If you have watched the movie Tenet (2020), you will notice a scene where a Boeing 747 airplane crashes into a fictitious Oslo Airport. However, unbelievably, the crashed plane was real. Apparently, the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, thought it was cheaper to use a real plane than CGI or models. Here, we focus on some astonishing Boeing Company facts you probably haven’t heard.
1. Boeing Once Thought about Creating a Spy Plane That Could Remain Airborne for Five Years
Officially known as the Boeing SolarEagle (Vulture II), the Boeing Company once considered making a spy plane that could remain airborne for up to five years. The idea was to have the aircraft’s wings spinning to about 120 meters (393.7 feet) and about 20 motors. Boeing received an $89 million contract from DARPA’s Vulture Program, but it didn’t materialize – the project was canceled in 2012.
2. Boeing’s Main Assembly Plant Is One of the World’s Largest Building By Volume
First completed in 1968, Boeing’s main assembly plant, the Everett Plant in Washington, USA, is considered the world’s largest building by volume. It is about 13, 385,378 cubic meters, occupying 98.7 acres (39.9 hectares). The building is so massive that, at one point, a combination of warm air and moisture accumulated inside the facility and caused clouds to form below the ceiling. Boeing had to set up a state-of-the-art air circulation system to combat the problem.
3. Two Men Once Stole A Boeing Aircraft in Africa and “Vanished”
Although the incident involving Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ER is the most famous case of airplane “disappearance,” it wasn’t the only or the first one. In 2003, two men walked into an airport in Angola, boarded an aircraft, taxied without communicating with the control tower, and flew away. However, what’s more astonishing is no trace of the plane has been found. The whereabouts of the two men are also unknown.
4. Soviet Scientists Once Attempted to Cleverly Steal Metal Samples from Boeing
During the height of the Cold War, Soviet scientists visited Boeing to gather relevant information that could help them develop their aviation industry. The scientists applied adhesive to the bottom of their shoes to covertly collect metal samples from the company’s floor.
5. Boeing Used Ferrets to Lay Wires In Inaccessible Places of Their Aircraft
Before the 1960s, Boeing majorly relied on ferrets to lay wires in their aircraft’s inaccessible places. However, as expected, the method was unreliable; the ferrets would get bored and do their own things rather than pull the cables.
6. Boeing’s Efforts to Compete with Concorde Resulted in Massive Employee Lay Off
You might remember Concorde as the first supersonic passenger-carrying commercial airplane. Even though it failed the test of time, it could cross the Atlantic Ocean in 3.5 hours; it traveled faster than sound. In the 70s, Boeing tried to match the Europeans’ invention by building the Boeing 2707, which was equally as fast. However, the project backfired, leading to tens of thousands of employees’ firing.
7. Bombardier Sold 50.01% of Its Stake to Airbus for CAD$1 to Get Back at Boeing
Bombardier is to Canada what Boeing is to the United States, only that the latter is not as popular and heavily invested as the former. However, the two have been in each other’s necks for a considerable amount of time. Their most notable feud was when Boeing pressured the United States government to impose a 300% tariff on the Bombardier C-Series planes imported into the country.
Canadians didn’t take this well; they filed a complaint to the WTO. Eventually, Bombardier sold 50.01% of its stake to Airbus, Boeing’s greatest competitor, for a symbolic CAD$1. Bombardier left the market, but Boeing had a new headache to think about.
8. Boeing Has Been Accused of War Profiteering
Over the years, several accusations of war profiteering have been leveled against the Boeing Company. For instance, critics took issue with Boeing for supplying missiles that were used for indiscriminate attacks in Yemen, leading to the death of countless civilians.
Recently, there were demonstrations and massive public uproar regarding Boeing’s decision to sell weapons to Israel, facilitating the 2023 Israel-Hamas war. According to research, it is estimated that the company collected between $50 and $100 billion from the sales.
9. Boeing Holds The Record For the Most Passengers In an Aircraft
In 1981, a Boeing 747 airplane made history when it ferried 1088 passengers from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Jerusalem. Dubbed Operation Solomon, the plane’s seats were removed to accommodate as many Ethiopian Jews as possible. The airplane left Addis Ababa with 1086 passengers but landed with 1088 – two babies were born midflight.
10. A Funny Billboard Was Placed on a Seattle Highway After Boeing’s Mass Employee Firing
In the 70s, Boeing fired over 70,000 employees in what was popularly known as the Boeing Bust. As a result, a billboard with the message “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?” was placed on the city’s exit highway.
11. A Seaplane Aircraft Was Boeing’s First Creation
Also formally known as the B & W Seaplane, the Boeing Model 1 was Boeing’s first product. Completed in June 1916, the biplane seaplane aircraft had a single engine. It carried the initials of its original designers, Lt. Conrad Westervelt and William Boeing.
12. Boeing Produces More Than Just Airplanes
While Boeing airplanes are the most popular, the company ventures in more than that – it also designs, manufactures, and sells satellite communication equipment, missiles, rotorcraft, and rockets. The fact that the company also offers leasing and product support services globally makes it one of the biggest aerospace manufacturers.
13. Boeing 737 MAX Airliners Have Been Subject to Safety Defects and Concerns
Despite being in business for over a decade, Boeing still experiences safety defects and airplane crashes, especially with its 737 Max airliners. In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 MAX operating between an airport in Tangerang and Pangkal Pinang in Indonesia, crashed into the Java Sea only 13 minutes after it took off.
A year later, a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airline Flight 302, another Boeing 737 MAX, crashed six minutes after leaving the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The two accidents left a combined 346 people dead with zero survivors, prompting aviation regulators to ground all 737 Max airliners worldwide.
14. The Company Is Named After Its Founder
Founded in 1916, Boeing Company was named after its founder, William E. Boeing, a lumber industrialist and aviation pioneer in the United States. However, the company’s original name was Pacific Aero Products Company; it was renamed several times before it became what it is today. It was (still is) based in Seattle, Washington.