglicises it, but there you go), somewhere around 1880, so possibly before his son was born. More to the point, Wilhelm also worked in lumber, so whether his son ended up in the family business or not I don’t know, but he was following in his father’s footsteps. Okay no he did not: Wilhelm worked for a lumber concern in Detroit, whereas William moved to Washington to seek his fortune and set up his own lumber company there. Boeing’s father died when he was only eight years old, so I guess he would not have known him that well.

A trip to an aircraft show in 1910 shifted young William’s focus from ships and boats to planes, and indeed he had caught his first sight of a “flying machine” the previous year. He soon took delivery of his first aircraft, a Martin TA Hydroaeroplane, and when it crashed and parts were not going to be available for months, he decided he and his friend Commander George Westervelt would build their own, which they duly did, coming up with the B&W seaplane, which would become the Boeing Model 1. This had an almost epiphanic effect on Boeing, and he decided his future lay in the manufacture of airplanes.

Just like across the water, where aircraft were being looked down on (something of a paradox, but you know what I mean) by the military, the US Navy did not see any future in the flying machines, considering them not worth the time, slow and cumbersome, and as America was not at the time involved in World War I - and even when it did enter it, sent no aircraft for obvious reasons - there was little enthusiasm and less support for the idea of airplanes. A staunch advocate for his beloved aircraft, William Boeing did all he could to convince the government, the military and the populace of the importance of aviation development, even going so far as to fly over a football field and drop cardboard bombs on the spectators, with notes attached to them pointing out that had these been enemy bombs they might all very well be dead.

I must say, I’m a little baffled as to why, at this point, the relatively few aircraft built in the USA were all seaplanes. Perhaps it was because there were as yet no airports or landing strips, or maybe it was because flight was kind of still in its infancy, certainly in America, and if you had to crash I suppose it was better to do so on a lake than onto the ground. Also, maybe the isolated nature of water landings kept people from complaining about noise? I expect we’ll find out when we go deeply into the early history of aviation again, but for now, it seems to me to be a bit of a mystery.

At any rate, at a time when one of the bloodiest battles of World War I was raging as the word Somme was to be carved forever in blood and death into human history, William Boeing inaugurated his new aircraft company, the Pacific Aero Products Company, and began making aircraft. Less than a year later, he changed the company name to the Boeing Airplane Company. With the end of hostilities in 1918, demand dropped for aircraft as a surplus of used military airplanes hit the market, and Boeing kept his company going by diversifying into manufacturing furniture and speedboats, which sold well, until 1921, when the US Post Office, having lost all but nine of its forty pilots flying the US Air Mail route, decided to give it up and Congress tendered for the contract. Boeing won it, and with it came the opportunity to run passenger aircraft, as the nascent American aviation industry began to gather steam.

This did not last, however, as in 1934 the US government, in what must surely be seen as both a hypocritical move, considering the patronage they had given to Pan Am, and surely an attempt to placate voters, decided Boeing had too much of a monopoly on air travel, and cancelled the air mail contracts they had. After appearing before a Senate hearing in 1934, William Boeing retired, to concentrate on horse breeding and land development. Something that is often glossed over though is his overt racism, as the land he bought after retirement was only leased on condition that only whites could settle there. Wiki tells me that “the Boeings placed racially restrictive covenants on their land to enforce segregation, forbidding properties from being "sold, conveyed, rented, or leased in whole or in part to any person not of the White or Caucasian race." Non-whites could only occupy a property on the land if they were employed as a domestic servant "by a person of the White or Caucasian race.” Lovely.

Boeing of course continued and thrived without him, as he surely had known and expected it would, becoming the premier aircraft manufacturer in not only America, but the world, and more or less remains so today. After losing a contract for the US military to build a new transport aircraft, Boeing used the plans they had drawn up, and the basic frame of their bid to later develop the aircraft which would become the largest passenger airliner in the world at the time, and would also be the most successful ever built.
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Old 07-02-2022, 08:04 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Boeing’s willingness to look to the future and take risks nobody else would led to the company being the first in America - but not the world - to conceive and produce a jet airliner, at a time when everyone else (other than the British, with the ill-fated Comet) were flying on turboprop and piston propellor-driven planes. Boeing’s biggest rival, Douglas, proved to be too timid to make the leap, allowing Boeing to bring their 707 out almost a year before Douglas entered the field with the DC-8. Boeing was, then, quickly established as the first name in aviation innovation, speed and comfort, and the first choice for anyone wishing to travel through the air.

When submitting designs for the US Air Force, all companies tendering - Lockheed, Martin Marietta (both of whom would merge in the 1990s to form Lockheed Martin), Boeing, Douglas and General Dynamics - were instructed that cargo needed to be loaded from the front, so the nose had to tilt up. This meant raising the cockpit above the nose, and would lead in Boeing’s case to the distinctive “hump” that instantly identified their 747.

As the demand for air travel (sorry) skyrocketed after the war, and airports began to crowd up as people waited in line, we return to our friend Juan Trippe, now head of Pan American Airlines. Trippe used his airline’s standing and his own political power and connections to request Boeing to construct a new airliner, to be over twice the size of the current largest, their own 707, putting in a pre-order for twenty-five of the aircraft, which had not even been designed yet, never mind built, and committing an enormous sum, even then, of 525 million dollars, more than a staggering 5 BILLION dollars today.

The man Boeing chose to head the project was this guy.


Although the management team was led by Malcolm Stamper, later to rise to the top job and in fact make history at Boeing as its longest-serving president, it was Joe Sutter who really did the work that counts. An engineer who had worked for the company since 1940, having made a crucial decision to choose between Boeing and Douglas, both of which had recognised the young man’s potential and had offered him a job. Believing that Boeing were more focused on the future - jet development - Sutter chose them, a decision which a former executive of the company believed saved Boeing from being bought out by its rival. Presiding over the initial plans for the Boeing 747 and seeing it through to launch, Sutter is rightly known as the “father of the 747”. Today the main engineering building at Boeing’s Everett plant is named after him.

Looking back to the lost military contract, and with fears that the emergent idea of supersonic travel would eventually make the new airliner obsolete - even today, supersonic passenger travel is not a reality, the only example having been the Concorde, and that was only for the super-rich - Sutter concentrated on making the new aircraft capable of carrying freight, particularly with the inclusion of the idea from the original plans for a front-loading aircraft, something I think (but will have to check) had never been done before. If aircraft were carrying cargo, transport planes like the C-130 Hercules would load from the rear. This idea of a nose-loading design meant Sutter had to also use the raised cockpit idea, which became, as mentioned, the distinctive bump or hump that is the trademark of the aircraft.

Juan Trippe originally wanted a full double-decker aircraft but this was not seen to be possible. In fact, it would be the twenty-first century before the first - and at the time of writing, only - airliner of this type would fly, the Airbus A380. From a quick perusal of the figures, it looks like it has not been the roaring success the company had hoped, with just over 500 sold up to this year. This, despite the fact that it must rank as one of the safest aircraft in the sky, with only three crashes resulting in absolutely no fatalities. That’s damned impressive.

Building the world’s largest airplane was a huge undertaking, and required an equally huge factory. None that existed were suitable, so Boeing had to build their own, on land in Everett, Washington. The area they chose was heavily wooded, and so over six hundred acres of forest had to be felled and cleared. A railway line was also laid, in order to move parts and materials to the factory, though the time chosen to build turned out to be a bad one, as the area saw its heaviest rainfall in years, with the skies opening for sixty-eight straight days. Hey, even Noah only had to contend with forty! In order to meet this challenge, over 100 acres was asphalted, and the building could commence.

Even so, the rain had delayed and put back their schedule so badly that the aircraft prototype had already been built before the building housing it was completed: they literally built the factory around the aircraft, men having to wear hard hats and contend with with the freezing, driving rain and the cold Washington winds as they worked. Because of the almost insurmountable hazards the team faced in their quest to bring in the aircraft on time, they earned the name “the Incredibles”.

Just to digress very slightly here for a moment, the prevailing ideas about the future of supersonic transport in the 1960s surprise me. Given that Chuck Yeager had only managed to break the sound barrier for the first time in 1949, just over ten years ago at this point, and that the military had only cracked it in 1954 with the F-100 Super Sabre, the chances surely of widespread commercial supersonic aviation were about as likely as, at that point, man colonising the Moon! I mean, even now, here we are in the twenty-first century and still, other than the Concorde, which is now retired, the only supersonic aircraft are still military ones. We still fly on our holidays (well, you do: I haven’t had a holiday in 20 years!) on subsonic airliners. And do we care? Is anyone bothered that it takes hours to fly the Atlantic?

And yet, the idea behind the 747 has repeatedly been stated that it was to be a “stop-gap” aircraft, there just to take up the slack and mark time until the new breed of SST (SuperSonic Transport) airliners came on the scene. I mean, they really believed and expected this. In the mid-sixties! So the 747 was not expected to be the success it ended up being, and it was envisioned by its designers that it would take up the role of a freight-carrying plane when those SSTs were blasting their way across the sky, making New York to Sydney in an hour, or whatever. Jesus in the first-class cabin on a non-supersonic flight! Talk about your predictions of hover cars in the late twentieth century!

Never before - nor, I think, since - has an airline had such a hands-on input into the design of an aircraft. Usually, at least now, airlines decide what aircraft to purchase and order accordingly, but it would not be any exaggeration to say that Juan Trippe loomed large over the design, build and testing of the Boeing 747, doing the equivalent, it seems, of a television network giving notes to a producer or director; he was sceptical about the new aircraft’s proposed speed, also unhappy with its projected range, and while he wanted a double-decker aircraft, the more to fit in as many passengers as possible, this proved outside of safety regulations, as the passengers on the upper deck could not be evacuated, along with those on the lower, in the regulation 90 seconds required by the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration. And so Sutter and his crew, never happy with the double-decker design anyway, as well as other suggestions such as a high-wing, engine in the tail and and a three-engine model, worked on ways to have the new airliner accommodate the amount of passengers Boeing, or rather Trippe, wanted.

Given that so much was riding on the development of the 747, given Trippe’s buying power and the ability he had to blackball Boeing if they got it wrong, it would not be stretching it at all to say that the very future of the company rested on the success of this new aircraft. With all the money being pumped into it, and no other project being considered, to say nothing of Boeing’s reputation and standing in the world of aviation design, the company would stand or fall on the results. No pressure, then!

Putting all their efforts into the area in which they erroneously believed the 747’s future would eventually lie, as a cargo freighter, Sutter’s team designed a twenty-foot wide body to allow the aircraft to accommodate two pallets of freight side by side. This, then, made the emerging 747 the widest-bodied aircraft in the world at this time. Mind you, if he couldn’t have his double-decker design, Trippe was not a man to allow any of that space to go to waste, i.e., not make money for him. When it was suggested that the raised area behind the cockpit could be used as a rest area for the crew, he shook his head. “Make it into a cocktail lounge,” he advised. Boeing obliged, but drew the line at his idea for passenger staterooms with special windows. Hey, they already had to install a staircase (originally spiral, later straight) in order to allow access to the upper deck and what would be its cocktail lounge, making this, I believe, at least until the advent of the Airbus A380, the only airliner with two floors, the upper reached by stairs.

In terms of safety, though there have been 61 747s destroyed or no longer reparable due to accidents, few of these were down to design flaws or maintenance issues, and indeed half of the losses involved no deaths, which is pretty remarkable, I think. Of course, 747s have been involved in some of the worst and most famous air disasters of our time, but these crashes have only involved the aircraft, not been endemic to it: essentially, they could have occurred with any aircraft, but they just happened to be 747s. Given that there have been over 1,500 747s in service throughout the years, that percentage is very low, about 4%.

Not only did the 747 revolutionise just about every aspect of aviation (and provide more employment, not least due to its additional crew member requirement) but it changed the way airports worked. Juan Trippe would have to spend another 215 million dollars redesigning JFK Airport in order to accommodate the new star of his airline, rebuilding terminals, lengthening runways, and providing new maintenance facilities to accommodate the behemoth, almost another 100 million. Of course, this would be a drop in the ocean compared to the revenue he would receive as Pan Am flew 747s for decades and they did indeed prove to be the seachange (so to speak) that aviation had been waiting for. With the 747 in service, air transport became cheaper for those who could not afford it previously, flight times became shorter and distances covered longer, and those who could afford to travel first class were eager to experience the “flying penthouse” of the upper deck of a Jumbo Jet.

The name, incidentally, was coined by the media. The 747 had never been marketed as a jumbo jet, but the appellation stuck, and helped to make the 747 the best-loved aircraft in the sky for over sixty years.

Of course, any aircraft is only as good as the engine that drives it, and Trippe had originally wanted General Electric’s engine, which had been included in the failed Boeing bid for the military transport contract, this being turbofan, an engine which drew air in and circulated it through huge fans before spitting it out the rear, giving the aircraft its thrust. The GE engine, having been designed for the slower military plane, would not however be suitable for the faster 747, so was discounted in favour of the new Pratt & Whitney JT9D, then the most powerful engine in the world: one of its powerplants had more thrust than all four of those on the Jumbo’s predecessor, the Boeing 707.

At the official signing ceremony for the first contracts for Pan Am’s 25 747s, Trippe made what seems to me an odd announcement: he said the 747 would be “a great weapon for peace, competing with intercontinental missiles for mankind’s destiny”. Uh, what? He compared a commercial airliner to ICBMs? I fail to see the connection. The type of guy he was, I guess he said weird stuff like that all the time.

The timeframe allowed to manufacture, assemble, test and produce the first prototype was staggering; the shortest time an airliner has ever been designed, even today. Three years, from conception in June 1966 to roll-out of the first prototype in 1969. No wonder these guys were called “The Incredibles”! Adding to the pressure on them, Boeing’s two main rivals, struggling to get into the widebody game too, has their own designs in production. Lockheed were working on the L-1011 Tristar, while Douglas had gone for the DC-10, both aircraft ignoring the configuration of the 747’s engines - four slung beneath the wing in pods, as on the 707 and indeed the DC-8) with tail-mounted ones, one either side of the tail section and one in the tail itself, in the case of the DC-10, in a manner Boeing would certainly copy for their smaller 727, but which they assumed was not suitable for a large “jumbo” jet, while the Tristar opted for all three engines being mounted on the tail.

One unfortunate consequence of the overrun on budget as the 747 slowly made its way to reality was necessary cost-cutting exercises at Boeing, resulting in a massive 60,000 redundancies across the company. The project was, in fact, running the risk of bankrupting Boeing. September 30 1968 was designated as roll-out day, and in truth, though Boeing kept this date, the aircraft that rolled out of the hangar at Everett really more staggered out than rolled. Its engines were non-functioning at this point (as Pratt & Whitney were still working on how to provide the needed additional thrust to lift an aircraft whose laden weight had increased by over 1,000 lbs) and no usable landing gear, but the press must not be disappointed and this was all a P.R. exercise anyway, so the roll-out and christening ceremony went ahead as planned, and the Boeing 747 had officially been born.

After all the champagne had been smashed (and more, no doubt, drunk) and hands had been shaken, photographs taken and journalistic reports prepared, the real work began. To all intents and purposes, the aircraft which rolled out onto the tarmac in - for once - bright sunshine on the last day of September was a model: not a mock-up; this was the aircraft all right, but mostly it was an airframe, and much tinkering had to be done before it could fly. The ever-dependable Washington weather provided the worst possible conditions for test flight when the first Boeing 747 to take to the sky lifted off on February 9 1969. The test pilot, Jack Waddel, had been concerned about flying - and more importantly, landing - an aircraft whose flight deck was so high above the nose, and familiarised himself by having a mock-up built which he drove around the field, before he climbed into the cockpit of N7470 and raced her down the runway, pulling back on the stick to tilt the nose up as the first 747 climbed into the grey sky. The first test flight lasted one hour and sixteen minutes, and the aircraft easily fulfilled its promise.

Seems odd to me that the man who basically shepherded the creation and development of the 747 was not there to see it take its maiden flight. Having retired from Pan Am, Juan Trippe had moved to the Bahamas, but William Allen, president of Boeing, had been visiting him when he got the news that the 747 was about to attempt its first flight. He was only seventy at the time, so you couldn’t really say (unless he was sick, which there is no mention of) that he was too old to make the trip, and given the time and indeed money he had sunk into the project, you would imagine he would have wanted to have cadged a lift with Allen back to Everett to see his dream come to life. But no: he did not attend. Maybe, since he was no longer involved with Pan Am, he was not interested any more, or maybe he instinctively knew the 747 would fly without any issues. Still, you’d think he would have wanted to have been there.

Trippe had originally demanded the first of his new 747s be delivered to him by 1969, and this he got - or Pan Am got, as he was by this time retired - in April, Pan Am nodding back to their old Sikorsky flying boats and naming the new 747s as Clipper, a name that would stick with them throughout their service. Other airlines’ orders began to be fulfilled, and soon the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet was a familiar shape in the sky, at airports, and was the aircraft to have in your fleet. Even today, more than fifty years after it first went into service, it’s still flying, though this year (2022) saw the lowest number of orders of the airliner, with only three, half of the number from the previous year. Some of this, of course, has to be do with a general slow-down and fall-off of aviation due to Covid-19, but the reality sadly now is that the day of the 747, like that of the QE2, has passed, and people are not so much concerned now with luxury as with price. Wide bodied aircraft like the A330 and Boeing’s own 777 and 787 have taken the place of the gargantuan liner, and only this year British Airways scrapped its entire fleet of 747s, the end of an era indeed.

But though its day is passed, and though the chances you will ever travel on one, if you never have, are very low indeed, the legacy of the Boeing 747 will be with us always. The dream, in the end, of a man who had little to do with aviation development but yet created the conditions for the emergence of such a behemoth at a time when others were thinking in completely different and opposing directions, the 747 became the queen of the skies, and proved that bigger was, for a very long time, better.
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Old 07-17-2022, 10:27 AM   #17 (permalink)
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All right then, back to our timeline. Let’s check out how things progressed after balloons were the only real method of aviation in the world. In other words, let’s explore the history of powered flight, which begins, well, further back than you might think.


Timeline: 15th - 16th century

If there’s one thing guaranteed to bring a chuckle when you talk of early attempts at flight, it’s the often catastrophic failures. I mean, who hasn’t pissed themselves at that old silent movie of the bicycle under massive, massive wings that goes forward a few paces and then the wings collapse on it and it falls over? Well that was later, but consider the plight of one John Baptist Danti, who decided to do a kind of Icarus in reverse, way back at the end of the fifteenth century.

"One day when many distinguished people had come to Perugia for the
wedding ceremony of Paolo Begliono; and were holding a festival in the
main street; Danti suddenly jumped from a nearby tower using a rowing
device with wings, which he had constructed in proportion to the weight of
his body. He flew successfully over the market place, producing a fair
amount of noise, and was watched by a large crowd. But when he had flown
a distance of barely three hundred paces, an iron component on the left
hand wing broke, so that he fell onto the roof of the Church of Maria
delle Virgine, and was seriously injured."


You can’t help but say it, can you?

No doubt the local Inquisition would say the hand of God had intervened and stopped poor old Danti from flouting the laws of nature, consorting with the Devil and so on. Nothing like a good old-fashioned impalement to put a stop to that nonsense! The dawning of the new century did nothing to dampen the fervour, or indeed good sense or logic, of those who wished to fly, as another Italian, John Damian, decided the best way to overtake an ambassador on his way to France, for some reason, after his installation as Abbot in Edinburgh was to fly, and never mind the trifling detail that man had not yet managed to do this successfully. Perhaps he would be the first to do so.

He would not.

Completely failing to achieve any height, he plummeted straight down from the battlements of Stirling Castle, smashed into the ground but luckily only sustained minor injuries. He blamed his failure not on his lack of aeronautical knowledge or experience, but on - wait for it - the fact the he had used hen’s feathers in his wings. Well of course! The hen feathers, being from a barnyard bird rather than one that flew through the sky, had been attracted back down to the ground, thwarting his attempt to break the surly bonds of earth and punch the face of God. Whether or not any hens were hurt in the attempt is not recorded, but our John certainly was, breaking his thighbone, though he may consider himself lucky that’s all he broke. Meanwhile, the ambassador presumably proceeded on his way, boringly using the banal transportation method every other sane person of the time was using, a ship.

1540 saw yet another John (alright, Joao, but I think it’s a Spanish version of the name), this time in Portugal, perhaps the first attempt at flight in that country? Obviously taking the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, the first man I believe in the world to truly study and understand - if incorrectly - the principles of flight, though he never built any machines and certainly never flew - as his yardstick, Joao Torto built a kind of winged structure which he strapped to his back in order to enable him to make his flight. He then announced his intention: "I proclaim to all the inhabitants of this city that before this month comes to an end, a very great miracle will be seen, in the form of a man who will fly with magic wings from the clock tower of the cathedral towards Matthew’s Fields.”

Seems his flight actually worked - for about a few seconds, until the hood he had seen fit to wear (painted with an eagle’s beak) slipped and obscured his vision. With no way to see where he was going, and unable to move his hands to the hood as they were strapped into the wings, down he went, crashing into the roofs below. Luckily for him, he was not seriously injured. This did not stop another cleric, a monk called Kasper Mohr (should have had Mohr sense, sorry sorry) from attempting something similar, but in his case his superiors stopped him in time, just as he was about to jump from the roof of the monastery. “Oh no you fucking don’t, son!” they snapped, dragging him back. “Consider the birds of the air, and leave the flying to them. Haven’t you manuscripts to illuminate or something?”

You couldn’t even say attempts at flight were in their infancy in the sixteenth century, more a sort of embryonic stage, where people who should have known better, but didn’t, attempted to do things they couldn’t possibly hope to achieve, with virtually no working knowledge of the mechanics that were supposed to launch them triumphantly into the sky, but more often than not just caused them to plummet painfully to the earth. Some successful flights were claimed, but there’s no backup for any of these, so we can assume either they were exaggerating or outright lying, probably knowing their accounts could not be disproven.

I mean, you have the French locksmith (huh?) Besnier, who claimed he had completed several successful flights with his stick-on bird wings, but when he sold these to another eager aviator the guy died on his first attempt. Who corroborates Besnier’s account? What proof was offered the luckless and presumably gullible showman who bought the wings from him? And what of Allard, the tightrope walker who promised King Louis XIV he would fly, but instead dove straight down and came a cropper in front of the Sun King? This kind of nonsense, you’ll be amused to hear, continues on into the next century.

Timeline: 17th century

It’s an odd dichotomy to me that the larger percentage of men (always men, of course) who attempted to fly were men of the cloth; considering how the Church frowned on any such activity, you would think its adherents and officers would have kept away from such blasphemy. But again we have a cleric, this time a friar, possibly thumbing his nose at God, certainly at the authorities of the Church. What’s the difference between a friar and a monk, you ask? Apparently monks tended to stay in the country, and on desolate islands, sort of thing, whereas your friar was a more urban sort of guy, hanging out in towns and cities. Anyway, this one, Friar Cyprian, is supposed to have not only tried but succeeded in flying with wings strapped to his body, though no proof is of course offered and there were no witnesses. But even so, the Church weren’t standing for that, oh no.

The Bishop of Nyitra is recorded, probably, as saying “Let’s see if that fucker can fly without his wing contraption, the heretic!” and sent his people to torch them. It seems the good friar got off being torched himself, but that may have been more to do with the political structure in Hungary than any leniency on the part of the Church.

Very interestingly, just as the history of ballooning involved Italians heavily, it’s an Italian we look back to as the first inventor of what could be called any sort of an aeroplane, and no, I don’t mean Leonardo. Though he designed models, he never built anything that I can see, and certainly never flew, so while in some ways he could be considered the father - or at least, great-grandfather - of flight, he doesn’t figure in the actual history of aviation. The first man to successfully transport a living creature in a powered vehicle, other than a balloon (which is only powered, in the end, by the wind, and not really capable of being steered or directed) was this guy. Though to be fair, it wasn’t a man he managed to fly. Nor was it really a powered flight.

Tito Livio Burattini (1617 - 1681)

A nobleman who was born in Italy but spent most of his working life in Poland and Lithuania, and when called to the court of the Polish king in 1641, he built a four-winged glider, which is said to have lifted a cat (why is it always a cat? Maybe because they’re smaller and less excitable than dogs?) into the air, and presumably returned it to the ground safely. He was then given permission to build a full-size model, which would carry three men and would, he said, traverse the distance from Warsaw to Constantinople in just twelve hours. All that remains of it though is this sketch of a “flying dragon”, which he drew in his treatise entitled Il volare non e impossibile, which even I can translate.


A man given the perhaps grandiose title of the Father of Aeronautics was again Italian, a priest living in Lombardy, who sketched out and designed what was called a vacuum airship. That’s him below.

Francesco Lana de Terzi (1631 - 1687)

Although he is known also for the development of a reading system for blind people, known today as braille, de Terzi was the first to propose the idea of a vacuum airship, and his drawings make it clear that if anything looked like what it sounds, this did exactly what it said on the tin. Or would have, had it ever been built. And flown. Remaining though on the drawing board, you can see below how it literally looks like some sort of sailing ship making its way through the sky. It has the gondola, the mast, even the sail, but it operates (or would, or does in theory) on a wholly different principle to both balloons and later airships. Whereas an airship or dirigible is essentially a big balloon, with air - either hydrogen or helium - pumped into it to inflate it and keep it afloat, de Terzi’s idea worked on a principle of air being removed. How? Glad you asked.

See those big balloons there either side of the sail? Yeah that’s what I thought too, but they’re not balloons. They are in fact large copper spheres, from which the air has been - in theory - pumped out, leaving a vacuum inside. As this vacuum is then lighter than the air, it provides lift, and de Terzi calculated that the airship would transport six people. Without an engine of any kind, I suppose really it has to be considered more a high-tech (for the time) balloon, with no real way of steering against the wind, but because the kind of copper required for the spheres was not yet available - and has yet to be - the airship could not be built.

There was another reason though, a darker one. De Terzi, certainly a man ahead of his time, and coming from a country split into constantly warring city-states, knew the potential such a device had to be misused by the military as a weapon, as he wrote “God will never allow that such a machine be built…because everybody realises that no city would be safe from raids…iron weights, fireballs and bombs could be hurled from a great height". Oh, surely not, Signor de Terzi!

An odd postscript to this is that today, four hundred years later, scientists, engineers and aviation enthusiasts are still grappling with the idea of a vacuum airship, and despite better materials being available then ever were to the Italian seventeenth-century Jesuit, the probability that such a device will ever be made, much less fly, seem as remote now as they were back then. Some things, I guess, just are not meant to be, and the passage of time can make very little difference.

Pinning down an actual aviation pioneer in the seventeenth century though seems hard, if not impossible. Like many great men of the time, people like Robert Hooke and Giovanni Borelli were interested in the idea of flight, but this seems to have been more a casual fancy, a diversion from their many other scientific pursuits, and so it is not really until the eighteenth century that we find people actually grappling with the problem in a serious way, devoting some energy, effort and intelligence to its solution.

Some guy called Hezarfen Celebi was supposed to have flown from a tower in Galatia to Scutari, a distance of several kilometres, but surely if he had done, this miracle would have been in all the pamphlets and woodcuts, or cried by the town crier in every town, or whatever way they communicated news back then? 1742 saw the Marquis of Bacqueville give it a go with the tried-and-not-trusted wings stuck to the body deal, but he had the misfortune to jump off a roof which overlooked a river, which should have been a relatively soft landing for him in the event/certainty of failure. Just his bad luck then that a barge was passing as he leaped, and he crashed right onto its deck, smashing both his legs in the process. Ouch! Shouldn't have touched that one with a ten-foot... okay, okay.


Bartolomeu de Gusmão (1685 -1724)

Although he was more concerned with airships, and we’ve already done balloons and indeed dirigibles, I think airships merit being included in powered flight, as they certainly were directable and had engines and navigational equipment. You didn’t just climb into an airship and trust to the winds: the pilot could go against the prevailing currents of the air, so in effect I think you could say that airships were the true forerunners of aircraft, and this guy was one of the first to really take on the idea of designing and flying one.

You wouldn’t really expect a priest to be thinking about man flying, would you? Surely more the type of man who would have said if God had meant us to fly he would have given us wings. But be that as it may, de Gusmão was a Portuguese priest born in Brazil, a Jesuit who in 1709 secured the patronage of the King of Portugal to design and test an airship, which was of course far different to what we know as one today. Like most of the inventors, scientists, thinkers and designers from about the sixteenth century to the eighteenth, de Gusmão envisioned his airship as being built around a kind of small boat, creating a sort of cradle in which the pilot would sit, with a large sail pulled over it like a massive parachute. Air would be pumped through bellows into hollow tubes with magnets acting as - you know what? I have no idea how this was supposed to fly, but here’s a drawing of what it was supposed to look like.

For whatever reason, the public demonstration of his airship, which he christened Passarolla, never took place. Nevertheless he became a favourite with the king, who fired him out of a cannon, sorry, appointed him a canon and later made him the royal Chaplain. He also granted him an early version of a patent, though the penalties for copying his machine seem to have been a bit more stringent than they would today!

“Agreeable to the advice of my council, I order the pain of death against
the transgressor, And, in order to encourage the suppliant to apply
himself with zeal towards improving the machine which is capable of
producing the effects mentioned by him, I also grant unto him the first
vacancy in my College of Barcelona, with the annual pension of 600 000 reis
during his life."


Right. So if you fuck with my boy’s patent, you’re literally going to lose your head. Talk about a cut-throat business practice! Sorry. Anyway de Gusmão also had some odd idea about making a sailing ship of the air, using a triangular gas-filled pyramid, but he died without making progress of any sort on this design. Of course, you could always rely on the Church to cry heresy when any such experiments were undertaken, and there is - uncorroborated - evidence that the Portuguese Inquisition (nobody expects the Portuguese Inquisition! Literally, nobody. Spanish, yes. Italian, maybe. Portuguese? Never ‘eard of it, mate) came after him and that he had to flee to Spain (not in his airship of course). Whatever the truth of that, he died soon afterwards, in 1724, fifteen years after his non-demonstration and a few months short of his fortieth birthday. They named an airport in Brazil after him, but it got renamed in 1941, so they named another one after him, and so it stands today.

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 - 1722)

Another who drew but did not create a flying machine, Swedenborg was happy to let future inventors sort out the nuts and bolts and get the thing flying. He wrote "It seems easier to talk of such a machine than to put it into actuality, for it requires greater force and less weight than exists in a human body. The science of mechanics might perhaps suggest a means, namely, a strong spiral spring. If these advantages and requisites are observed, perhaps in time to come some one might know how better to utilize our sketch and cause some addition to be made so as to accomplish that which we can only suggest. Yet there are sufficient proofs and examples from nature that such flights can take place without danger, although when the first trials are made you may have to pay for the experience, and not mind an arm or leg."

One of his quotes - not actually his but one he made use of, presages the clever clogs in the 19th century who claimed that “everything that can be invented has been invented” when he pleaded for a modicum of hope and restraint of hubris: "The art of flying is hardly yet born. It will be perfected and some day people will fly up to the moon. Do we pretend to have discovered everything, or to have brought our knowledge to a point where nothing can be added to it? Oh, for mercy's sake, let us agree that there is still something left for the ages to come!"

Swedenborg clearly had not the first clue how to solve the problem of flight, but had sketched out what he thought might be a neat idea, with a man seated in a sort of basket, where the pilot was supposed to sit, and operate large paddles attached to the one wing, which would move the machine through the air. Like many designs before and after it, Swedenborg’s flying machine seems to have taken the idea of the mechanics of bird flight as its yardstick, which is not surprising. Birds do move through the air by beating their wings, but it would later be conclusively proven that this could not be emulated by humans, and that the only way to fly would be to use the air currents and more or less glide, until the engine was invented.
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