William Boeing was born in 1881 in Detroit, Michigan (Boeing 1). His father was a wealthy lumberman who had migrated to America with a dream of freedom and wealth. His father actually achieved his dream, and as the saying goes ‘like father like son’, William Boeing emulated his father in the field of entrepreneurship. William Boeing dropped out of the university in 1903 with an aim of starting his own lumber business in Pacific Northwest (Boeing 1). He had only one year to complete his studies, but he felt he was mature enough to start chasing wealth like his father. His lumber company performed well, and he managed to earn some money.
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In the year 1910, while he was attending a public flying exhibition in Los Angeles, the field of aviation attracted him. Four years later, he flew for the first time but was not satisfied with the performance of the airplane he had purchased from Glen Martin Co. (Soylent Communications 1) He was angered by the fact that replacement parts of the airplane were not readily available and decided he can build his own plane, and even do it better. Convinced that his dream of building a better airplane could bear some fruits, he contacted his friend, G. C. Westervelt, who also agreed with him that they can do it better. In 1916, they went to the drawing board to design and build B&W, which was a twin float seaplane (Bowman 11).
Encouraged by the results of the first attempt, Boeing decided to start his own company for building planes which he named Pacific Aero Products Co. This company was renamed Boeing Airplane Company a year later. The company received its financing largely from the bank loan which Boeing owned about 75%. He also used his personal account as the security pledged for the repayment of the loan (Bowman 17). He built his first two B&W airplanes and offered them to the U.S. Navy, but his offer was rejected. He then sold them to the New Zealand Flying School, and this was his first international sale.
During World War I, the U.S Navy needed airplanes to train its soldiers, and Boeing Airplane Company scooped this opportunity. Wong, who was the aircraft designer by then, designed the model C training seaplane to fulfill the desire of the U.S. Navy. The navy ordered 55 airplanes which were the company’s first production order as well as its financial success (Serling 23). The company also built one airplane for Boeing which he named C-700. The C-700 was flown by Boeing and Eddie in 1919 on the first international mail delivery carrying letters from Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver, to Seattle, Washington (Serling 27).
The company suffered a major blow when the war ended because orders for the airplanes also disappeared. The market also became flooded with surplus biplanes leaving Boeing Airplane Company with a hard time of surviving the market. William Boeing devised other ways of getting revenue so that he can sustain airplane building operations. Some of the activities the company got involved in include building bedroom furniture and flying boats (Schultz & Wilma 1). Curtiss Company received 25 HS-2L flying boats from Boeing Airplane Company which, in turn, helped the company to survive in the market (Schultz & Wilma 1).
In 1920, the company sold only one plane, which prompted Mr. Boeing to use his own funds to pay his workers as well as meeting the company’s expenses (Boeing 1). Although things seemed to be going seriously wrong for Boeing Airplane Company, they received a boost in 1921 when the Army Air Service ordered 200 Thomas-Morse MB-3A pursuit fighter biplanes (Donald 6). This order was a breakthrough to the financial success of the company. Boeing outbid Thomas-Morse in this order and proved its efficient production methods thus eliminating Thomas-Morse in the market. In the same year, the company also won an order to build a new type of bomber, the GAX or Ground Attack Experimental. The company built 10 GA-1 Models which were based on the GAX (Donald 10).
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Through the experience gained from developing MB-3A, the company started developing its own pursuit designs. They developed XPW-9 (Model 15), which outdid Curtiss fighters and Fokker in 1923 Army evaluations. In the same year, 30 biplanes designated PW-9 to be ordered by the Army, and 14 designated FB-1 to FB-6 to be ordered by the Navy (Boeing 1). With the successful development of these aircrafts, Boeing Airplane Company gained popularity as the leading designer of military aircraft. In 1923, it received another order from the Army to build a trainer, Model 21 or NB-1 and NB-2. Between 1924 and 1925, the company supplied seventy Model 21s. In the year 1928, Boeing also built and supplied 586 P-12 and F4B to the military as the new fighter biplanes. These models had an advantage over earlier models in that they used bolted aluminum tubing instead of welded steel tubing (1).
Boeing was an entrepreneur who never gave up on anything. While still in airplane business, he also continued to run his timber business. He was in a position to absorb details of both airplane and lumber enterprises. Boeing believed that humans make wrong decisions due to their habit of overlooking details (Serling 69). Therefore, he always requested fine details from both enterprises so that he could make wise decisions.
In 1927, Boeing won a contract to deliver air mail between Chicago and San Francisco. The demand for air mail was increasing each day and keeping up with it, Boeing formed Boeing Air Transport (BAT) and built the new 40-A transport planes (Donald 11). BAT became very successful. Furthermore, the company included other divisions for propellers, engines and manufacturing planes. By the year 1929, BAT was the largest aviation company. Boeing insightfully purchased small aircraft companies and air mail routes; in most cases, it purchased the failing companies with a guarantee that the employees would retain their jobs. In the same year, BAT became United Aircraft and Transport Corp. and included a school for pilots and maintenance personnel in California, engine and propeller manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers, and several airlines.
In 1934, the company faced another setback when Roosevelt administration introduced new laws that barred companies from offering both air mail carriage and aircraft manufacturing. This led to the cancellation of Boeing’s air mail contracts, and he was forced to fragment his business into a number of companies (Boeing 1). This antitrust action by the U.S. government displeased Boeing very much, and he decided to withdraw from active participation in his company. He sold all his stock in the company; however, he did not lose his interest in airplanes.
Before he retired from the airplane enterprise, he received the popular Daniel Guggenheim Medal for his vision and willingness to invest his money that has resulted to one of the best transport and manufacturing company in the whole world (Serling 73). After retiring, he pursued his interests in raising thorough bred cattle and horses, fishing, property development, and deep sea cruising. In 1946, he made a great step in pursuing his new interests by buying the Aldarra Farms estate in Fall City, Washington. When he fully acquired the Aldarra Farms, he donated his Seattle mansion to the Children’s orthopedic hospital. This farm was later developed to a luxury residential in 2000 by William E. Boeing Jr. (Soylent Communications 1).
Boeing made a variety of investments and continued with the timber business to around 1954. He began breeding race horses at around 1937, and by March 1938, he had a horse barn of 40 thoroughbred horses in California and had bought the contract of Basil James, the famous jockey. In the same year, Boeing stable was 5th in the U.S. for purses won (Schultz & Wilma 1). When he was practicing fishing in the late 1930s, he became an expert in this field and helped in originating the polar-bear fly, which is used for salmon fishing.
In the field of the real estate business, he developed the Blue Ridge subdivision north of Seattle. By the year 1936, this estate included a playfield, an archery range, tennis courts, and a club house (Schultz & Wilma 1). Boeing enjoyed his leisure time a lot, and every summer he sailed aboard the Taconite together with his family. Due to his passion in new machinery, he ensured that the Taconite always had the most modern equipment. Taconite was the 1st civilian vessel to be equipped with a two-way radio which was developed by Boeing’s brother-in-law. Taconite was also the 1st civilian vessel to be equipped with radar after World War II. This vessel was still in use in 1999, and wherever it sailed, it symbolized the Boeing legacy of high standards, attention to detail, and perfectionism.
Although Boeing willingly retired from his old company, he did not stay away from it and promised to be in contact with his friends and colleagues of the company. He worked for the company during the Second World War as a consultant and advisor when the Boeing Airplane Company started building warplanes. By the time he died, his company had expanded into a major aircraft manufacturer which was entering the jet age. William Boeing died in 1956 after several years of struggling with failing health. He died aboard his yacht Taconite after having a heart attack (Schultz & Wilma 1).
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