Bjorn’s Corner: Aeronautical greats

By Bjorn Fehrm

September02, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: One of our aeronautical greats, Joe Sutter, left us this week. He’s one of the characters in aeronautics that I admire for his capability to find what is the right thing to do, take the tough decision and fight it through.

747 early concepts_

Figure 1. Early concepts for Boeing 747. Source: Goggle images.

Sutter was the chief engineer for the Boeing 747 project that found that the original idea of stacking two 707s on top of each other, Figure 1, was wrong and instead took the long route to explain what was the right way to go, dual aisle and 10 abreast.

Sutter did more than the 747

When Sutter joined the 747 project as Chief engineer, the airlines (PanAm, Lufthansa) wanted an aircraft two times larger than the Boeing 707. As dual aisle aircraft was unheard of, the original idea was to stack two 707 on top of each other. Gradually Sutter’s team found it was the wrong way to go.

Putting them side by side in a wide-body fuselage with two aisles was better. But the airline managers would not buy it, they couldn’t think around something they’d never seen or experienced. So Sutter’s team build cardboard mockups of both concepts, flew the managers to Seattle, and once they had seen a dual aisle cabin, they were convinced. Today’s 747 could be made.

Before Sutter became Chief engineer for the 747, he was involved in the Boeing 727 and 737. For the 737, he was instrumental in putting the engines under the wings instead of at the back of the fuselage like the Douglas DC-9 or the Sud Aviation Caravelle.

The Caravelle pioneered placing the engines at the back of the aircraft as they were straight jets at the time and incredibly noisy. This spared a large part of the cabin the engine noise.

Once bypass engines decreased the engine noise, the placement on the wings was structurally better as the engines acted as counterweights to the wings lift forces. The forces also come in an area where the forces from the wings, engines and main landing gears all coincide. One can therefore make a limited area strong instead of having the forces traverse a long fuselage.

Boeing filed a patent on the 737 engine placement in Sutter’s name. That design decision will outlast the twin aisle 747 in terms of production longevity.

Europe’s Sutter

One can say that Sutter’s 747 cemented Boeing’s dominance in long range civil air transport. There is a European engineer that has had an equally large influence on civil air transport, Airbus’ Roger Beteille.

Beteille was one of the aeronautical engineers at Sud Aviation that did the Caravelle, the first commercially successful short range airliner. He later became Program manager for the Airbus A300.

Beteille, an engineer and his secretary was the total Airbus A300 staff at the time. The rest were allocated people from partnering companies Aerospatiale, MBB, BAE, CASA, etc., and all had their own agendas. It was Betielle’s brilliance in getting people on his bandwagon that made A300 go from yet another failed European cooperation project to the success it became and Airbus what it is today.

One of the first things Beteille did was to shrink the too-large 300-seater A300 to the 250 seat A300B and change the cross section to today’s eight abreast which could take two LD3 containers below the cabin area, Figure 2.


Figure 2. Fuselage cross section of A300/A310/330/340. Source: Wikipedia.

This cross-section killed the competing Boeing 767 (which could not take two LD3s abreast) and is still modern today in the A330neo after having served A300, A310, A340 and A330.

Like Sutter influenced the 737, Beteille (then Airbus tech chief) decided that the A320 should have Fly-By-Wire. He reasoned,”If we shall compete with the 737 and DC-9 and be this late, we must have something special.” Today, the A320 is the backbone of Airbus and the A300/330/340 the aircraft families that made it a world player.

123 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Aeronautical greats

  1. How much of the 747 design was carried over from Boeings entry in the USAF CX-HLS contest ( which they lost to the C-5 Galaxy)? The 747 program was launched the year after the USAF decision was made. It was clear that Boeing saw the 747 future as a cargo aircraft, this feature of the opening front fuselage being carried from the military design ( as well as the raised cockpit). Clearly the major fuselage section of the 747 is different, but the wing and tail design has obvious similarities.
    Boeing of course had previous experience at re-purposing a military design for its airliners

    • To me it appears that very little development work for the CX-HLS could be transferred directly to the 747, but a lot of the fundamental studies and research for this giant plane.
      Boeing was also rather lucky because the US government had already paid for the development of a second large engine, the JT9D, and P&W was certainly happy to find a customer for them.
      The fun fact here is that the two biggest losers of the CX-HLS contest ended up producing one of the most successful airplanes ever.
      The size of the 747 was determined predominantly by the existing engine and the projected range, whereas the numbers of passengers and the size of the belly were “only” a result of those parameters. That is why the 747 had not only twice the seat capacity as the 707 (as demanded by Pan Am) but 2.5 times.

  2. Its sad to hear of Mr. Sutter’s passing, a true giant in this industry! Mr. Sutter comes from the golden age of aviation when a few greats like him including the above mentioned Mr. Roger Beteille and Mr. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson created aviation masterpieces. These men were proud of the fact that they could deliver projects ahead of schedule and below budget which is something you just don’t hear about anymore is today’s aviation industry. These men delivered aircraft that set world standards without the use of all those fancy sparkly, shining bells and whistles computers and software that everyone seems to rely on way to much these days. Men like Mr. Sutter just got the job done period!

    • @Tim

      Roger Beteille did like computers… 😉

      European consortia like those for Transall, a French-German military transport, and Concorde had been one-product deals. With the A310, Airbus changed: No longer the group that made the A300, it became Europe’s airliner builder. Before the A310, Aerospatiale, BAC, and others had proposed a smaller European jet to compete with the 737 and DC-9. Afterward, there was little argument that this smaller jet would be an Airbus product. But Beteille saw a problem with the new project: “I was convinced that the 737 was so good that there was no way to compete with it by doing the same thing.” The former rocket engineer—“I was used to missiles, where everything was automated”—made what Adam Brown calls “a very gutsy decision”: The A320 would have fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls. In the A300, the yoke and rudder pedals were connected by cables to the hydraulic actuators that moved the ailerons, rudder, and elevators. On the A320, the controls would issue commands to computers, which would send electronic signals to the actuators. Concorde had an analog FBW system, and the technology had been used on fighters, but this would be its first use on a mass-produced commercial airplane.

      “Roger Beteille is a man of vision,” Adam Brown says today. “Thank God that he did what he did, because it’s been fundamental to our success.” The same flight control system has been used for every Airbus aircraft since the A320; they all respond similarly to the controls, so once pilots have been trained to fly one Airbus, they can fly any member of the Airbus family and the airlines save a bundle on training. Says Brown: “There is nothing on earth that will do that except fly by wire.” When Roger Beteille retired in 1985, Airbus had launched development of the stretched A330 and long-range, four-engine A340—formerly the B9 and B11—and Jean Pierson had replaced Lathiere. Beteille’s parting advice to Pierson: “I told him he should set the target market share to 50 percent—to where we could make profits.”

      Page 3 and 4:

  3. Giants of aviation indeed. RIP Joe Sutter.

    Onto the rant (of course!):
    Probably a big difference between then and now is that back then, there were not reams of project managers qualified with little more than a dodgy suit, slick haircut and an MBA running around making critical decisions way beyond their experience – and overruling principal or chief engineers in the process – sacrificing all quality at the altar of (short term) schedule.

    Then these same gormless gophers later wonder why a load of rework is needed when the basis for all the work was subsequently shown to be incomplete or erroneous because it was rushed.

    • @ Brendan

      I tend to agree, I was put in my place as a young trainee accountant when the chief engineer leant towards me and said ‘it’s science lad, leave it to us’. A bit demeaning but illustrative that there is often something a bit more to it than meets the eye. I have always been drawn to aircraft manufacture because of the complexity of the fundamental issues associated with aerodynamics, weight, structural integrity etc. A PowerPoint presentation and a bit of MBA jargon doesn’t cut it.

  4. Boeing filed a patent on the 737 engine placement in Sutter’s name.

    He. The early 737 engine placement is on first blush very similar to the Me262 arrangement.
    Jet Engines mounted on pylons wasn’t new either.

    • Actually the Heinkel He 280 beat the 262 to be first in the air with wing jet placement. Love those early German war jets!
      I am interested exactly what that patent is on the 737, I haven’t been able to track it down online…

    • The Me 262 concept first found its way onto the B-47, B-52, KC-135/Dash 80/707, long before it was implemented on the 737. When the Allied troops were progressing towards Germany a Boeing engineer by the name of George Schairer was already making his way across the border right behind the troops. He was part of Operation Paperclip. He quickly gained access to precious engineering documents containing all the calculations related to engines suspended underneath the wing, à la Me 262. This information was immediately relayed to all the major US aerospace manufacturers, but Boeing were the first to understand the structural advantage it brought, and they were the only company at the time to have their own large-scale wind tunnel which they had built at the start of the war. These two elements, quick access to German research and an advanced wind tunnel, is what helped Boeing to decisively pass ahead of Douglas. The irony here is that Airbus is now in the process to do to Boeing what Boeing did to Douglas. And Germany is a big part of Airbus today.

      • I also think that is a bit of a misnomer.

        The ME262 aka XX went two ways.

        The Brits moved the engines into the wings and the US moved the engines onto pylons.

        Ultimately pylons proved to be by far the best solution (for the most part, Concorde was a totally different beats, more akin to a modern Jet fighter (ala F15 and Sukoi SU-30 series)

        However, wing jets for fighters was a dead end. F-86 and then F4 set the standard as then did the F15 and the F-16 continued the single engine set.

        Just my perspective.

    • On second blush, both the He-280 and the Me-262’s engine was mounted in a nacelle that is integrated into the wing like the B-25, A-26, B-26 and many other designs. The 737 prototype clearly has a short pylon between the wing and the nacelle.

      Boeing got around to copying the Me-262 when the introduced the 737 max.

      • ME262: Obviously the engine hangs under the wing, the wing spars are undisturbed. The comparison to radial engine mounts is misleading as those “build short” and are sitting n front of the wing ( offset low or not ).
        Difference seems to be in how the fairing is styled.
        We’d need to see the patent to decide if this is an actual invention or just “homesteading”.

  5. “This cross-section killed the competing Boeing 767”

    Aw c’mon it’s still alive and kicking! Somehow. Seriously who would have thought they would still be making them in 2016?

    • @geo

      I agree with you A300 variants still being made in 2016, saw off the B767, competitive with B787 and something like 43 years and counting.

      • I think the time line proves the 767 drove the A300/310 into oblivion but the Phoenix flew again as the far more successful A330 series.

  6. I think many of the great post war aeronautical innovations in reality origin from German engineers that functioned in the shadow for most of their lives. No one was really interested in celebrating the evil guys accomplishments in the post war West. Same for the oppressed poor guys from the east, anything fresh, amazing aerospace from the commies was either inferior or stolen and a threat anyway.

    • Well you know people get kind of hung up on the slave labor concentration camp thing…

      • Wrong department.
        The people you are thinking of were busy with aryan physics and stuff.
        didn’t work out. IMHO a good thing (TM).
        The nonchalant attitude of the US towards using the bomb would have been far surpassed by the Reich.
        Even more overblown self esteem would not have bothered with appearances at all.

        • Uwe:

          I will remind you that the US was not nonchalant about using the bomb.

          You should read the casualties the US took on Okinawa as well as the Civilian Okinawans.

          It came down to a determination of a million US casualties to take Japan, starve it out or let the Russian have it.

          We fire bombed Tokyo with almost equal casualties as Hiroshima.

          It was brutal and ugly, but given the choice, it was the right thing to do.

          I would not have traded a million Japanese (or Germans) for one more American life, let alone British, French, Italian and the other allies.

          The US did not start that war nor anyone else but Japan and Germany (with Italy as a dupe)

          And both regimes made anything the US did look like pristine darlings.

          You might ask the Russians what they thought. They took the most horrific casualties military and civilian of all by orders of magnitude.

          • What message re you replying to, Gubbie?

            Camp Dora was a Nationalsozialistische concentration camp in Germany, horrific.

            Fortunately neither Germany nor Japan developed an atomic bomb before the US did. There’s a book on why GNationalsozialistische did not succeed, there are claims that Imperial Shinto had substantial knowledge and a source of uranium in Korea (scientists in Japan knew enough to quickly identify the type of each of the two bombs).

            Evil was stopped, at great cost.

    • To Peter Lemme:

      FYI, the primary advantages of wing mounted vs tail mounted engines include:

      1) Lower weight of wing structure and no beef-up of the aft body which is required with aft mounted engines. The result is lower MEW.
      2) No deep stall issues such as those with aft mounted engines and T-tail (unless designed properly and tested in low speed windtunnel). Was there not a BAC-111 that got into a locked in deep stall and crashed?
      3) Less risk for reduced rudder effectiveness with reverse thrust.
      4) Easier engine maintenance than with aft body mounted engines.
      5) More favorable OEW CG location from a loading/W&B point of view.

      Some advantages of aft body mounted engines:
      1) Less cabin noise except for the aft section which sets high dB records.
      2) Aerodynamically clean wing and simpler slat/flap system. That was one of the reasons for aft mounted engines before the aero engineers figured out how to integrate engine nacelle/wing for low drag without using huge pylons.
      3) No VMCG/VMCA issues.
      4) “Snappy” roll control due to much lower rolling moment of intertia.

      The pro&con list is longer but above is enough for this time.

        • To MontanaOsprey:

          FOD is debatable. Aft mounted engines can ingest spray from the main gear, or wing ice, like what happened to an SAS MD-80 after take-off from ARN, and the airplane crash landed. On wing-mounted engines spray from the nosegear can be an issue but special design on nosegear tires can direct the spray pattern away from engine intakes. No matter what, Boeing offered gravel runway kits for both the 727 and 737 for operation in Alaska.

          • Actually Wein airlines came up with the STC for the Alaska 737s. It also included shielded for rocks from the gear.

            On the other hand, currently Evertts is flying DC-90-30F in the cargo roll.

            No mods were required.

            Very narrow applications, but the under wing engines in that regard are more problematic than aft mounted.

  7. Bjorn:

    As the 737 uses a straight tube type engine, I don’t get that part of it.

    Just as noisy, better location aerodynamic and structural wise it seems, just as noisy

    This is not doubting Sutters legacy or contribution, just on that technical aspect.

    As noted it was an ME262 that used it first (which we are all more familiar with than the He)

    Pylons were really a Boeing innovation and please note they used those well before the 737. The 737 was a throwback.

    • You have to view the engine as a suspended mass underneath the wing. And like Peter as explained above this has for consequence “to dampen wing flutter modes.” It’s a compromise though and it has a negative impact on the aerodynamic performance of the wing. That is why it is always better to design the wing and the engine as a single component, like Bombardier did with the C Series. It is harder to optimize the design with a re-engine and that is why a clean-sheet design like the C Series is more efficient.

      • The under wing engine design has dominated because its more efficient structurally. As AirSpacemag but it
        “Underwing-engine airplanes evolved and became dominant because they were more efficient. An airplane’s wing is like a beam with the mass of the fuselage at its center; engines hanging at mid-span on the wing counteract some of the bending loads on the beam, so the wing can be built lighter. With the weight of the engines at the back, an airplane balances nicely with a shorter aft fuselage, so the horizontal stabilizer has less leverage to balance the airplane and must be bigger and heavier.”

        Flutter control is nice but lighter is always best for an airplane.
        The under wing doesnt always win, business jets show that when you scale down an airframe the airflow doesnt follow suit and engines still have to be much the same distance off the ground. The only underwing biz jet being the unsuccessful McDonnell 220 prototype. Honda has a neat answer to that problem.

    • “As noted it was an ME262 that used it first (which we are all more familiar with than the He).”

      You have this in reverse: the He 280 was the first to take to the air while the Me 262’s maiden flight took place six months later.

      • Translation issue: I am given HE credit, just that it is not as well known therefore the ME is a better reference for most.

        And I guess you can credit first flight but obviously the ME went with the same design, just not into the air as soon so co credit would be appropriate .

        • To test the validity of a patent any prior art is relevant.
          You can backtrack to the absolute first public knowledge instance but you need not.

          Now if you look into the WP pages M262 project was kicked of ~April 1939 and the HE28 in fall of that year.
          All probably preceeded by ideas and concepts bandied about in the previous year or two.
          All designers worked from the same research data and derived theories.

    • Coopting the pylon mounted engines as shock bodies
      was already well researched in 1945. ( actually quite a bit of all the things that later were reinvented under the monicker “area rule”) .

      • Much of this research was actually conducted before the war. For example Adolf Busemann presented his concept of a swept wing, which was put to good use by Boeing after the war, at an international scientific congress that took place in Italy in 1935.

        • There is much more to wing development than sweep, so let’s be a little professional and not focus on something as basic as sweep. Advanced wing design can not be done with slide rules, like back in Germany during WWII, but requires supercomputers and 3-D analysis.

          • Pft.
            there is much more power in basic theoretical research than in testing via endless trial and error fumbling enabled by way of better number crunching.

            compare projects like “Have Blue” and the rsultant B117 with a small project like MBB Lampyridae.

          • Pfft — how much theoretical research do you do with a slide rule? Inefficient 2-d research that has nothing to do with reality. Airplanes are 3-d, aren’t they?

            Serious 3-d aerodynamic reserach requires mega computing power and later testing in the wind tunnel or flight to validate. You develop your theory FIRST and test it SECOND, and not the other way around.

          • @andy, unfortunately and ironically I’m not very good with computers so I can’t provide a link, but there’s a very interesting opinion piece on Flightglobal about this very subject including quotes from the great man himself!

          • Grubbie, I think I know the comment by Mr. Sutter that you are referring to. He is absolutely correct when it comes to plain vanilla engineering and plain vanilla engineers whose typical explanation is “the computer said so”. But when in comes to 3-d aero research (some call it “fantasy physics”) huge computing power is required, or you are stuck in rather basic 2-d research.

          • Grubbie, I fully agree with Mr. Sutter’s statement. Back in the slide rule days engineers had to understand what they were doing and think how to do it most efficiently. That still applies today, but too often computers have taken over the thinking and we get “garbage in, garbage out”.

            My point is still correct regarding 3-d aero research, 3-d flow analysis, finite element analysis, and such, which requires supercomputers. But as with slide rules, it still requires that engineers understand what they are doing, understand the calculations done by the computers and the limitations of the software used. Today’s refinement in airplane structural design and aerodynamics would not have been possible withot supercomputers.

          • @andy, it’s amazing how far these legendary engineer’s got with just a slide rule though, isn’t it?

          • Agree. They did a fantastic job with their slide rules, mechanical calculators and plotting data using color pencils. Today we have spreadsheets, computer graphics, supercomputers and whatnot. But the full benefit of this additional computing capacity is lost due to “garbage in, garbage out” and “the computer said so”.

    • The engine was as noisy, but that noise wasn’t transmitted into the enclosed passenger sound cavity (fuselage) because: 1) noise from vibrations from the pods weren’t transmitted directly into the fuselage as they are when the engine is mounted directly on the fuselage; 2) the distance between the source of the sound emission and the fuselage is much further on the 737 so sound dissipates a little before reaching the fuselage; and 3) the wing structure shield the fuselage from some of the noise emissions.

  8. Bjoern:

    Nice story but you left out Mr. Sutter’s contribution to the entire 747 program where Boeing desinged and built the Everett facility and the 747 prototypes in record time, never since then repeated by anybody, or that Mr. Sutter was also deeply involved in the Dash80, the 707 and the 720. Neither did you mention all awards that Mr. Sutter received, including awards from a US President and Lufthansa, or that Lufthansa named one of their 747s in the honor of Mr. Sutter or that the main engineering building in Everett was named after him. You could have mentioned that he continued to contribute to Boeing working as a consultant until recently, and that he participated in the Boeing 100 year anniversary last July.

    To mention someone who only contributed with FBW and joystick is ridiculous. Was that a result of a serious inferiority, or “me too”, complex so typical in Europe?

    • @Andy

      Quote: “To mention someone who only contributed with FBW and joystick is ridiculous. Was that a result of a serious inferiority, or “me too”, complex so typical in Europe?”

      With all due respect, but you do seem to be ruefully misinformed – and your arrogance seems to be on about the same level as former Boeing vice president Jim Austin.

      Today Airbus is thriving, but success was never a certainty. In 1974, Boeing vice president Jim Austin described the first Airbus product as “a typical government airplane. They’ll build a dozen or so and then go out of business.” Austin spoke from experience, and he was almost right.

      Europe had invented the jet engine, built the first jet and turboprop airliners, and was building Concorde. But Boeing and Douglas were doing to the Europeans what de Montfort had done to the Cathar heretics. The 116 options to buy Concorde had melted away. Dassault had produced the Mercure, a Boeing 737 lookalike, but was never going to sell more than the 10 copies it had foisted on France-owned Air Inter. West Germany’s first and only commercial jet, the VFW-Fokker 614, was a dog. Britain was delivering a few last BAC One-Eleven twinjets and Hawker Siddeley Tridents—like smallish 727s—to Romania and China. Thanks to some crafty, almost underhanded maneuvering led by a French engineer named Roger Beteille, Toulouse had one rock left: the Airbus A300B.

      Beteille was surprised when, in 1967, he was asked by his bosses at Sud-Aviation to form a team to design a jetliner. For 10 years he had headed a team in Cannes developing France’s nuclear missiles and its first satellites. Before that, he had been in charge of flight-testing the Caravelle, a rear-engine twinjet that had sold well in the late 1950s. United Airlines bought Caravelles, and the French almost had a deal with Douglas to build them, but the French balked at the upfront cost, and Douglas went on to build DC-9s.

      Europe’s mistakes taught Beteille some key lessons. “You cannot compete with somebody by doing what he’s doing—you have to do something better, or at least different,” he says. In the mid-1960s, with Boeing already building the four-engine 747 and McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed discussing three-engine wide-bodies with U.S. airlines, the field was open for Europe to build a big twinjet.

      Europe’s national aircraft industries were starting to work together, but jealousies prevailed. The Germans had money, but the British and French treated them as metal benders, not partners. The French government, embroiled in the summer street riots of 1968, had a record of seeking leadership in projects, then threatening to go it alone if their demands were not met. In Britain, many politicians and civil servants thought engines were a better business than aircraft. Working alone, none of them had competed successfully with the Americans, so Beteille’s mission to assemble a multi-nation team made sense. But it would be immensely complicated.

      By late 1967 the outline of an airplane with two big Rolls-Royce engines was taking shape. The name “Airbus” came from the Germans. The number “300” matched the vehicle’s 300-seat capacity. But Beteille was worried that with each design iteration the airplane was getting closer in size to the rival three-engine U.S. aircraft. And in the course of visits to Rolls-Royce’s fusty headquarters in Derby, he had noticed something even more disquieting.

      Most of the British government’s share of the A300 investment money was to go to Rolls-Royce for the RB.207 engine—a paper study at the time. But the company was also trying to sell the smaller RB.211 to Lockheed for its TriStar. Beteille discovered that “the people that I used to discuss the RB.207 with had disappeared. It wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on. Rolls was betting everything on the smaller engine, and they were using the U.K. government’s money for the RB.207 on the RB.211.”

      In March 1968 Rolls-Royce won the TriStar business. Beteille was not sure the British government would pay for both engines or that Rolls could develop them even if it got the money. “I was convinced that the venture was dead,” Beteille recalls. The only option was to restart the design, “to do something smaller, either with an existing engine or an engine that was being developed for somebody else. But if I had told the partners that, they would have said ‘It’s dead. Let’s stop it.’

      Instead, Beteille gathered 10 engineers and handed them a specification for a twin-engine, wide-cabin jet, written in 1966 by Frank Kolk, chief engineer at American Airlines. Beteille told the team to follow the specification and use existing engines. They came back with a 250-seat airplane that had eight seats abreast rather than nine but could carry the same freight containers as the bigger American aircraft. “We kept the designation A300—it was one way of not drawing attention to what we were doing,” says Beteille. At the end of 1968 the Airbus team announced that they had downsized the new airplane and eliminated the RB.207. The British government walked out, but the British firm Hawker Siddeley remained as a subcontractor, and the German and French governments agreed to split the costs. Meanwhile, Beteille had met Felix Kracht, who was to become another father of the Airbus organization. Kracht, a sailplane pioneer, had experience in international programs from the Franco-German Transall C160 military transport.

      • That is very interesting that the A300 started out bigger and at 9 abreast. Brilliant move to tailor the aircraft to the engine size. As a serendipitous side effect, passengers have had the extra comfort of 2-4-2.

        Similar to what Gundolf describes earlier, that the 747 was 2.5 times bigger than the 707 rather than 2 due to the engines already sized for the C-5, which I never knew. The huge jump in scale always seemed surprising, but now makes sense.

      • That was a long list of commercial failures, far more than what I was aware of.

        Makes Mr. Sutter’s contributions that much more significant.


        • @Andy

          While the founders of Airbus certainly learnt a lot from the above mentioned commercial failures, I’m not so sure if the management of the Boeing company for the last 20 years learnt much from all of the company’s early success stories. Success can build a culture of arrogance that will destroy a company.

          • Boeing has continued to excel in production efficiency improvements and is doing very well commercially. Its annual revenue exceeds Airbus’. The 787 is the most advanced commercial transport flying today. The 747 is the fastest. The 787 was a huge development risk — everything was new. The 787-8 delays are inexcusable. I know why they happened but will not go into that here. On the other hand the 787-9 and -10 are right on schedule as are the other Boeing programs; about 450 787s have been delivered.

            In hindsight one could discuss product strategy until it freezes over. Unless one has the same detailed info as airframe manufacturers such discussions are nothing but rather meaningless speculation. Boeing might have benefitted from a different product strategy as might Airbus, where the A300/340/380 could be considered as less successful, or failures, if one is honest. The A350 has a colored history, where the first version was rejected by customers forcing the development of the A350XWB. Regarding the various A320neo types, those airplanes have now entered the so-called warm-up cycles, with the significant improvements coming from engines.

          • All your nice facts don’t hold up under scrutiny all that well.
            ( start with “doing commercially well” which is due the “mirage power” of deferred cost bookkeeping .

            “.. with the significant improvements coming from engines.”

            That imho is your only truly concise observation.
            ( and is very much valid for the 787 family. What “quantum leap in capabilities and efficiency” remains after the A330 gets a same generation engine? ( 1000-TEN for 787, 6000-TEN for A330 )

          • Go ahead ahead and check Boeing revenues vs Airbus and corporate profits vs Airbus. Also, the 787 is much more than just engines. But, of course, Airbus could show better results after putting some A320 assembly in Alabama to avoid European labor unions.

          • In the interest of accuracy re: Boeing v Airbus profits:

            Boeing profits are enhanced because of the use of program accounting.

            Airbus writes off its development costs as incurred.

            The Boeing financials also report P&L if unit accounting instead of program accounting were followed, the and P&L is far, far below that of the profits from program accounting.

          • We can discuss book keeping until it freezes over. All these sorry attempts to justify Airbus are pathetic. Annual Boeing revenues are in the 95 Billion Dollar bracket, as compared to Airbus 70 B$ bracket, despite monsters like the A380. I feel sorry for Euro taxpayers when the A380 program folds and Airbus is unable to pay back taxpayer funded bonds.

          • “Success can build a culture of arrogance that will destroy a company.”

            Especially when your success is strongly aided by circumstances and some rich gifts. 🙂

          • So the 787-8 is stand alone and the 9 and subsequent 10 are what, a whole different program?

            So we can draw from this that Boeing can’t do anything new right but is very good at subsequent corrections?

            We will ignore the KC46 of course.

          • And we also need to add in that something around half of Boeing revenues are defense related.

            The vast majority of that is form the MD merger, not what Boeing did on its own.

            And yes program accounting is relevant as it presents a false picture and like deficit spending, kicks the can down the road that comes due some day, but the longer the better for current managers.

          • Out of 96 B$ revenue, about 13B$ is Boeing Military (St. Louis). The rest is Commercial, Space and other. Airbus is a merger of how many firms????
            TransWorld, what is your point? Boeing bought McDD. McDD itself was created by a merger of neccessity between McDonnell and Douglas when both were in financial difficulties. Douglas had a great idea with the DC-9 series, but subsequent inadequate investment in own products put McDD on a slippery slope from which they could not recover. One could argue that Boeing could have waited for McDD to go bankrupt and then pick up whatever was worth it at 10 cents to the dollar.

        • @andy

          I fear that your mind is closed to any counter argument but

          Joe Sutter was a collossus in the evolution of many Boeing aircraft and the fact that he in some ways ended up at the top of the heap alongside so many well regarded aerospace engineers is a clear illustration of his prowess. You are discussing his achievements as though we do not know, the reason they are not detailed is That i am sure all on this forum are well aware of his contribution.

          Roger Beteille was also a highly regarded individual but from a different perspective. He drove a non existent programme into a massive industrial combine. Something very few have done. His ability to create something from nothing is testament to the status and respect which he engendered by all the competing elements both within and without Airbus. He managed the national pride and parochialism of the participants and fostered support from respective governments. In short Airbus owes its existence to him.

          The catalogue of failures seems to be doing quite well at present

  9. To Leeham News:

    We think that this blog is low class and in extremely bad taste. The greatest aeronautical engineer and executive with the longest ever contribution to aviation, Mr. Joe Sutter, is not yet buried, and yet you publish a poorly researched piece comparing Mr. Sutter with relative nobodies.

    In respect to Mr. Sutter, we suggest that you close it for further comments.

    • @Andy

      What are you smokin?

      What is a fact, though, is that while this blog and its comment section have been full of praise for the late Joe Sutter, you’ve been rambling on nonsensically in your last couple of comments.

      BTW, I’d be curious to know who, actually, are “we”?

      • Obviously, you and I have different definitions of “good taste” and “class”.

        • @Andy

          Well, it is not often one encounters someone with a more unprecedented sense of self-righteousness than you.

          • Thanks. I have been often told by those whoreally know the subject that my knowledge and grasp of issues in my area of expertise is extraordinary.

          • @Andy

            Yes, some people with autistic disorder tend to have some “island of genius” where their “expertise is extraordinary.”

    • The greatest aeronautical engineer is what I would call Clarence Johnson aka Kelly at Lockheed Palmdale.

      And btw, calling Roger Beteille a relative nobody is below low class.

      • @mneja

        I’d guess that Andy never even had heard about Roger Beteille before reading the latest edition of Bjorn’s Corner. Perhaps, therefore, this blog should have him excused for his excruciatingly ill-mannered behaviour.

        As for who’s the “greatest aeronautical engineer/scientist”, I’d guess that not many people would object to naming Theodore von Kármán as the “greatest”.

        • I’d agree on TvK being the foremost scientist, while keeping the engineer title for Kelly Johnson… after all, the latter did design a few more planes than the former 🙂

          Hans von Ohain also comes to mind… but maybe a little lower on the list.

          But how I admire Beteille, constantly (in the beginning at least) working in headwind and with the highest of odds. And y(j)et pulling it off.


        • Oh, but I forgot Ludwig Prandtl. I have a soft spot for those with a number named after them! (Grin)

        • Theodore von Kármán was certainly one of the greats. But I wouldn’t want to name anyone the greatest, in any field. I just hate this sort of idolatry.

          That being said, it is important to remember Kármán’s contribution. More specifically, people need to be reminded that it was him who, with Caltech, created the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the war. This made of Caltech the new Göttingen, the previous mecca of aeronautical research, where so many important discoveries were made before the war.

          Incidentally, the Douglas Aircraft Corporation were using the Caltech wind tunnel that had been built by Kármán. They were more or less neighbours, one being located in Long Beach and the other in Pasadena. But Douglas had to compete with other aircraft manufacturers in the area, like North American, to gain access to the wind tunnel. In the meantime Boeing had 24-hour access to their own wind tunnel, a state of the art but very expensive installation. In my opinion this is what gave Boeing the edge.

          • “Theoreticians” and “Accesorizers”.
            Two capabilities that are both necessary to achieve progress.

            The US culture has a thing for accessorizers.
            They do not understand the idea of basic foundational research that enables these accessorizers.
            ( IMU hard wired via the educational systems. )

          • CERN* is a good example of that.

            *Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire, in Geneva.

          • “The US culture has a thing for accessorizers.
            They do not understand the idea of basic foundational research that enables these accessorizers.
            ( IMU hard wired via the educational systems. )”


            Well 353 Nobel Prizes, DARPA, MIT, Skunkworks, JPL, Batelle, Woods Hole, Bell Labs, Scripps Research,Westinghouse,Los Alamos,Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore,Caltech, John Hopkins and on and on and on put lie to that silly unenlightened assertion.

          • Where else would they get their education? If they were educated elsewhere why did they not stay home and do their research there?

      • Did any of the guys you mention have excellent engineering skills, good judgment, excellent foresight, brilliant people skills, capability to run huge engineering organizations (such as 4500 engineers) very successfully on time and budget, be mentally sharp and contribute to aviation into his 90s? Joe Sutter did all that. He was much much more than just a brilliant engineer.

        No doubt that Kelly Johnson was a brilliant engineer but he was not a Joe Sutter.

    • FWIW, Andy, the disruption and sniping of the last few days can be traced directly to your comments as the aggravating factor. think about this.


      • Obviously, you and I have a different understanding of what is “good taste” and “decency”. [Edited as a violation of Reader Comment rules.]

        • Hamilton — if my comment violated some rules, then this blog violated the same rules. Just think about that for a second.

          All other “greats” are relative nobodies to Mr. Sutter, the keyword being “relative”. Mr. Sutter was a brilliant engineer, but he was also a brilliant manager heading up thousands of engineers and could get things done on schedule, and on record time, such as the development and manufacture of the 747 and all other accomplishments that were overlooked. His overall contribution to aviation is greater than from anyone else. Only this “publication” has difficulty with that.

    • Joe Sutter was certainly an aviation great. Unlike the Funk Brothers of Motown, he certainly was recognized for his achievements while he lived.

      I’m always curious, was he recognized financially for his contribution to Boeing. IMO, he should have received at close to as much compensation as a CEO over a similar number of years service. In this sense, perhaps brilliant engineers are undervalued.

      • Just wondering if these two late gentlemen ever met in person? Would be an interesting discussion i guess.

      • That Lufthansa article was excellent. Thanks. We need to keep in mind that the 747 is still the fastest commercial airplane flying today.

          • The 747 has the highest LRC speed of all commercial transports. Slowdown to MRC would reduce fuel burn by 1%, further slowdown will increase block fuel. Block times will increase which means that flight and cabin crew costs go up, maintenance cost per trip will go up and airplane productivity will be reduced so some allocated costs per trip could increase. Pax revenues may not change but longer trip times are always a negative from a passenger point of view and a competitive disadvantage.

          • High cruise speed worked for Convair too didnt it?
            But it was a different era, as even Boeing noted with its next widebody, the much slower 767 ( even the A330 is slightly faster)

          • Initially, the 767 was not a long range airplane which explains the slower cruise speed. The 777 and 787 are quite a bit faster than the 767, A330 and A340. The A340 was totally absurd: slow, lousy climb performance and high fuel burn. Despite -200/-300/-500/-600 versions it was not a success and is no longer in production. Apparently it was not even good enough for a freighter version, like the 767.

          • Well we can argue all freighters going forward are going to be twins as the 747 is soon to be terminated.

            A340 was actually moderately successful, though it was done in more by engines than the 4 engine design.

          • Yeah, blame it on engines, when the entire A340 concept was a disaster like the A380. Some people never learn from past mistakes.

          • @andy/captain hindsight!
            Boeing studied ultra large airliners and eventually came to the right conclusion, but if they had the courage of their convictions they wouldn’t have wasted billions on the 747/8 would they?
            Emirates are doing really well with their A380s but I think its done for. European governments can balance the losses against the return on the A320 and A330, although I don’t know how that sum works out.
            It would be much more impressive if you could predict a strategy for the future, it’s a dangerous and difficult game.

          • Let’s not forget that the 747-8 decision was based on forecast passenger AND freighter airplane demand.

            To speculate in this forum about future airplane models is a total waste of time. As history has shown it is very difficult for airframe manufacturers to make the right “guesses” just by looking at the A340 and the A380.

          • The 767 was intended for shorter routes ? The 200 entered service in 82 while the 200ER entered service in 84. It was one of the first twins to indroduce ETOPS. So we can forget the idea that it was not designed as a long range plane to explain its ‘slow’ cruise speed’. It was a great plane for its time but it was soon outclassed.

          • The basic 767-200 had a range of less than 3000 nm and was intended as a US Domestic airplane. The basic -300 had a little more range but still not enough for intercon. Substantial increases in MTOW, engine thrust, fuel capacity and ETOPS made those airplanes truly intercon. Other 767 versions include the 767F and 767-400ER as well as military AWACS/Tanker/Transport versions. It is still in production.

          • The 767 design were Boeings first partial steps into supercritical wing design. The “early” aspect demanded that you keep a bit further away from the sound barrier to not loose the advantages ( better more even lift distribution over the wing area and thus a smaller higher aspect ration wing, see A300 to 310 for the changes ).

          • ETOPS and the rest came several years after the 767-200. All other airplanes that Boeing designed for long range had from the start: 1) Higher cruise speed, 2) range capability and 3) ETOPS, if required. The 767 did not.

    • Please, everyone. Andy has shown his true color: {Edited as a violation of Reader Comment rules}

    • With the Baade the 152 refers to the last of Junkers design numbers, which also brings us back to one of the greatest aircraft engineers.

      • The Baade 152 was based on the Junkers EF150 which was built in Moscow by Junkers engineers taken there after the war.
        The EF150 design was the one Boeing got hold of after war when it promptly junked its B432 straight wing bomber design and produced the B-47 which had the Junkers design features, bicycle landing gear, swept wings and pod housed engines.

  10. People, I warned on the United-Kirby post that attacking Commenters is a violation of reader comment rules.

    Stop it.


  11. I think we all owe Scott our thanks for producing what is arguably the most informative and entertaining aviation blog site available.
    It behoves us all to follow his rules.
    Lets keep abuse the prerogative of your US presidential candidates. They are quite good at it.

    • Andy is obviously a bit of a Boeing nut,but if you just let that go, he is knowledgeable and his point of view is quite interesting.

      • Grubbie: Your very reasonable and polite assessment is a credit to you.

        I suppose I can take the tact that its a lesson in how not to behave.

        Or to quote my younger brother and a really bad piece of work, ” the good news was my teacher told everyone is was a fanatic example of how not to do it. ”

        Bless Joe Sutter, he too stood on the shoulders of giants.

        • “Bless Joe Sutter, he too stood on the shoulders of giants.”

          Yes. And others will stand on his shoulders ( and those of his compatriots in research and engineering.)

          Progress is a pyramid.

    • “Lets keep abuse the prerogative of your US presidential candidates. They are quite good at it.”

      Thank you for a coffee well spillt.
      ( Wiping my desk clean .. and reading on 🙂

  12. “Observing negatives do not a “Phobia” make.”

    Uwe, if attacking other countries was prohibited on this blog, like personal attacks are, you would likely be banned for life. Whenever your European colleagues make negative comments about the United States they are often of a defensive nature and perfectly understandable in view of the abysmal ignorance of anything European displayed by some American posters. But your own comments, post after post, are exclusively and relentlessly offensive, and have little to do with commercial aviation. Please stop sniping at the US, for the war has been over for more than 71 years now.

    • No, it just shifted to the commercial realm!

      There will always be tensions. Fortunately its not going to result in a War and that is to the benefit of all.

  13. Returning to the 737 engine placement by Joe Sutter. I read his autobiography a few years ago (I have since lent it to someone and it hasn’t come back, so the following is from memory). One design criteria for the 737 was the ability to load last minute baggage without using a ladder, which fixed the maximum height of the fuselage and therefore the wing above the tarmac. This limited the space available for the engines (a problem the 737 still suffers from). Sutter wanted to position the engines so a compressor failure wouldn’t send blades flying through the wing fuel tank, so wanted the engine out in front of the wing. The innovative solution he designed was a pylon sticking out forward of the wing, as opposed to the downward pylon of the 707. That pylon kept the engine high and placed ahead of the wing in clean air flow. Another of his bright ideas (for the 747) was to design a method of steering the main undercarriage, although the accountants told him to cut it as it was too expensive. Taxying tests proved MLG steering was essential and he had the drawings for the solution ready to go. A brillant man.

      • I’m quoting from memory – he may have been involved with the redesign of the -300, where the engines appear further forward. Others may know more than me.

        • The 737-300/-400/-500 have high bypass ratio engines and ground clearance would be a problem if installed the same way as the engines on the 737-100/-200, so they were moved forward and UP.

    • “That pylon kept the engine high and placed ahead of the wing in clean air flow.”

      On the MAX the Boeing engineers lofted the engine further up and ahead of the leading edge, in order to provide adequate ground clearance for the larger engine. But this also had for effect to reduce drag, which is now lower than it is for the NG wing/pylon interface.

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