Joseph Sutter was born in Seattle, Washington on March 21, 1921. The son of a Slovenian immigrant, he grew up in Beacon Hill, a lower-middle-class neighborhood near Boeing Field. As a boy, Sutter would stop along his paper route to watch airplanes cross the sky. After graduating from Cleveland High School in 1939, Sutter became the first member of his family to pursue a college degree, enrolling at the University of Washington in 1939. During the summer, he worked for Boeing as a mechanic and studied celestial navigation in his free time. A whiz at math and physics, he graduated in the spring of 1943 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. After serving as a deck officer aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer during World War II, Joseph Sutter joined Boeing as an entry-level aerodynamicist. Older, more experienced co-workers who had attended top-tier engineering schools such as MIT and Caltech often teased the 24 year-old Sutter about his U of W degree.
Joseph Sutter's first assignment involved the redesign of Boeing's prop-driven flight controls and problematic engines. "I learned a lot in a hurry," Sutter later recalled, "because I was involved in many projects and had little supervision". His efforts did not go unnoticed. After serving as the aerodynamics unit chief on the Boeing 367-80 (the forerunner to the 707), Sutter was recruited by chief engineer Jack Steiner to serve as the chief of technology for the new Boeing 727. Later, Steiner enlisted Sutter to work on a short-range, small-capacity jetliner that would become the best-selling commercial aircraft in aviation history – the Boeing 737. While working at his desk one day, Sutter took scissors and cut up a drawing of the initial design of the Boeing 737-100. As he moved the engines around, Sutter positioned the cutouts tight under the wings instead of away from the wings on struts. Sutter's vision, which he later described as "a sudden flash of excitement", provided easier engine access for maintenance crews and reduced interference drag.
Sutter's ability to think outside the box also gained the attention of Dick Rouzie, a Boeing Vice President who wanted to build an even bigger passenger plane for Pan American World Airways. According to legend, Rouzie tracked Sutter down in the summer of 1965 while the latter was vacationing at a remote cabin and asked him to return to Seattle. Back at Boeing, Sutter convened a design team that produced its first drawings on cocktail napkins. Together, "Sutter's Runaways" proposed three versions of an airplane with 250, 300 and 350 seats. When Pan Am chose the largest option, Sutter dismissed the idea of a double-decker design and styled a wide-body aircraft with twin aisles and three rows of seats. By designing the 747 with enough room to carry 8-ft. x 8-ft. containers on its main deck, Boeing would also capture the growing freight market. Partway through the design phase, Boeing funneled even more of its own money into the construction of a facility that would be large enough to build 747s. To create the world's largest building, the aerospace giant cleared an entire forest next to Paine Field in Everett, Washington.
Ultimately, Joseph Sutter rose to executive vice president in charge
of engineering and new product development at Boeing. Before his
retirement in 1986, he was awarded the United States Medal of
Technology alongside visionaries such as Steven P. Jobs and Stephen
Wozniak of Apple Computer, Inc. Today, the 86-year old Sutter works
part-time out of a Seattle office with a large model of a Boeing 747 on
his conference room table. Asked about the Airbus A380, he reminded one
the next version of the 747 is due out in 2009 and that "it's going to be an interesting horse race."
Slikal in sestavil: Zorko Vičar
Ljubljana, 27. maj 2008
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