April 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 11 
Letters to the Editor

The legacy of Howard Hughes

Editor's note: The February 2005 Historical Perspective article on Howard Hughes' contributions to aviation generated significant reader feedback. Here's a sample of the comments we received.

April FrontiersAfter having seen the movie "The Aviator," I found your rational, balanced article on Howard Robard Hughes very refreshing. Here in Summerlin, Nev., the public library has a photo montage of Hughes' life that shows Hughes in various dignified, elegant poses at work with various executives. Your story supports that positive view as well.

The movie "The Aviator" portrays Hughes as a boyish, compulsive psychotic, who is obsessed with various forms of nightmarish behavior, as played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Although I have never met Hughes, I cannot reconcile the two portrayals: one, a squeaky-voiced, boyish maniac as shown in the movie; the other, an elegant, relaxed-looking, urbane gentleman, as shown in the library montage. I tend to side with your well-researched description against the negative image shown in the movie.

Thank you for your article. It restores sanity to the story of Hughes' life.

—Frank M. Pelteson, Las Vegas, Nev.

I liked your portrayal of Hughes as a real contributor to aviation, despite his eccentricities. He was gifted in many fields, especially those involving complex technology such as aviation, movie production and airline operations. I wonder if the record-breaking coast-to-coast flight in a Connie is the same one as when he offered to take a girl to dinner in New York, and then flew a Connie solo with her in the right seat?

—Lorrin Peterson, Pahrump, Nev.

Your February 2005 issue was really outstanding. I especially want to thank you for the magnificent historical perspective on Howard Hughes. Indeed, his many significant contributions established him as a true pioneer across the aerospace spectrum.

—George J. Peters, St. Louis

You wrote an interesting article about Howard Hughes. In one of the paragraphs you mentioned that he purchased a Boeing Stratoliner. For the record, he also purchased a DC-6 from Douglas Aircraft and after that a DC-6A. There are some interesting stories about this, but they are too long to relate here. He was involved in so many activities that it is difficult to include everything.

—Eldon Price, Omaha, Neb.

In the spring of 1976, while serving in various Los Angeles Section AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics) committees, I was at a meeting where several other groups were also represented. It was a general community relations type of meeting.

One of the attendees was a minister who was planning to issue to his community a message on philanthropy and wanted to feature a famous philanthropist. He asked around for suggestions.

Since Howard Hughes had just died, I recommended he feature him. Oh, you should have seen his reaction! Howard Hughes? That, this, that, that ... man?

I replied yes, and here's why:

Philanthropy is doing good to or for mankind. (The minister agreed.) Howard Hughes had formed a humongous industrial empire where many thousands of smart people, most of them top scientists, worked, earned their living and supported families. Most importantly, the products of their work in aviation, space technology, electronics, lasers and medical fields were helping millions of people and would continue to do so in the years to come. Furthermore, that whole industrial behemoth was owned by the Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit entity. (The minister did not know that.)

I asked, is this not doing good for mankind? Is this not philanthropy? He did not think so.

How about Boeing Frontiers readers? How many would agree with me?

—Bill Haloulakos, Burbank, Calif.

Here's to Employee Involvement

Here's to Employee InvolvementWe just wanted to say thank you for all of the wonderful articles on the effectiveness and the personal empowerment that Employee Involvement brings to the working community. It was not long ago that our site here in Philadelphia was under consideration for closing. It is hard to believe that in just a few short years we went from possibly going out of business to being one of the most profitable sites in the Boeing family. This was because the folks here accepted the challenge to change their future, and our leadership was brave enough to let us try.

There is no greater tribute to the power of Employee Involvement and employee ownership than what has transpired here in Philadelphia. Our future is only limited by how we limit ourselves.

—Rich Faucher and Robert Roath, Philadelphia

The importance of perspective

This morning I read that [Airbus Chief Commercial Officer] John Leahy made a comment recently describing Airbus' planes as "Mercedes," compared with Boeing's "Fiat." Having once been an auto mechanic specializing in foreign cars, I feel that I can speak to the comparison with some authority.

Although both vehicles transport up to four people from point A to point B, a Fiat is a vehicle that is designed to be fuel efficient, economical to maintain and inexpensive to purchase. Meanwhile, a Mercedes is designed to be a "showy" vehicle that is expensive to maintain, expensive to purchase and not all that fuel efficient.

Being described to the European market as a Fiat may not be such a negative remark as it might appear on the surface, especially when made in comparison to a Mercedes. Commercial aircraft are vehicles that transport the general public from point A to point B as economically and efficiently as possible.

If I were a businessman running a fleet of taxis, I would buy Fiats.

—David Matthews, Kent, Wash.

A big idea: Shrink the 717

I hate to see that beautiful DC-9/MD-80/717 design die, but it doesn't have to. Boeing has been stretching designs for years, as did McDonnell Douglas. Why not turn that idea around and shrink the 717 so it can compete with those smaller regional jets?

—Dio-Alice Davis, Irvine, Calif.

One more for OAs-and the Hummingbird

I was reading the "Letters to the Editor" section in the March 2005 Boeing Frontiers and the quote from Irma Sessums really hit a nerve. She mentioned that she'd "like to see more articles about Office Administrators and how they contribute to the overall success of the company. We work extremely hard just like everyone else, and you never see anything about us." Wow, where should I start...

I don't think we need several articles, but maybe just one-and name it "The unsung heroes." I am the executive office administrator here at Boeing-Concept Exploration, formerly Frontier Systems, where we design, test, and manufacture the A160 Hummingbird [rotorcraft unmanned aerial vehicle]. Being the only OA to more than 100 people is not an easy task. The majority of these people are Frontier employees who were retained in the acquisition; none were prepared for the changes that lay ahead. Getting them acclimated to working in the Boeing world was a feat in itself, but here we are, and I am not 6 feet under!

Being the only OA, I felt redeemed when I read the article about the A160 in the December 2004 issue of Challenge, and there is nothing like watching the A160 fly. I get tears every time I think of how I helped all of these engineers and technicians, all masters at their craft, get to where we are today. It feels really good. I don't need an article, just let me see the A160 fly, and I'll be happy!

—Traci Starr, Irvine, Calif.


  • The Milestones on Page 54 of the March 2005 issue listed the wrong month for employees celebrating a service anniversary. The anniversaries should be for March.
  • A caption on Page 22 of the March 2005 issue misidentified the location of the photo. The photo was taken at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
  • A caption on Page 25 of the February 2005 issue misidentified the airplane being refueled. That airplane is a C-5.

Letters guidelines

Boeing Frontiers provides its 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. Letters may be edited for grammar, syntax and size.

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