Browsing Tag: History

While I was gone recently, a very motivated young man, Vinay Bhaskara, asked if I might want him to write up a guest post about Air India. When I said I would love one, I had no idea he would be so detailed and really re-construct the history of the airline. Things kept popping up and I wasn’t able to share his multi-part story until now.

Bhaskara is a teen-aged aviation enthusiast and blogger. His blog is hosted at Flyertalk (The Gate). He can be found on Twitter (@TheGateVinay), as well as Facebook and Linkedin. His podcast on Asian aviation should also be launching soon. Here is his story on Air India in his own words:

Air India's first aircraft was the de Havilland Puss Moth.

Air India's first aircraft was the de Havilland Puss Moth.

The Air India Story- Part 1

Air India is one of the most confounding airlines in the world today. Once India’s flag-bearer to the world; the aging carrier has slowly disintegrated into the mess currently grabbing headlines today. Such staple routes as Tokyo, Frankfurt, and London just aren’t making money for the carrier; a far cry from the days when they brought the Indian flag to every inhabited continent on the globe except South America. But in order to understand its current problems; it would be helpful to take a look back into the past.

The Early Days

Air India (and its former domestic partner Indian Airlines) has its roots in the vision of J.R.D Tata; India’s first true business scion. Tata was a director at Tata Sons Limited; one of Asia’s largest industrial companies. In July of 1932, he created an aviation department at the company; and began the first un-subsidized (ie: no mail contract from the British) domestic air service in India after receiving a license for through flights between Madras (Chennai) and Karachi via Bombay (Mumbai) on October 15th, 1932. The route, which also stopped in the commercial city of Ahmedabad gave South India an important link into the airline network in Bombay. The initial fleet consisted of 2 Puss Moths; a 2-3 seat propeller aircraft. Such was the success of the carrier that they added an additional Fox Moth; a larger cousin of the Puss Moth that could carry 3-4 passengers, within a year.

By 1935, a technical stop in Bellary had been replaced by a passenger stop in the more important Southern city of Hyderabad and overall frequency had doubled from once weekly to twice. New routes were also on the radar of the rapidly growing carrier; November of 1936 saw service being expanded from Bombay to Trivandrum via Goa using a 5 seat Miles Merlin, which Tata had used to replace the Puss Moths. By 1937 a route to Delhi (via Indore, Bhopal, and Gwalior) had been started and in 1938 the route to Madras was extended to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Tata Airlines’ business got a big boost during this period from a mail contract with the British Empire Air Mail Scheme, under which all First Class Letters between Karachi and Colombo (and all points served in between) were carried by Tata Airlines at ordinary postage rates (on a pound-mileage basis). By 1939; Tata Airlines was operating a fleet of 8 passenger D.H.89s and smaller types from the American manufacturer Waco; in that same year- the carrier bought two 12 seat D.H.86s from Mac.Robertson-Miller Airlines in Australia. But due to the outbreak of World War 2; J.R.D Tata was unable to take Tata Airlines to greater heights.

TATA's route map during the summer of 1935. Photo from Wikipedia.

TATA's time table during the summer of 1935. Photo from Wikipedia.

During World War 2; the growth in new routes slowed for Tata Airlines. But because the War was relatively docile in India; demand on existing routes continued to grow. They upgraded their fleet constantly; eventually jumping up to a fleet of 3 Stinson Model As, as well as multiple 14 seat Douglas DC-2s. This new lift helped Tata spread its wings to Bangalore, Nagpur, Calcutta, and even Baghdad, Iraq by June of 1945 (nearing the end of the war).

Following the end of the war; Tata Airlines switched its emergency (ie: for war) route permits with actual route rights from the government. All routes were confirmed by June; and Tata was given access to war surpluses; resulting in a large fleet of at least 12 Douglas DC-3s; an aircraft which formed much of the fleet of Asian carriers in the 1950s. On July 29, 1946; Tata took his company public; and the carrier was re-named Air India Limited. In April of 1947; Air India received the first of 4 35-seat Vickers Vikings; for use on the larger routes in their network. As Air India continued to grow; it became a government owned corporation in March of 1948; later that month they received their first Lockheed Constellation; a large turboprop.

Running in parallel to the expansion of Tata Airlines were a few other Indian domestic carriers; such as Indian National Airways (INA) and Air Services of India (ASI); both of which had domestic networks rivaling that of Air India Ltd. Smaller private players abounded as well; Bharat Airways’ network extended all of the way to Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore. As the government searched actively for ways to strengthen the Indian aviation industry; the nationalistic undercurrents in Indian politics called for a single national domestic airline. They got their wish on June 15th, 1953 when all Indian domestic carriers; as well as the domestic arm of Air India Ltd. were merged to form the Indian Airlines Corporation. The resulting carrier had a fleet of over 100 aircraft; ¾ of which were DC-3s, as well as a dozen each of the larger DC-4s and Vickers Vikings. Air India Ltd. was re-organized as Air India International (AII- later shortened to Air India), and given exclusive rights (amongst Indian carriers) to carry long-haul international traffic.

*From this point on; the stories of Air India and Indian Airlines will be told in parallel.

The Expansion

Before losing its domestic operations to Indian Airlines, Air India had also pursued its own international expansion. Soon after receiving the first Constellation, Air India introduced service to London; by way of Cairo and Geneva. Despite strong initial demand however, Tata was cautious, and he limited Air India’s initial international expansion to London and Nairobi (via Aden, Yemen) with its large ethnic population of Indian businessmen. But progress was not to be held back. The London services quickly jumped in frequency to 3 flights per week and new European points were added quickly to the London route; Rome, Paris, and Dusseldorf. Though Air India grappled with the time savings of the new Comets flown by BOAC (they even ordered a pair); they fought back with superb on-board service. Air India was especially beloved for the humorous little booklets it handed out to every passenger; with such useful information as how to (not) steal cutlery and a reminder not to stuff children in seat-back pockets.

An Air India Super Constellation (VT-DJX) Photo by: J. Roger Bentley

An Air India Super Constellation (VT-DJX) Photo by: J. Roger Bentley

Despite the lack of jet service to compete with BOAC; marginal improvements came with Lockheed’s L-1049 Super Constellations; which were placed on the London route in 1954. By 1960; the London route included Beirut, Zurich, and Frankfurt (which had replaced Dusseldorf. But in addition to an expansion of European service; Air India was turning its eyes eastward; to the Orient. Within a few years of full nationalization (1953 in parallel with Indian Airlines); Air India had opened routes to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. The Singapore route was quickly extended to Australia (Sydney by way of Darwin); picking up traffic stops in Kuala Lampur and Jakarta along the way. Because of the violence in Egypt during the Suez crisis of 1956; Air India also developed an alternative route to Europe (Moscow by way of Tashkent); which could be extended to Western Europe if necessary. As the 50s drew to a close; Air India had grown from infancy into a full-fledged international carrier; with wide-ranging operations in Europe and Asia, as well as important toeholds in Africa and Australia. It was the latter that allowed Air India to take advantage of a lucrative business opportunity in the late 1950s; it leveraged its important position on the Kangaroo route to launch a revenue-sharing agreement with Qantas and BOAC (sort of a pre-precursor to today’s JVs) on service between Europe and Australia.

Meanwhile; Indian Airlines had been quietly dealing with problems of its own; mainly related to the fact that 8 airlines; with differing operations, had been squished into 1. Especially problematic was the redundancy in jobs; the airline had 2-3 times as many employees as necessary- resulting in a bureaucracy of staggering inefficiency. The attrition process would take many years and was never fully completed (see Air India’s current situation). Furthermore; the fleet of DC-3s was maintained haphazardly; with quality in certain shops shockingly bad (to put it mildly). This in and of itself was a more fundamental problem; as a carrier with a reputation for being unsafe could not be expected to gain flying passengers from the nation. When coupled with a bevy of unsafe airports (unpaved runways etc.), at least 17 resultant accidents involving DC-3s took place in the first 3 years of Indian Airlines. But while Indian Airlines grappled with these problems; they also moved to modernize the fleet. Five Vickers Viscount 768s were ordered for the main trunk lines and 8 de Havilland 114 Herons were introduced onto feeder routes.

During the 1950s; Indian Airlines set its network into a pattern that would be followed till the 1990s. The major trunk lines (especially those connecting ’œThe Diamond’- India’s 4 largest cities; Bombay, Calcutta (Kolkata), Delhi, and Madras) were operated with the largest aircraft. Initially, they were served with Vickers Vikings; but trunk routes quickly shifted to pressurized Viscounts in 1957. Secondary routes were served initially with DC-3s; though even these routes could be differentiated into two tiers (Tier 1: mid-sized Indian cities with modern airport facilities, Tier 2: small Indian towns with rudimentary airstrips). As Indian Airlines shifted into the 1960; their main fleet problem became dealing with a replacement for the ageing DC-3s. The venerable Dakotas were the only airliner that could operate on rudimentary grass and gravel strips; so common in India’s economically backwards Northeast region. Replacement for Tier 1 cities was easy but the fate of Tier 2 stations remained to be seen. Two manufacturers had offerings in the 40-44 seat turboprop market; the Fokker F-27 Friendship and the Avro 748 (later Hawker-Siddely 748s). The HS-748, with its low wing design, was considered the better aircraft for operations into Tier 2 markets, so India negotiated a deal from which HS-748s would be built at Kanpur, India. However, given India’s notorious problems with business, Indian Airlines also decided that it couldn’t wait for the HS-748s for Tier 1 replacement and simultaneously order F-27 Friendships as well. These aircraft were delivered in 1961 (a full 6 years before the first HS-748), and began plying routes across India. But even after delivery of both types; neither was able to replace the DC-3s on the smallest dirt and gravel strips; meaning that the DC-3s stayed in the fleet until 1974.

Air India Boeing 707 (VT-DJK) taken in London (LHR) in April 1969. Photo by Sir Hectimere.

Air India Boeing 707 (VT-DJK) taken in London (LHR) in April 1969. Photo by Sir Hectimere.

While Indian Airlines was grappling with tough fleet choices; sister Air India entered the jet age. When the Boeing 707 entered service in 1958, they quickly revolutionized air travel with their (relatively) quiet and fast service. Air India was no different than most carriers, and placed their first Boeing 707 on the London route in April of 1960, and in May of the same year, hit a milestone with entry into service between London and New York; becoming the first Asian airline to serve NYC. Air India was considered one of the most luxurious airlines in the world; with its unique brand of Indian service creating popularity not only from New York to India; but even on the trans-Atlantic crossing. Much of Air India’s extraordinary service reputation during the 60s and 70s was the result of the work of Bobby Kooka, a marketing executive whose credits include the venerable Maharaja logo (the symbol of Air India).

By 1962, the 707 had replaced the Constellations (which were converted to cargo service) on the routes to Tokyo, Australia, Africa, and Europe; Air India was now an all-jet airline. Throughout the 1960s; Air India rationalized its network to fit the changing airline world. The advent of jet travel allowed more routes to be operated than ever before. This led Air India to de-couple much of its European network (though almost all flights ended in London), and add service to more points in the Gulf and beyond. By the second half of the decade; Air India had begun to shift its network to meet the needs of the changing overseas Indian population. Flights to Europe declined in importance, as the 707 allowed Air India to expand its network. The island destinations of Fiji and Mauritius, where Indians composed 50% or more of the populations, entered in 1964 and 1967 respectively. In 1968 they added Entebbe and Addis Ababa as African points; both containing sizeable Indian population. But these additions could not compare to the sudden boom in Indian population that was taking place just across the Arabian Sea. The Muslim countries of the Gulf were experiencing an oil boom, with their economies growing in the double digits each year. In order to service this growing wealth, these countries imported hundreds of thousands of laborers from South Asia to build up their infrastructure and serve as domestic servants. While these laborers were not supremely wealthy, they did constitute a source of new and growing demand. Recognizing the need for direct India-Gulf services; Air India began operating to many Gulf points as stand-alone destinations. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Dhahran soon showed up on the route map; and such was the demand for Air India’s services that they even chartered a Vickers VC-10 from BOAC to service Kuwait. Air India’s 11 Boeing 707s stayed in the fleet until the 1980s; operating on secondary routes and serving as a valuable tool in opening new services.

Air India Boeing 747-200 (VT-EBO). Photo by Savvas Garozis.

Air India Boeing 747-200 (VT-EBO). Photo by Savvas Garozis.

Indian Airlines too was quick to enter the Jet Age. The Friendships had been successfully deployed on secondary routes, but it had quickly become apparent that the Viscounts were far too small for their main trunk routes. Two choices were possible; the British Trident and the French Caravelle. The Caravelle; with its bold rear-engines was the world’s first short-haul jet and it had served Air France with distinction. The Trident, on the other hand, was a paper airplane that carried only a few more passengers than the Caravelle with far more inefficiency. The Caravelles entered service on Indian Airlines’ trunk routes by 1964, equipped with 89 all-economy seats. In spite of the Caravelle’s extraordinary performance (Indian Airlines achieved annual utilization of almost 3,000 hours per aircraft- among the best in the world), problems with accidents persisted; and Air India lost 2 Caravelles in 1966. By 1968/69 Indian Airlines was in a severe capacity crunch (though the HS-748s helped some); further exacerbated by extraordinary demand on their trunk routes (which the Caravelles couldn’t fill). So in 1970, Indian Airlines won approval from the government to order a larger jet. The 125 seat Boeing 737-200 won the contract and 7 frames were ordered in 1970. However, this order was not without controversy; as the Douglas DC-9 and the BAC 1-11 were both in contention. The complicated and messy battle ended with the 737-200’s selection; and Indian Airlines received an aircraft that would remain the workhorse of its fleet into the 90s.

Thus concludes part one of The Air India Story; which covered the dual story of Air India and Indian Airlines from ~1930 till 1970. Part 2 will cover the B-747 era, as well as Indian Airlines into the 2000s. Part 3 will cover the current situation at Air India and its possible solutions

Image Citations:
de Havilland  from Air India
Route map from Wikipedia
Constellation by J. Roger Bentley
Boeing 707 by Sir Hectimere
Boeing 747 by Savvas Garozis

Alaska Airlines DC-3, Lear Fan 2100 hang from the ceiling, while an SR-71 and United Airlines Boeing 80A-1 hang out on the ground at the Museum of Flight

Alaska Airlines DC-3, Lear Fan 2100 hang from the ceiling, while an SR-71 and United Airlines Boeing 80A-1 hang out on the ground at the Museum of Flight

Over the past ten years I have (almost) consistently lived no farther than 30 miles away from the Museum of Flight (MoF) at Boeing Field in Seattle. However, I haven’t visited once in that last ten years. Being so close has been the problem. I have always thought, “well, I can go next weekend,” but I haven’t. I took such a wonderful aviation museum for granted and never went to re-discover what they have.

Well, I got sick and tired of hearing about all the cool new things they have and decided to go check them out myself. I was lucky to have Ted Huetter, Public Relations and Promotions Manager, show me around the place. Ted might work in PR, but there is no question he is an aviation nut and knows his stuff!

Last time I visited the MoF, they had a bunch of hanging airplanes (which don’t get me wrong are cool enough) and the old red Boeing barn. Today, not only do they have all that cool stuff still, but also their airpark, World War I and II displays and lots of nifty space stuff.

Lunar Rover on the left. Space station module on the right. Awesomeness all around.

Lunar Rover on the left. Space station module on the right. Awesomeness all around.

The MoF started in 1964 when a small group of people set about wanting to maintain the history of aviation. The first aircraft obtained was displayed in the Seattle Center, where the Seattle Worlds Fair occurred in 1962. In 1975 the Port of Seattle leased the land the museum is currently on for 99 years (so better hurry before 2074). The Red Barn, which is the birthplace of The Boeing Company, was saved from demolition on its original location on the Duwamish River, and floated by river-barge to its current location.

The museum has a mission to “acquire and conserve a valuable collection of artifacts relating to air and space history and technology.” But they also want to ensure that the public can get access. This is a difficult mixture, since people are destructive. Not just the hooligans who literally cause damage, but just breathing and touching items or even air and sunlight can be very destructive over time. It is a hard balance of what aircraft to give patrons access to versus which ones must remain off-limits to keep them in tip-top condition over time.

The Personal Courage Wing had much more than just airplanes. Really makes you feel like you travel back in time.

The Personal Courage Wing had much more than just airplanes. Really makes you feel like you travel back in time.

Even before I was able to make it into the lobby I was presented with eye candy outside. First they have a few aircraft on display, second you are right on Boeing Field, where the new test Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 747-8Fs are being housed, and lastly there were three Boeing 737-800 fuselages that were sitting on a train just outside the museum coming from Kansas and on their way to Renton, WA to be assembled.

After making it into the lobby you not only see aircraft hanging from the ceiling, but a vast gift shop with lots of great aviation related items (Even though Visa really wanted me to visit, I stayed away). They also have a theater off the lobby with great short movies, that you could probably just sit and watch all day without going through the rest of the museum.

When you first walk into the main “admissions only” area, you can’t help but get goose bumps. There are so many amazing aircraft hanging from the ceiling and on the ground for you to check out. From the SR-71 Blackbird to a DC-3 with Alaska Airlines livery. If you like aviation, you are going to love the collection of commercial and military aircraft they have on display.

British Airways Concorde G-BOAG in the airpark

British Airways Concorde G-BOAG in the airpark

Off from the main floor is their Rendezvous in Space area and what a cool section. From a lunar rover to a full mock-up of a space station module that you can go inside of. The module is very interesting because there is no obvious “up.” Since there is no gravity, there is no floor and the signage for the buttons reads in different directions.

The way they have the area set up, it really puts you in a space-like setting, which makes the experience all that much more enjoyable. The museum is currently working to bring one of the space shuttles to their facility. You can sign a petition or donate to help their efforts and help Seattle get a Space Shuttle — and what city wouldn’t want to get a Space Shuttle?

After checking out Rendezvous in Space, it was off to the Personal Courage Wing that looks at the history of World War I and II. This is a new addition to the museum with two stories of history. They not only display amazing aircraft from both wars, but also share much more history about the time period and really put the aircraft into perspective. Even if you don’t like airplanes, but enjoy history, you will love this section of the museum (double bonus if you like both).

You are able to walk around the first ever Boeing 747, the City of Everett

You are able to walk around the first ever Boeing 747, the City of Everett

My guide, Ted, told me that people always ask why World War II aircraft are downstairs (where you enter) and WWI are upstairs. He explained that it was all about weight. The aircraft from the earlier time period were much lighter than those from WWII, having it make more sense to store the lighter aircraft upstairs.

Now, it was time to head outside to their airpark to check out some pretty sweet airliners. First we went inside British Airways Concorde (G-BOAG). This was my first time inside a Concorde and it looked brand new still. The windows were super small and it was a little cramped, but not as bad as I expected. You are able to see in the cockpit and the few hundred fuses they have on the wall.

Having one of the remaining super-sonic airliners that is in such great shape is pretty exciting. Upon exiting, it was time to check out old Air Force One 707-120 that replaced Eisenhower’s Super Constellation. Ted explained that flight engineers, who used to work on the plane, recently came for a visit and they said the plane smells exactly the same as it did back in the day. Now, that is preserving history!

Inside the Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight

Inside the Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight

Even though the Concorde and Boeing 707 are in pristine condition and you can go inside, the jewel of the airpark (in my opinion) is the first Boeing 747 (N7470). It is named the City of Everett after where it was built at Paine Field, located in Everett, WA. It first flew on February 9, 1969 and later served as a testbed for 747 systems improvements and new engine developments for other Boeing commercial jets, including the Boeing 777 engine program. She is not in the best shape, but that is something the Museum of Flight hopes to work on.

If you are into researching about planes, the MoF also has a public archive and library that you are able to visit. If you are in the Seattle area on October 9th or 10th, make your way to the Library and Archives Building, because they will be having a sale of a bunch of old aviation related books and other goodies.

There is so much more to explore at the MoF, an aviation nut could easily spend a few days there. For those of you who are local, it might be time to re-discover the Museum of Flight. For those of you that don’t live in the Seattle area, make sure to put this on your “must do” list and if you love aviation, you have to make it out to Seattle sometime to check out all the cool things we have to offer.

MORE PLEASE:
* 91 Photos I took during my trip
* Video with Harrison Ford (he loves aviation) promoting the Museum of Flight
* They have a vast collection of airline logos
* Friend the Museum of Flight on Facebook
* Follow them on Twitter

Inside the Boeing Archive. These are all films from Boeing's past. How awesome would it be to watch them all?

Inside the Boeing Archive. These are all films from Boeing's past. How awesome would it be to watch them all?

Boeing is one huge company. Currently, they have about 160,000 employees that do things from building planes to cleaning windows. The Boeing Company was first established in 1916 and has such an amazingly interesting history. What does a company like Boeing do to keep their history intact and make sure great ideas don’t fall between the cracks? I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out.

Recently I was fortunate enough to be invited to take a tour of the Boeing Archive and sit down with Boeing Historian Mike Lombardi. Since there was so much information to see and learn, I will present what I discovered in the archives in a three part series. In this first part, I will talk about the archives. Then in part two, I will share with you all the incredibly preserved Boeing models they have there. Finally, I will share my interview with Lombardi.

Even though most people associate Everett (Paine Field) and Renton (where 737’²s are made) with Boeing in the Seattle area, the archives are housed in a Boeing complex in Bellevue, WA, which is located just east of Seattle. The archive in Bellevue is the main corporate archive and preserves the history of Boeing and the aviation history of North American/Rockwell. The archives are for current commercial business as well as Boeing corporate.

In the Vault: these classic Boeing ashtrays, which were very popular with Boeing engineers back in the day.

In the Vault: these classic Boeing ashtrays, which were very popular with Boeing engineers back in the day.

Over the years, the archive has grown to include other locations across the nation.  There are the Douglas archives in Cypress, CA (near Long Beach), where the history of Douglas is preserved as well. It also houses Boeing’s current space and electronics related businesses that are in southern California. Boeing’s archive in St Louis takes care of the history of McDonnell Douglas and Hughes helicopters and supports their current military aircraft and defense business.

I was quite fascinated with the multiple levels of security attached to the Bellevue archive.  First, guests must check-in at a public building to get their ’œEscort Required’ badge. Then, it is through a security gate where guests have to show said badge with their escort (who, for me, was the very helpful Bernard Choi with Boeing Communications). After the second security check, there are various doors one must go through that require a code before they reach  the basement archives.

How cool to have a few weeks to sit down and read all these?

How cool would it be to have a few weeks to sit down and read all these?

Most of Boeing’s history is housed in an earthquake resistant basement, where computer chips used to be made. There are long rows of boxes with models (which I will talk about in Part 2), posters, films and trinkets almost everywhere. I was surprised. I was expecting just to see rows and rows of boring brown boxes, but there was a lot of great eye candy.

Inside another door to the side of the archives is a long room that is constantly air conditioned. In this room, one can find thousands of Boeing videos of pretty much everything Boeing has done since video was created. They are mostly on old school film. They have information on 16 and 35mm motion picture film, 35mm microfilm, VHS, 1’³ tape, 1/2 tape, 2’³ tape, Betamax, DAT, CD, DVD and Laser Disc. That isn’t even all the formats. Boeing is in the process of converting many of these items into digital formats.

The Boeing Archives needs to keep a lot of classic viewing machines around.

The Boeing Archives needs to keep a lot of classic viewing machines around.

What a job it would be to watch the videos to convert them over?! I did hint to Bernard what a GREAT TweetUp it would make to show a few of these old videos (Boeing 707 test videos anyone) to the general public. Not only does Boeing keep all the old formats, but they also must hold on to all sorts of format players. From 8-tracks to Laser discs, they have a vast collection of media players that could serve as its own mini-museum.

After checking out the videos, I got to check out the vault. Another locked room in a series of locked rooms. I would love to tell you what was in the vault but I can’t, but let me tell you, it was amazing.

Ok, I am joking, I can tell you what was in the vaultpretty much all the prized possessions of Boeing’s past.  Some of the items include gifts given to them by world leaders and items gathered by previous Boeing leadership. Also found in the vault are the meeting minutes dictating all the decisions ever made by Boeing and very valuable Boeing memorabilia. It was at this point I made the joke about how much all this stuff would sell for on Ebay. Heh, Mike didn’t find it funny (ok maybe a little bit). Mike has a heart for all things that are Boeing and he hates seeing important trinkets being sold on Ebay for money. Many families of Boeing employees who pass away will happily donate their loved ones Boeing items to be preserved in history. Mike told me he often gets emails from people trying to sell Boeing items, thinking they have deep pockets, but Boeing is not in the business of buying memorabilia.

The Boeing Archive lobby had quite a few models, but that was nothing compared to what was inside the archives.

The Boeing Archive lobby had quite a few models, but that was nothing compared to what was inside the archives.

The archives are not just there to keep a hold of history.  They are also there to help the future. Boeing engineers will often come to the archives so they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If a Boeing engineer created a solution to a problem 30 years ago, current engineers can take a look at the old research and save time and money building off previous work.

So how does the general aviation nerd get access to the archives? Well the quick answer is that you can’t. They allow visits by non-Boeing guest on an extremely limited case-by-case basis. It is limited to academic researchers, the media, Boeing customers, museum staff, and established authors.  However, enthusiasts can access Boeing archival information through the Boeing Images website. With Boeing making more of their archives digital and making more of an effort to connect with fans, we can hope that more of the fun stuff will be made public.

Even though I got to spend over an hour in the archives, I could have easily spent years without getting bored. Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will be posting about all the amazing models that are housed in the archives.  In part 3, I will post an interview with Mike about his job and his thoughts on Boeing’s past, present and future.  Stay tuned!

Inside The Boeing Company Archives
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3a | PART 3b | ALL PHOTOS | ALL STORIES