Simanaitis Says

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B&W: THE FIRST BOEING

WILLIAM E. BOEING was a prominent Seattle timber executive, land owner, and yachtsman. His friend Conrad Westervelt was a U.S. Naval officer assigned to a Seattle shipyard. Like lots of guys in 1915, they had an interest in aviation. But these two accomplished more than sharing enthusiasm.

At left, William Edward Boeing, 1881–1956, American aviation pioneer. Image from boeing.com. At right, George Conrad Westervelt, 1879–1956, American aviation pioneer, U.S. Navy engineer. Image from cnac.org.

Boeing had bought one of Glenn L. Martin’s seaplanes. In working on the craft, he and his pal Westervelt convinced themselves that they could design and build a better one.

This was the B&W, as in Boeing and Westervelt, a two-wing float plane built by the pair in 1915 in a hangar/factory on the east shore of Lake Union, a fresh-water lake in the heart of Seattle.

Boeing Model 1 (B&W). This and other images from Boeing Aircraft Since 1916 (Putnam Aviation Series), by Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1966.

The B&W owed much to the design of the Martin S hydro-aeroplane, a conventional two-bay biplane designed by a fellow named Donald Douglas. Yes, that Donald Douglas, later to form his own aircraft company.

A 1915 U.S. Army Martin Model S hydro-aeroplane.

According to some sources, the B&W improved on the Martin Model S with better pontoons and a larger engine. Others cite both designs powered by a Hall-Scott A-5, an inline-six producing 125 hp.

Two B&W seaplanes were built, the first named Bluebill and the second Mallard. Their first flights were in June and November of 1916, respectively.

By then, Lieutenant Westervelt had been transferred to the east coast, thus dissolving the partnership. It had originally been called B&W, then the Pacific Aero Products Company, soon changed to Boeing Airplane Company. Today, reflecting its multiplicity of products, it’s simply The Boeing Company.

The main building as it appeared in June 1917.

Construction of the B&W was conventional for the period: wood structures, typically spruce, with wire bracing and fabric covering. A noteworthy feature for its Hall-Scott engine was compressed-air starting that relied on an air tank located in the aft fuselage.

The B&W cockpit. Early aircraft were not known for extensive instrumentation.

The B&W carried a crew of two in open cockpits, each originally fitted with “three-in-one” controls. Longitudinal movement of the control column worked the elevators; lateral movement, the ailerons; a column-mounted wheel controlled the rudder. There was no hand throttle; instead, each pilot had a foot pedal. Soon, a rudder bar replaced turning the wheel and hand throttles were fitted.

The B&W next to the launching ramp of the hangar/factory, 1916.

Bluebill and Mallard were offered to the U.S. Navy, but the Navy wasn’t interested. Instead, the two were sold to the New Zealand Flying School. There, in 1919, one of them set a New Zealand altitude record of 6500 ft. Later, the two aircraft were used for New Zealand’s first official airmail in December 1919.

The latter-day B&W lifts off from Lake Washington.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Boeing’s 1916 founding, the company built a full-scale flying replica of the B&W in 1966. Its outward appearance is authentic, though beneath the skin the aircraft carries many upgrades in the interest of safety and airworthiness.

Today, the latter-day B&W can be seen in Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Whenever you see a Boeing 727, 737, 747, “Triple 7,” or 787 Dreamliner, you can think of two Seattle pals who shared an enthusiasm for new-fangled contraptions. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

4 comments on “B&W: THE FIRST BOEING

  1. Michael Rubin
    August 6, 2017

    Sadly passenger comfort isn’t much better, unless you’re in $$$ class. Of course that’s up to the airline, not the aircraft manufacturer.

  2. sabresoftware
    August 7, 2017

    You can’t forget the Classic 707, or more recent 757 and 767. Was there ever a 717?

    Of that list I’ve flown on the 707, 727, 737 (modern day DC-3 all purpose workhorse), 747 and 767.

    • simanaitissays
      August 7, 2017

      Agreed; I ran out of 7s…. By the way, Sabre, this reminds me of the Peugeot/Porsche squabble in the 1960s with the latter’s 356 replacement. Porsche had logic in calling the new one the 901, but Peugeot reminded that it had been using central 0s since the early days. Hence, the Porsche 911.

    • VTK
      August 7, 2017

      There was a 717, but it was short-lived and not really a Boeing design. When Boeing bought McDonnell-Douglas, they renamed the MD-80 family as the 717, and a few were built before the line was discontinued.

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