Boeing

Old-school Design: For the Birds!

By James Hasstedt

January 2016

I was a designer in Tool Engineering in the beginning of the 767 Program. In January 1979, we moved from the 40-83 office building out to a warehouse in the northwest corner of the Everett, Wash., facility.

In this warehouse were rows and rows of drafting boards for us to work at. The building did not have carpeting, and we had to cover our boards every night to protect our work from the birds living in the rafters above. There was no air conditioning, so when it got hot in the summer, large fans were brought out to help cool the building.

Unlike today's designers who use modern computer graphics software, we used our trusty drafting machines (mechanical arms that remain parallel to the desk front while moved in any direction). Along with these, we'd use our triangles, T-squares, templates and curves to hand-draw the tool designs on large Mylar plastic sheets. All of our dimensional calculations were done by hand using trigonometry tables from a handbook, or on scientific calculators for the lucky few that had them. Released tool and engineering drawings were obtained by going over to the main factory and utilizing the pneumatic vacuum tube system. We would write out the drawing number on an index card, send it to the drawing vault in the cartridge provided at various stations throughout the plant, and receive the drawings back in the cartridge approximately five minutes later.

There were no cellphones, and only one desk phone for everyone in our group to share. Secretaries would actually type memos on a typewriter with carbon paper for multiple copies, hence the acronym "cc" for carbon copy. No personal computers or email existed, so any correspondence with other companies would have to be by letter or phone calls.

New designers today have no idea how nice they have it!