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747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation
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747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  661 ratings  ·  80 reviews
747 is the thrilling story behind "the Queen of the Skies" -- the Boeing 747 -- as told by Joe Sutter, one of the most celebrated engineers of the twentieth century, who spearheaded its design and construction.

Born in 1921 in Seattle, Sutter grew up on a hilltop overlooking the Boeing plant and flying field. It was a thrilling era of open cockpits, silk scarves, leather he
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 23rd 2006 by Smithsonian (first published January 1st 2006)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
What’s The Point?

This book is a wide ranging autobiography written by Joe Sutter, the head of the project that created the 747 aircraft design. It covers his early life, growing up in Seattle, and the rise of aviation. Sutter was interested in planes since he was a young child; his room was covered with dozens of model planes. He came to understand the dynamics of flight by watching every airplane he could. He studied aeronautical engineering in college, before joining the military for WWII. Aft
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Signed copy from Joe. I am intimately involved with the 747 today and proud to be a part of ongoing history with our airline customers.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation (2007) Joe Sutter and Jay Spenser describes the 747 program and is also partly an autobiography of Sutter.

Sutter was born in 1921 in Seattle and grew up seeing Boeing test planes flying about. He got an aeronautical engineering degree, did a stint in the Navy in WWII and then returned and worked for Boeing. There he worked on the Stratocruiser, a late propellor driven aircraft and then became involved in the 3
Bob Nichols
I started this book before Sutter died. I had never heard of him, but I’ve always been drawn to the 747 that he and his team designed. For me, looking at this plane is like looking at Mt. Rainier. It never gets old.

The 747 was second fiddle to the SST and Sutter’s engineers were on the second team. His account of the intense corporate (Boeing, suppliers, customers) infighting, the hot dogging personalities, and the need for Sutter to play through all of this make this a good inside story. Sutte
May 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 9th-grade
As you can see from the cover, this book is discussed how the Boeing 747, or the "Jumbo Jet" was made. Joe Sutter, the author of this book, was an engineer who worked at Boeing and he also contributed to the designing of the 747. He and his team had struggles while making this plane. For example, he had to make the plane as light as possible and he needed a plane with big floor area. Joe Sutter fixes all the problems one by one and in the end, the plane was commercialized.
What I enjoyed the most
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I greatly enjoyed learning more about Boeing’s history as well as hearing of many of the challenges and decisions that needed to be made while the 747 was in development. From a purely technical perspective, this book exceeded my expectations. That said, throughout the book, Sutter takes personal digs at many of his (named) former co-workers. Is that really necessary? Come on, it’s been nearly 40 years. This left a bad taste in my mouth about with author.

One additional point: Sutter is effusive
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
747 clearly describes the challenges and triumph being a leading aerodynamic designer in the 747 engineering team at Boeing. Joe Sutter's autobiography and biography on the 747 and aviation from the 30s to today. As a child, Joe Sutter lived near the old Boeing factory in the thirties and saw Clippers, B-17s, Stratoliners, Model 299, and served in the Navy during WWII. He later went to McDonoald Douglas and back to Boeing to work on Stratocruisers and the 707, the "granddaddy" of all modern jetl ...more
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an interesting look at the creation of the 747 written by the director of engineering on the project. It combines both discussion of the process and aviation at the time with some of the corporate politics.

It is funny to hear about PanAm as the big player who called the shots. Also, tucked at the end is a chapter on how Sutter served on the presidential commission investigating the Challenger disaster, which is interesting.

The writing is a bit stilted, but it actually rings as if an 80 y
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting in as far as getting to know some of the inner workings behind the development of such an iconic piece of engineering. Most non-aviation people couldn’t identify what type of plane they’re flying on, confusing a 737 with an A320 with a 727. But they certainly will always know a 747. Especially poignant to read with the recent events and the groundings of huge swaths of airlines’ fleets of planes, knowing that British Airways and KLM et. al. are finally ending the tenure of ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aviation
A must read for any aviation enthusiast or Boeing fan. An insiders perspective on the engineering marvel that changed the landscape of air travel.

While partly an autobiography of Joe Sutter, who led the engineering team “The Incredibles”, there is a significant amount of discussion on the challenges faced when designing this beautiful aircraft.

The simple things we as passengers take for granted are highlighted as big wins as the designers determined everything from wing design to how to incorpor
Steve Hostert
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent read and recommend the book to anyone who has flown on this Queen of the Skies. The 747 is probably the most successful aircraft ever Built by Boeing. This aircraft is one of my all time favorite planes from the perspective of flying as a passenger and also from the perspective of working on Avionics aboard the 747 while working for Collins as a SW Quality Engineer.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: engineering, aviation
Joe Sutter, a lifelong Seattleite born in 1921, a son of a Slovenian immigrant butcher who Americanized his family name, was fascinated by aviation since childhood. After graduating from the University of Washington and serving in the US Navy during World War II, Sutter joined Boeing and worked up through the ranks, and in 1965 came to head the development of the Boeing 747 wide-body airliner. The 747 is Boeing's flagship product, and one of the best-known commercial airplanes in the world, but ...more

What could be more fun than designing airplanes? As an added bonus, the planes Joe Sutter built were not intended to kill people. Sutter oversaw the design of the 747 in the 1960s. He can't be said to be the sole designer, as there were more than a thousand engineers involved.

A now defunct airline, Pan Am, had pressed Boeing to come up with an airliner that could carry 400 passengers. As Pan Am was an important customer, Boeing took this request seriously. Sutter took the position overseeing

Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book written by the lead design engineer on the 747, Joe Sutter. At this writing (November, 2017) Sutter has been retired from Boeing for 30 years and is 95 years old.

Sutter wrote the book after retiring and it is a great perspective on aerospace history as well as the issues in complex design projects with large teams of talented people. I'd highly recommend the book for those planning to visit Boeing's Everett factory, as it has pictures showing the facility in its early days. Tod
Mar 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative look at the building of the world's first wide-body airplane, from one of the leaders within Boeing who helped build it. Gives basic insight on earlier Boeing jets, as well as how Joe Sutter worked his way up through the company. The latter 2/3 of the book focuses on the 747, from the design phase with customer meetings with prominent aviation icons like Juan Trippe and Charles Lindburgh, through the engineering stage, to the flight test stage.

This is an easy and enlightening read fo
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aviation
I would recommend all aviation and airline enthusiasts go grab this book now. It contains many anecdotes about 747's inception and the engineering challenges met on the way -- your perspective will be different next time you board this undisputed hegemon of intercontinental air travel. I found most of what I was looking for in this great account on the 747 from one of its fathers, with one exception. I would've welcomed to learn more about A380, how it compares to the 747 and the story of compet ...more
Justin Miller
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s a great book for both casual and serious aviation enthusiasts. With basic interest and intelligence regarding airplanes, this is an easy read for almost any reader.

It acts as a partial autobiography for Joe Sutter, the head of engineering for the Boeing 747 program in the 1960s. Sutter paints a nice picture of a man who had a dream early in life and progressed efficiently in his life to realize it. His story also gives a nice, but brief, overview of the surprisingly accelerated evolution of
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non_fiction
The beginning was a bit boring, but when it came to the problems in the development of the 747, it was a great read. I got the impression that Boeing at that time was struggling more with itself and its gigantomania (NASA projects, supersonic passenger SST, military stuff), having no equal competitors in the market. Neither did Pan Am among air carriers. As a result, the 747 development project with 4000 employees and 10 million man-hours spent was at first a minor one.
What was separately surpri
Vicky Dornbush
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a great journey through the wide ride of designing, building, and understanding how the 747 came about, the culture of Boeing, and how Joe Sutter dealt with such an extremely difficult project. As a project manager, I felt the pain of the project and learned a lot by the method he used to handle missing deadlines, supporting his team, and most of all how he faced changes to design, poor product from vendors, and inventing new technology all at the same time. Growing up with a fathe ...more
Tyler Critchfield
May 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, aviation
I'm a sucker for books on airplanes. I enjoyed seeing the behind-the-scenes engineering decisions that make or break such an ambitious project. I think the author did a pretty good job of explaining aerodynamic concepts, but it may be a bit too technical at times for non-engineers. This was also a good reminder that engineering is only one piece of the puzzle. Company politics, bottom line, and customer relations (stuff engineers often couldn't care less about), still play critical roles in succ ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am 500 miles short of flying 200,000 miles on 747s, and with fleets being retired due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the chances of getting those last 500 miles are now slim. The 747 was a smooth ride, spacious, and an absolute marvel of engineering. The book walks you through Boeing's thought process for several aircraft developments, but obviously spent the most time describing the 747. There were some sections where I felt the detail didn't add to the story, and others where I thought more detai ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"This is one of the great ones", Charles Lindbergh said about the 747. This book is one of the great ones as well. You can tell that it was written by the 747's chief engineer himself; the writing is concise and technical. It is refreshing to read a memoir of an "important person" that doesn't focus on politics.

But the 747's development is also a source of many a fascinating story, both large in scale and small, sometimes political, sometimes personal. And perhaps surprisingly, Sutter proves to
Nicolas Orrico
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Apart from being a must-read for aviation fans, 747 is a fascinating book that covers not only the engineering development of Boeing's most recognizable aircraft, but also the corporate labyrinth Joe Sutter had to go through before his design could see the light. With the imminent arrival of supersonic travel and a rampant competition between Boeing and Concorde, the 747 was first thought as a temporary passenger aircraft that would soon be superseded by the Boeing 2707 SST and subsequently down ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
It was great to hear all of the tales of the 747 from the director of engineering. I enjoyed the balance of the more technical design components (explained well for non-aero people) with the people aspects of the design process (interacting with customers, other design teams). The narrative jumped around a lot which made it challenging at times to know where you were chronologically. Overall though, it was an interesting read.
Kai Knetsch
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Being an aerospace engineer, I found this book interesting and applicable in my current job. The content was quite good. But I found the writing to be quite bad. It's obvious an aerospace engineer wrote this - not a writer. And it's also biased. Even though Mr. Sutter can back it up, he still boasts a lot. Overall it was an enjoyable read though. ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating book! I have always been intrigued by airplanes and having visited the Boeing factory recently, I was in awe of these huge machines that allow us to travel the globe. I wish I had read the book before visiting the factory.
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read to a aviation enthusiast like me. Sutter not only tells the story behind the 747, but also a lot of history of Boeing and it different models. There's a lot of nice to know details of the design of the 747 itself and airplanes in general. It's also written in a really compelling way. ...more
Ajo Joseph Anto
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's always awesome when the creator describes his creation!
Joe Sutter was the Project lead at Boeing for the 747 airplane development program and his team created the most successful and versatile commercial Jet in aviation history, our beloved "Jumbo Jet".
A must read for every enthusiast.
Tim Gillen
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found this book to be quite informative. Great read.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good story report if you like the topic. I would have avoided the last chapter, as it was mixed short stories that were not even in chronological order.
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