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Boeing Frontiers
December 2003/January 2004
Volume 02, Issue 08
Boeing Frontiers
Letters to the Editor

This month marks the 100th anniversary of powered flight. In honor of this anniversary, Boeing employees were invited to share their thoughts about the impact that powered flight has had upon humankind—and/or their predictions about the future of powered flight. A representative selection of responses appears below. Later this month, Boeing News Now, available to employees on the Boeing Web (boeingnews.web., will feature an additional selection of responses.

Powered flight’s power

Orville and Wilbur Wright Measure 120 feet [37 meters]. How long does it take to walk that far? How many times farther do you walk from an airport's terminal gate to the baggage claim carousel? Yet, that 120 feet was about the length of man's first powered flight. From these inauspicious beginnings, the world was changed permanently. Bravo, Orville and Wilbur!

—Ralph Caruthers, San Antonio

Wouldn't it be something to have never flown? The world would seem so small, and our nations would not have grown. The dreams that we dream would have never come true, and you might even have a different partner in your life. The simplest things might not seem so small, and the tallest buildings would really seem tall. So thank you, Orville and Wilbur Wright, for giving us this thing we call flight. You have changed the world for ever more. From making our nation safe to just plain having fun: What would we have done without your dreams?

—Jim Claphan, Wichita, Kan.

I grew up in the 1950s in the area around Sea-Tac Airport (near Seattle). I remember watching the planes flying out of the airport one day when I was about 5 years old. I asked my mother why we never flew on airplanes. Her response was that only rich people flew on airplanes. Today it is rare to find anyone who has never flown on an airplane. I arrange travel for people to fly across the country or internationally as casually as if we were arranging for them to drive across town.

With the amazing progress that has been made in my lifetime, from propeller planes to the sophisticated planes we build today, it will be exciting to see what the next 50 years brings.

—Debbie Eustice, Kent, Wash.

I remember [U.S.] President [John F.] Kennedy's speech that the United States would put a man on the moon in 10 years. It happened in nine.

I have worked for Boeing about 18 years. I cannot imagine what the future will bring but as long as man can dream and has the will and the time, then there are no limitations.

—James Jenson, Winnipeg, Manitoba

I am proud to work in an industry that encourages and inspires humans to achieve as pioneers in discovery. I think working in aerospace is in my blood, since my father was a pilot, as are many family members. Even though I don't pilot airplanes myself, knowing I help countless others, even those generations ahead of me, touch the sky, truly inspires me. Discovery and exploration is what gets me up in the morning, and I hope the contributions to human spaceflight that my colleagues and I make will touch many lives.

—Lucie Delheimer, Houston

Since I was a boy I have studied and read everything about the Wrights I could get my hands on, built models of their Flyer and visited their hometown. Without doubt, God sometimes touches certain people and gives them special gifts to accomplish tasks. Anyone who has studied the brothers as I have appreciates what they went through to bring powered flight to the world.

Neither had a college degree; in fact, neither stuck around for high school graduation. Yet they realized that all aeronautical data collected to that point in time was wrong. They did not just invent the airplane, they invented aeronautics. The Flyer did not fly by hit-and-miss but after four years of careful planning, experimentation and knowledge.

—Dave McGougan, St. Louis

Individuals today have lost the ability to make things that work. I am one of a small group who enjoy building rubber band-powered model airplanes that fly for several minutes indoors. People often stop to watch in fascination, and then ask, "Where can I buy one?" We explain that they are not available for sale but are easy and fun to build from plans. Despite their obvious interest, the prospect of having to build an airplane from balsa sticks and tissue invariably appears to be too daunting.

Contrast this attitude with the industrious creativity of the Wright Brothers and similar pioneers of their era.

—Gene Stubbs, Everett, Wash.

We have come a long way in 100 years. The impact of the ease of spanning the globe has been tremendous for all mankind. Though the last 20 or so years the innovation has not been as dramatic as before. I hope this is a reminder for our aerospace industry and government to keep promoting the new and untried. I then foresee beautiful horizons for our endeavors in this wonderful industry in the 21st century.

—Freddy Hagens, Renton, Wash.

Powered flight has reached its current state of routine, almost bus-like service because we have historically been risk takers. Sadly, that quality is vanishing. Today, if you break a developmental aircraft, there are congressional inquiries, investigations, panels formed and accusations made, and lawsuits.

Those of us who were around during the dawning of the space age, during which it was a weekly occurrence to watch the latest military launch explode on the pad or shortly after liftoff, know that today all those programs—the Atlas, the Jupiter, the Thor, Polaris—would have been canceled as wastes of military budgets. But we knew then, as we should know now, that the only prerequisite for success is failure. Unless an environment of greater tolerance for risk is reestablished, our future leaps will instead be cautious dips of the business toe into the bathtub of the possible.

—James Muri, Auburn, Wash.

I recently attended my aunt's 100th birthday celebration in Hawaii. She was born in Hawaii two months before the Wright Brothers flew their heavier-than-air powered plane in 1903.

Asked what was the most significant technological event in her lifetime, she said she still cannot believe that people can fly anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. She clearly remembers the first time she flew to California in a Boeing 707 jet, and she cherishes her last flight, to Nebraska at age 95 to visit her new great-grandson. She is amazed that a plane as big as the Boeing 747 can even fly.

In her 100 years, she has witnessed a man on the moon, the Space Shuttle, and the discoveries of the Hubble Telescope—all this because of the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk.

—Gordon Saiki, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Imagine an aviation expert from 2003 trying to explain to Wilbur and Orville in 1903 the innovations of the first century of powered flight. Then imagine an expert from 2103 trying to explain to today's innovators what the next century will bring. The task of the latter is likely to be much more difficult than that of the former.

The pace of technological innovation is moving at an ever-increasing rate. In the next 50 years Artificial Intelligence will advance science and inventions significantly faster than we humans could do it alone. From horse-and-buggy days to autonomous vehicles exploring the surface of Mars will be far less of a change (and a challenge to explain or cope with) than we can expect in the next century.

Hang on to your hat. It's bound to be a wild ride!

—Daryl Heinzerling, Renton, Wash.

Growing up in the 1950s, my father would sometimes take my family to the Los Angeles airport to watch the planes take off and land. On one such trip, my two brothers, mother, father and I watched a different type of aircraft take off. It caused my mother to hang on the fence, shaking, in tears. The noise was deafening as it flew just a few feet over us. It was the first commercial jet I had ever seen. We thought the noise and pressure would tear us apart!

I have worked in manufacturing for 45 years now, most of it in aerospace. I still recall the thrill of seeing that jet aircraft take off!

—Joseph Taminich, Macon, Ga.

Gordon Flygare and his father Like father, like son

Here's a picture of two serious aviators in 1940. My father and I are with a North American O-47B.

Dad joined the 109th Observation Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard in the early 1930s, and when he was activated in 1940, Mother and I followed him to Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia until he went overseas in 1942. Dad retired from the Air Force in 1964. I was in the Air Force from 1956 to 1984 and have been with Boeing since then.

I'm not a bit surprised that more than 60 years later I'm still in love with airplanes, just as I was then.

—Gordon Flygare, Midwest City, Okla.

Letters guidelines

Boeing Frontiers provides the letters page for readers to state their opinions. The page is intended to encourage an exchange of ideas and information that stimulates dialogue on issues or events in the company or the aerospace industry. The opinions may not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company. Letters must include name, organization and a telephone number for verification purposes. Frontiers may edit letters for grammar, syntax and size.

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