Boeing History: Beginnings – Building a Company

We are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement, “It can’t be done.”

William Boeing

Westervelt was posted East before the plane was finished. Boeing continued the project and, in 1916, completed two B & Ws. When it was time for the B & W’s first flight, the pilot was late. Boeing grew impatient and took the controls himself. As the pilot rushed to the hangar, he saw Boeing taxi to the end of the lake, turn, gun the engine and lift off for a quarter-mile hop.

Although the loss of Westervelt was a setback, it did not affect Boeing’s commitment to his fledgling company. On July 15, 1916, Boeing incorporated his airplane manufacturing business as Pacific Aero Products Company; a year later, he changed the name to the Boeing Airplane Company.

The Red Barn

Boeing retained Tsu Wong, one of the few aeronautical engineers in the country, to design new planes for the completely unknown West Coast enterprise and paid for a wind tunnel at the University of Washington, so the school could offer courses in aeronautics. He also hired Claire Egtvedt and Phil Johnson, UW engineering school seniors, each of whom would later become president of the company.

In 1917, the 28-person payroll also included pilots, carpenters, boat builders and seamstresses. The lowest wage was 14 cents an hour, while the company’s top pilots made $200 to $300 a month. When the B & W did not sell, Boeing used his own financial resources to guarantee a loan to cover all wages