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747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation Paperback – May 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As leader of the Boeing company's design and engineering team that created the 747—the world's first wide-body, twin-aisle airplane—Sutter had perhaps the best overall view of all aspects of the 747's development in the mid 1960s. This engaging look at the technical, political and corporate forces that clashed over the 747 adds important details to Clive Irving's 1993 Wide-Body: The Triumph of the 747. Sutter's descriptions of the furious pace his team had to maintain proves his assertion that the 747's development process closely resembled that of aviation's colorful early days. It is fascinating to read that while the 747 later became Boeing's crowning achievement, with variations of the plane continuing to remain popular during the past three decades, various Boeing executives during the '60s "were taken in by the enticing vision" of supersonic transports like the Concorde, and Sutter had to fight "every step of the way to get the 747 designed, built, certified, and into service." 8-page b&w photo insert, 20 b&w photos throughout, not seen by PW. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The chief engineer of the 747 here recounts his experience designing one of the most iconic airplanes in aviation history. At pains to dispel the perception that the humpbacked behemoth was a one-man show, Sutter mentions many colleagues as he relates a process that partook as much of intra- and intercorporate diplomacy as of nuts-and-bolts engineering. Indeed the narrative dynamic arises from the interaction of technical problems with the nonengineering concerns of the Boeing hierarchy. The company was in deep financial trouble at the time of development (1965-70), as its supersonic transport project hemorrhaged money. Pressure on Sutter was intense both to expedite the 747 and slash costs; in the book's climax, Sutter faces down the executives' demand that he fire thousands of his engineers. Sutter's story also revels in the intuition and technical precision that resulted in the 747's distinctive appearance and capabilities. Replete with energetic anecdotes from Sutter's non-747 life, this memoir will fascinate fans of aviation. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060882425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060882426
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By D. SHUPER on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The above partial quote is plagerized from Joes book as he quotes Charles Linderbergh comments about the 747 which in its entirety was " This is one of the great ones "

I'm a retired Boeing Engineer, and while never meeting or dealing with Joe since I was working in other areas [supersonic transport, etc ] I did hear and work in later years with several who did have personal knowledge. Joe pretty much tells it like it WAS/IS.

I especially appreciated his efforts to avoid highly technical terms, and in few simple words explaining some of the basics of flight, powerplants, design criteria, safety concerns, etc. In some ways, it could be considered ' high school' level courses on flight and design criteria- but without ' talking' down to the reader.

It is an 'easy read' and does lift the curtain on a few, but not all the insider political games typical of Boeing and most other aerospace companies. [ I've also worked at Rockwell and Ling Temco Vought ]

Joe is definitely from the 'old school' as far as ethics and integrity, and his comments about serving on the Challenger Shuttle disaster commission and the NASA attitude re safety and risk in the last chapter seem as if they were written this week [ June 16,2006- see news items about safety concerns re the impending Shuttle flight in July 2006 ]. Hopefully, his comments and concerns will NOT be proven to be " deja vue all over AGAIN."

In my opinion - a keeper, and readable from Junior high up.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Roberts on January 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
747 is simply a must for anyone in the aerospace design industry, or for people who are just interested in how the 747 was built. Joe Sutter, the airplane's director of engineering and the one most responsible for its actual design, has written a trim, quick, and enjoyable to read history of the 747 program encased in a semi-autobiography.

After a few chapters exploring the author's early life, including his college time and Navy life, the book spends its bulk on a 50,000 foot overview of what was going on with the 747 development program from its inception until its most recent incarnation to fly in the form of the 747-400 family of derivatives. The final chapters sweep the remainder of the author's professional career including his service on the Challenger Disaster commission. Joe (and after reading the book you definitely get the feeling he would prefer to be called that then Mr. Sutter) has certainly led a very interesting life, and has had the privilege of experiencing a truly gilded age of aviation from the peaks of its ambitions and the lows of its difficulties and uncertainty. But the star of the book is truly the magnificent 747 aircraft and even his more autobiographical chapters tie into the aircraft and its design.

Much of the author's life exerted an inexorable influence on the design philosophy he brought to the plane. As an early child he grew up in Seattle and watched, literally from his neighborhood, as Boeing would roll out new aircraft through the twenties and thirties and try to push aviaiton forward and make the world a smaller place. Caught up in the majesty of flight Joe wanted very badly to design airplanes, but as WWII dawned when he was in college that would have to wait for more important world events to be sorted out.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Jensen on September 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There have been many books written about the 747, but none of them tell the human side of taking one of the largest aircraft off the drawing board and into the skies in two years time. Joe Sutter is the consumate engineer, he engages you in a voice that keeps you interested all of the way through the book. He does it in such a way that makes you feel that maybe you where there. Boeing bet the company on the 747, if it had been a failure the company would probably be a footnote in history. The company put their trust in one single man, who claims he and Boeing grew up together. Joe also includes the stories of many others along the way, he never takes credit for himself but always makes you aware that it was a team effort. In fact he leads off with a disclaimer that if he remembered it wrong he was sorry.

The book arrived just in time for the bi-annual Farnborough airshow in England, he was asked by several reporters to critique the A380. Being ever the gentleman he declined to take the bait. But he is straight forward on his views of NASA and the Challenger accident, still just as analytical when he was half his age. His love of the 747 is evident, he is excited to see it exist today and hopes with newer technology that it will be around 50 years from now.

If you love big airplanes, or want to know what it took to build something that changed the World. This book will capture you for every page. Straight from the man who's shoulders carried a company and probably most of livelyhoods of the Pacific Northwest. It is a joy to still have Joe around to tell his story. To me the 747 will always be the greatest airplane ever built and Joe will always be the greatest airplane engineer that ever lived.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Constantin on November 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joe Sutter describes the development of the Boeing 747 from his point of view as a member of the engineering and management team that made it happen. The book delves deeply into the influences that shaped the 747 to become the plane it did, such as the head of Pan American Airlines. As such, it offers interesting insights into the politics at the Boeing company, at least as seen by Mr. Sutter.

Some have criticized the book as disjointed, etc. but that is a disservice to Mr. Sutter. After all, he's describing the development of the 747 from his point of view. This is not meant to be a end-all comprehensive tome that chronicles all the development stages of the plane in a manner that allows all who partook in it to have a voice (which is inherently impossible for a project of this size). Instead, it is a sampling of the engineering and political challenges that Mr. Sutter faced during his tenure with the 747, which I found incredibly interesting.

The 747 was a big gamble that almost bankrupted Boeing. One of the reasons it got off the ground at all was because the decision-makers at Boeing were willing to bet the farm that this type of airplane would find broad use in a market that had yet to fully develop. From Mr. Sutters point of view, it was this bold and intuitive decision-making that put Boeing on the path to dominate its domestic and foreign rivals.

I would love to see further analysis from Mr. Sutter in this area of expertise... the challenge of Embraer and Comac is looming and I wonder what he makes of the Boeing/Airbus response to a challenge to their bread and butter market.
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