Remembering Joe

Today’s passing of the legendary Joe Sutter has touched the entire aviation world. As we look back on the life of the Father of the 747, I wanted to share some of my personal thoughts.


Here’s Joe posing next to the very first 747, named the “City of Everett.”

I got to know Joe very well during my time on the 747-8 program. His love for the airplane was unsurpassed, but he also cherished the people around him. He was a legend— but he never let it go to his head.


The father of the 747 poses next to Lufthansa’s new 747-8 in May 2012.

We often joked that Joe never really retired from Boeing. While he was an ambassador for the company, you may be surprised to know that he still came into the office on a regular basis. In what would be one of my last conversations with him just a few weeks ago, we had a long discussion about product strategy.


Here’s a picture of me and Joe at the delivery ceremony of the first 787 in September of 2011.

Joe’s legacy lives on in the countless people he inspired here at Boeing. He was a true Incredible. I’ll miss his stories, his wit and his vision. But most of all, I’ll miss the man.

Comments (17)

Yukui (China):

We will miss the man...

Phil Wood (Sacramento, CA):

Very sad to hear of Joe's passing. His creation became a beautiful aircraft that will live long and continue flying way beyond his years. Talk about a testament to his vision!

God speed!

Cristiano Arruda (Campo Grande, MS, Brazil):

My biggest dreams were composed by his artwork: the Boeing 747! He changed the human life history for ever!

Paul Tibbles (Sydney Australia):

So sad to hear of the passing of the legendary Joe Sutter. The more you read of what the man did amidst rival projects in the company, and the fact that his creation has touched the lives of hundreds of millions - this man truly was an aviation pioneer and legend who will forever be known as the "Father of the 747". Commiserations to Joe's family, be proud of the fact that he was much loved and has a great legacy around the world.

Todd Cohen (Philadelphia):

What an incredible man and an incredible story. I have his book and have read it several times.

A loss to the entire aviation world.

Richard Lynton (Melbourne, Australia):

Joe told some great stories.

He had more control over the 747 project than usual because the Apollo Program and Supersonic Plane Program were seen as more prestigious.

Most people including the customer Pan Am were expecting a 2-storey narrow body but he saw issues with loading and unloading passengers and cargo so instead increased width. The pilots were placed above so a cargo version would be able to load from the front.

There were problems with the engines that were not being taken seriously so he took the engine chiefs on a flight of the test aircraft. They were so shocked and scared that they soon got the engine problems resolved!

A hard worker and a cool, calm thinker. A true hero!

Rest in Peace.

Gareth (Adelaide, Australia):

A remarkable individual responsible for developing one of history's global icons.

(Widnes, Cheshire ):

Cannot believe you're gone, Joe. May you forever fly high in our skies. Thank you for your amazing life. God bless you.

Edwin (Seattle):

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sutter and he was truly humble. Sad passing.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Blue skies to Joe Sutter. He lead a team that designed an aircraft, an institution, that drew myself to the industry - I'm sure that that is standard for countless others - and captivated the imagination of billions. The superlatives are endless for this cultural lexicon. Grace, power, progress, peace, and on and on. Long may the spirit of innovation and the can do attitude of The Incredibles live at Boeing, and grace the industry.

Silvia (Mexico, City):

Sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. Fond memories. Had the privilege of flying with him on the 747 SP demo flight Mexico City - Belgrade in 1975.
My condolences to his family.
He was one of a kind!

Davíd B. (Ulm, Germany):

To our colleagues ín the aviation world, especially the former coworkers, friends and loved ones at Boeing Aircraft and across the airline industry:

Joe was a very unique engineer and a timeless inspiration to engineers, technical experts, scientists, dreamers, and thinkers across the world, as his creation, the Boeing 747, proves everyday. May he be an inspiration to young people for generations to come.

Very truly,

your friends in the electric power generation and distribution / utility industry worldwide

Alberto Maya R. (Medellin - Colombia):

I'm really saddened by the death of Joe Sutter . I will never forget the interview of one hour and 30 minutes he gave me. I do not forget when the April 24, 2008 Joe invited me to lunch there in Seattle. For me Joe is an icon, a very special man. For all Boeing are my feelings of regret.

Norman Garza (Long Beach, CA):

It is not often that a person is associated with the building of an airplane but Joe Sutter was that very person. He was a leader in the era of slide rules, main frame computers, powerful optimism, and big names in the aerospace industry. He truly has a place in the great pantheon of aviation giants.

Paul Matsudaira (Singapore):

I grew up watching B52s and the first 747 land at Boeing Field. The 747 filled the sky like Mt. Rainier and it flew sooooo slow. Why didn't it fall to earth? Joe Sutter.

Scott Baber (Spring Hill Florida USA):

I remember reading Mr. Sutter's book on the 747 while I was flying to the Philippines on a Philippine Airlines 747-400. I also remember all the flights I had on his creation from the early 70's to the present. I never had a bad flight on a 747. Thank You Joe, and Rest in Peace.

Scott Baber

吴思琪 (dongying china):

Joe sutter,with his masterpiece--747,opened a new era of civil aviation.Yhank you,sutter.

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