I attended a course at the AirBusiness Acedemy of Airbus some weeks ago. In one of the coffee breaks I hanged around in the building’s library and I found a book that I wanted to read, so I picked it: “747”, by Joe Sutter with Jay Spencer.
Joe Sutter is the engineer who led the engineering development of the Boeing 747, the Jumbo. The book, a biography of Sutter, covers all his life but it is mainly centered in the happenings, decisions, struggles, individuals, etc., involved in the development of the 747 and other aircraft.
I particularly liked the many engineering problems that he mentioned in the book, why & when they encountered them and how they overcame them: e.g. how they debugged the B 377 Stratocruiser, the decision of placing 737 engines under the wing, going for 4 main landing gears in the 747, etc., and the innovations that they introduced in commercial aviation with different aircraft: first pressurized aircraft (B 307 Stratoliner, with the issue they had with the vertical stabilizer), the jet engine mounted in pylons under the wings (with the B 367-80 prototype –now resting at the Air & Space museum at Dulles, DC- which evolved in the 707; configuration mainly used until today), the first wide-body aircraft (B 747), etc.
He also described many details about dealings with customers (e.g. Juan Trippe in Pan Am, Iraqi customers), competitors (including Russian delegations during Cold War), and colleagues at Boeing (with some heated discussions and internal politics, where he doesn’t save any detail).
As a curiosity, I finished the book while flying from Chicago to Frankfurt some days ago aboard a B 747, the first time I flew in one. I was sitting by the wing and took some pictures of the wing (first with a triple-slotted flaps) at different moments of the flight.
The book is a very interesting read which I recommend to anyone with passion for aircraft (engineer or not).