Higher, Faster, Farther: 1970-1996

The Boeing Company ... Dealing with Change

When we're flat on our backs, nobody else looks so bad because we're so big. But when we get moving, watch out. The momentum is tremendous.
-- "T" Wilson

As the '70s began, a number of factors came together to push Boeing into a crisis. By the end of the '60s, the big Apollo project wound down and the company hoped to increase sales of commercial aircraft to make up for the decrease of space-related business. Unfortunately, due to the recession in the aviation industry, Boeing went 18 months without a single new domestic airplane order. The huge jumbo jet, the 747, had not yet established itself in the market and had unexpectedly high startup costs and initial delivery problems.

The end of the SST program dealt another blow. Aided by federal funds, Boeing had made major progress, but Congress "pulled the plug" on SST funding in March 1971, forcing Boeing to cancel the program.

Billboard by highway reading 'last person leaving Seattle - turn out the lights'

In the Seattle area alone, the Boeing workforce was cut from 80,400 to 37,200 between early 1970 and October 1971. Thousands of former Boeing employees, finding little in the local job market, looked for work elsewhere. Things became so bad in Seattle that a billboard on the city's outskirts read, "Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights" (photo courtesy of Seattle Times).

Dealing with the new challenges was "T" Wilson, who became the company president in 1968. When Wilson became chairman of the board in 1972, Malcolm Stamper was named president, holding that position until 1985.

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