Re: Boeing Book

From: (Geoff Peck)
Organization: Geoffrey G. Peck, Consultant, San Jose CA
Date:         03 Dec 92 00:40:17 PST
References:   1 2
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In article <airliners.1992.48@ohare.Chicago.COM> Christopher Davis
<> writes:
> This might be the Robert Serling _Legend & Legacy_, which I hope to find
> the time to do a book review on, eventually.  *Very* good book.

OK, I'll bite.  Here's a review of "Legend and Legacy" which I wrote for
rec.aviation in mid-September:

  From: (Geoff Peck)
  Subject: Book Review: Legend and Legacy
  Message-ID: <>
  Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1992 18:08:22 GMT

I just finished the book "Legend and Legacy: The Story of Boeing and Its 
People" by Robert J. Serling (St. Martins Press, New York, 1992).  It's 
an incredibly well-written corporate biography of Boeing at its seventy-
fifth anniversary, and is superb reading for Boeing fans, aviation fans, 
and those interested in corporate management, philosophy, and 
development.  Besides, the book is chock-full of reliably-documented 
anecdotes, incredibly funny deeds, and priceless one-line quotes from a 
huge variety of Boeing folks.

One example, which seems to come up on the net with some regularity, is 
the question of the Famous 707 Barrel Roll.  I've included as an 
attachment below a slightly generous excerpt from the book which
describes this famous incident to whet your appetite.

The book, of course, details many of the projects that the immensely 
complex and diverse organization has worked on -- from commercial 
aircraft to cruise missiles to the lunar roving module to military 
aircraft to bedroom furniture (no, I'm not kidding) to the never-
produced passenger SST to helicopters and light rail vehicles to 
completely overhauling NASA's project management structure.  The variety 
of projects, and the number of innovative experiments, will truly boggle 
one's mind.  I was most impressed by the personal and corporate 
integrity of the people who are Boeing -- this book really almost 
justifies the well-worn phrase "if it doesn't say Boeing, I'm not 

A minor word of caution on this book -- once you start reading it, you'll
find it incredibly hard to put down, much like a Robert Ludlum novel.  You
may find yourself staying up all night trying to finish its generous
460-plus pages in one sitting.  You're also likely to exclaim, after
reading a particularly favorite chapter (I only had about 10 or 12 such
chapters) "goodness -- that was much too short -- there should be a whole
_book_ on this subject!"

The book, as one might expect, does see Boeing through the rose-colored
glasses of memory.  It's well-researched -- Serling spent quite a bit
of time interviewing Boeing employees and searching company documents.
But one doesn't read this kind of book expecting a critical exposee of
mis-deeds ... nor would one really expect much of that in a corporate
biography of a company as principled as Boeing.

Now, what might be the ideal reading environment for Legend and Legacy?
Well, I read most of it ... while flying inside Boeing jetliners.  (And
I'm still sitting inside a 737, bouncing around in light, occasionally
moderate, turbulence, as I type this article!)  Although the order of
flying the Boeings didn't quite match their presentation in the book, on
this trip I flew in 757's, a 737, a 727, and even a 707.  Well, sort of.
The 707 was actually UAL flight 707 from Newark to Denver, operating today
as a 757.  :-)  Ah, well.  I still do very fondly remember the 707 (and
the 320B, and the 727-100, the 727-200, and the 737-100, and the 737-200,
and ...).  Alas, no 747 or 767 on this trip, but I certainly have enough
passenger-hours in those types.  If it doesn't say Boeing, _I'm_ not
going!  For those amused by historical significance, my 727 flight ended
by landing on runway 22 at New York's LaGuardia airport.

I can't recommend this book highly enough!  It should be available at 
most general booksellers (I bought mine at a B. Dalton in a mall) in 
hard cover at $24.95.



[Excerpt from _Legend_and_Legacy regarding the 707 roll]

[This occurred] when the same Aircraft Industries Association group and 
representatives of the International Air Transport Association held 
joint meetings in Seattle.  The Gold Cup hydroplane races were being 
held at the same time, and Allen [Boeing's CEO] invited the industry 
dignitaries to watch the events from three yachts Boeing had chartered 
for the occasion.  As a special treat he also told Tex Johnston to stage 
a flyby in the Dash-80 on the day of the races so everyone could see the 
airplane of the future.

Tex never did anything halfway.  PR director Carl Cleveland had told him 
to come over Lake Washington, where the boat races were being held, at a 
prearranged time.  When that moment arrived, the Dash-80 was in the 
middle of a routine test flight over the Olympic Peninsula and Johnston 
said to copilot Jim Gannett, "I'm gonna roll this bird over the Gold Cup 

"They're liable to fire you," Gannett warned.

"Maybe, but I don't think so."

The Dash-80 was doing 450mph when Tex brought it over Lake Washington at 
only 300 feet, put the jet into a 35-degree climb and proceeded to do a 
complete 360-degree barrel roll.  Then he reversed course, came back 
over the lake and repeated the maneuver -- again in full view of 300,000 
awed spectators, some vastly impressed industry officials, and a very 
unhappy William McPherson Allen.

After the second roll, Allen turned to Larry Bell of Bell Aircraft, one 
of his guests.  "Larry, give me about the of those heart pills you've 
been taking.  I need them worse than you do."

Bell laughed.  "Bill, I think he just sold your airplane."

Allen ignored him and said to Carl Cleveland, "I don't think we should 
have anything in the newspapers about this."

Poor Carl pointed out it was going to be a little difficult to keep 
something out of the papers that 300,000 people had just witnessed.  
Allen didn't pursue that matter further, but at eight o'clock Monday 
morning, Johnston appeared in his office where not only Allen but Wells, 
Beall, Schairer, and Martin were waiting.

Allen's first question was directed not at Tex but at Schairer.

"Did you tell him to do it?"

Schairer never had a chance to reply, for Johnson immediately said, "No, 
he didn't."

Allen turned to Tex.  "What made you do it?"

"I was selling the airplane," the test pilot answered.  He went on to 
explain that the Dash-80 was never in any danger, that an airplane 
doesn't recognize altitude if the forces imposed on its structure do not 
exceed one g (the force of gravity).

Allen, still openly upset, was silent for a moment.  "You know that," he 
finally said, "and now we know that.  But the public doesn't know it.  
Don't ever do it again."

Tex promised to behave.  What he didn't tell Allen, however, was that he 
had rolled the prototype near Mt. Rainier on a previous flight and his 
fellow test pilots agreed with him that the maneuver, while spectacular, 
never endangered the airplane because the roll was slow and carefully 
controlled.  They heard later of one incident in which an Air Force 
pilot actually did a _full_loop_ with a KC-135, the 707's military 
designation, and got away with it, although both outboard pods were torn 

Maynard Pennell didn't get mad at Tex, either.  "It was an unnecessary 
sales job," Pennell commented, "but it really was a spectacular way to 
demonstrate the airplane.  With a skilled pilot, the risk was minimal."

Johnston believed Allen had forgiven him.  In fact, he was invited to 
Allen's home for dinner the same day of the on-the-carpet session, and 
the first person to greet him was Eastern's crusty Eddie Rickenbacker.

He grabbed Tex's Stetson hat, pulled it down over the pilot's ears, and 
chortled, "You slow-rolling son of a bitch -- why didn't you let me know 
you were gonna pull that?  I would have been riding the jump seat!"  
Allen overheard this and smiled when Rickenbacker added, "Damn, Bill, 
_that's_ the way to get attention with a new airplane."

Mef Allen said the roll was the talk of that evening, most of it 
expressions of approval and admiration that a huge commercial jet could 
be rolled safely.  But while Tex left the house convinced he had been 
exonerated, there is considerable evidence that it took a long time 
before Allen really forgave him.

Many months went by and Johnston was attending the annual management 
lawn party at the Allen home.  He poked Allen in the chest with a finger 
and asked, "Bill, are you finally willing to admit that slow-rolling the 
Dash-80 was the greatest thing that ever happened to that program?"

Allen gave him a look that would have frozen boiling water.

"No," he said icily.

In a 1977 speech to the Washington State Historical Society, Allen said 
he thought at first the rolls might have been unintentional and that he 
summoned Johnston to his office merely to ask if something had gone 
wrong with the controls.  He didn't get angry, he insisted, until the 
test pilot admitted he rolled the $16 million prototype deliberately.

"It has taken nearly twenty-two years for me to reach the point where I 
can discuss the event with a modicum of humor," he told the audience.


There are at least two other interesting stories about rolling an 
airplane in the book -- but for those, you get to go read the book!

Okay, okay.  One more short excerpt:


There was Mark Miller, for example, who was an absolute terror when it 
came to spelling.  He actually got angry at anyone who would misspell a 
word.  One day he was reviewing a Minuteman progress presentation being 
delivered on a chart by Bob Edelman of engineering.  The word _relieve_ 
appeared on the chart, but it was spelled _releive_.

"Dammit, Edelman," Miller scolded, "_i_ always goes before _e_."

"You're absolutely right," Edelman agreed.  He took out a grease pencil 
and at the bottom of the chart, he changed _Boeing_ to _Boieng_."


Go buy the book!


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