The Beginnings: 1903-1926

The Boeing Airplane Co. ... World War I

By the end of 1917, World War I was under way, and for the first time, American airplanes were going into battle. Boeing knew the Navy needed training airplanes, and Wong had already designed the Model C seaplane. However, the little seaplanes could not fly all the way from Seattle to the Navy base at Pensacola, Fla., where Navy officials were deciding what to buy.

The 'Red Barn' Two Model Cs were taken apart, packed in crates and shipped by train across the country. Boeing factory superintendent Claude Berlin and test pilot Herb Munter reassembled the aircraft and flew them for Navy officials. The seaplanes flew well and the Navy ordered 50 Model Cs -- the company's first production order. By May of 1918, 337 people were on the Boeing payroll.

After the war ended Nov. 11, 1918, the military did not order more aircraft. Civilian biplanes were not selling either. William Boeing found he was competing with the flood of war-surplus biplanes that glutted the market. Struggling to survive, the tiny airplane company began to build dressers, counters and furniture for a corset company and a confectioner's shop, as well as flat-bottomed boats called sea sleds.

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