Boeing's own rock star

It’s not often that a man who just turned 90 is asked to pose for photos like a rock star. But that’s exactly what happened when Joe Sutter, the father of the 747 and legendary Boeing engineer, recently stopped by the Boeing Archives for a television interview. After the interview wrapped up, the reporter, photographer and even the Boeing media escort all asked Joe to pose for a picture with them. How fitting that the interview was conducted in the Archives, a place where Boeing’s past still lives on and where Joe Sutter’s stamp can be seen in almost every corner.

A few days later, Joe was posing for more pictures and signing copies of his book as the “Joe Sutter Engineering Building” was dedicated in his honor during a special ceremony in Everett. As usual, he modestly told the crowd that he was only part of a great team that brought the 747 program to life.


Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh (left) congratulates Joe Sutter during a building dedication in Everett.

On a personal note, I had the opportunity to get to know Joe when I worked on the 747-8 program. Believe me when I say that he is indeed the real deal.

Joe officially retired from Boeing back in the mid 80’s, but he’s still giving us plenty of input as a consultant. In fact, he still has an office a few floors up from me and always turns heads when he walks the halls. Congratulations Joe on your recent birthday and the building dedication. You do us all proud.


Joe Sutter signs copies of his book “747: Creating the World’s First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation.”

Comments (10)

Scott Baber (Spring Hill Florida):

I remember reading Mr Sutter's book on the 747 while I was flying from LA to Manila on board a 747-400. What a great book!!! He covered Boeings from the Clippers to the 767. The section on the development of the 737 was really great too. I wish Mr Sutter all the best. He will always be Mr Aviation to me.

Scott Baber
Spring Hill Florida USA


It would have been nice had notice been given Joe was going to be around to have the building dedicated to the whole team. People could have shown up to show their support. We never heard about this until after it happened.

Barun Majumdar (Seattle, WA, USA):

Joe Sutter is a Boeing Rock Star, indeed! Joe is an aerodynamicist of the highest pedigree. Joe's hump design after the pilot cabin and the twist on the 747 wings (popularly known as Sutter's twist) embodied his innovation in aerodynamic efficiency and flutter control. In 1950s Joe innovated a new engine location under the wing for the next generation 737. That's how the airplanes are built now a days across the globe. Last but not least, Joe's concept of designing a commercial airplane surrounding safety is of paramount value. In spite of arguments of cost overruns and making the jumbo 747 too heavy, Joe with his extraordinary talented team designed the airplane with four landing gears and a nose gear. In its debutant years, 747 survived an accident in San Francisco airport with one landing gear supported by one hudraulic unit. All other supporting systems like the nose gear, three other landing gears, and two hudraulic systems were perished due to an impact at the ground. That was one of the most defining momments for Joe Sutter. I sincerely hope that we celebrate Joe Sutter as a centurian after a decade. Personally speaking, I had had a rare opportunity to meet with Joe in last December. It was a life changing experience for me.

Kaylene Medina (Houston, TX, USA):

This article made me want to read Mr. Sutter's book.
Thanks for the insight!

Eric Odden (Huntsville, AL):

Wow! What a well deserved tribute to an incredibly productive and influential career. Mr. Sutter should be a role model for us all.

Kristin :

I had the honor of being present for the building dedication in Joe Sutter's honor. What a proud moment! I wish him all of the best.

Kristin Moore - Staff Analyst
787 Wing Systems Integration LCPT

George S (San Francisco, California, USA):

He is one of the great minds of the 20th century. Although not having as much recognition outside of the airplane world, he changed the life of everybody in the world and has made globalization possible.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

He is the face of the most recognizable and famous airliner in the world. Joe Sutter in an era before CATIA and other advanced design programs was and is the true face of the 747 like Leonardo Da Vinci is the face of his helicopter and Orville and Wilbur Wright are the face of the Wright Flyer. He is a true legend in the world of aviation.

Jun Leido (Manila, Philippines):

Randy I have Joe's book and it is a great read - even to non-airplane enthusiasts. Even more so to plane-lovers like myself.

John Sudds (40-53, Everett WA):

I'm sure that some of us remaining "Incredibles" working here in Everett would have loved to see Joe receive this honor in person. Too bad we weren't invited. I would have loved to shake Joe's hand.

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