Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Father of the jumbo jet dies

The first flight by an Air New Zealand Boeing 747.
The first flight by an Air New Zealand Boeing 747.

Joe Sutter, the "Father of the Boeing 747," has died.

The aircraft revolutionised travel, transporting around 3.5 billion people since it was introduced in 1969.

He was 95 and Boeing said he had " an amazing life and was an inspiration."

Sutter worked to develop commercial planes, including the Dash 80, its cousin the 707 and the 737.

But it was the 747 - the world's first jumbo jet - that secured his place in history.

Sutter led the engineering team that developed the 747 in the mid-1960s, opening up affordable international travel and helping connect the world.

"His team, along with thousands of other Boeing employees involved in the project, became known as the Incredibles for producing what was then the world's largest airplane in record time - 29 months from conception to rollout. It remains a staggering achievement and a testament to Joe's incredible determination," Boeing said.

Bloomberg reports Sutter didn't shy from defying senior executives. Ordered to fire 1000 engineers to save money on the 747, Sutter refused and demanded Boeing hire another 800 workers. He later wrote that he was certain he would be fired. He kept his job, and got extra manpower.

More than 1500 747s were sold but with airlines steering away from four engine planes Boeing says it might have to end the programme unless interest picks up.

In its heyday, the Boeing 747 was hailed for its fuel efficiency but comparatively now is a gas guzzler, consuming fuel at the rate of 10 tonnes an hour.

Air New Zealand retired the last of its jumbos, known as ''The Queen of the Skies'' in 2014.

- NZ Herald

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