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Frontiers November 2012 Issue

struck a deal: The Renton site was handed over to the Army Air Force, and in return the Navy received 700 Kansas-built North American B-25 Mitchell bombers. The Army constructed an airfield next to the plant, and on Dec. 30, 1943, a B-29 called the “Renton Girl” became the first of thousands of Boeing planes to make their first flight from the airfield. The production system devised to assemble the B-29 was one of the most modern in the world, making it possible for Boeing workers in Renton to achieve an amazing production record of 160 B-29s during July 1945. After the war the plant reverted to government use, but Boeing returned in 1949 to build the C-97 Stratofreighter and later the KC-97, the first production aerial refueling tanker. Next came one of the most important airplanes in aviation history. Boeing model number 367-80, or the “Dash 80” as it would be called, rolled out from the Renton plant in 1954 and was christened by Bertha Boeing, wife of company founder William Boeing. The Dash 80 led to two different airplanes: the Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, the first jet tanker, and the 707. Although the British De Havilland Comet was the world’s first commercial jet transport, it was not a success. The 707 was, and it ushered in the new age of commercial jet travel. Renton produced every 707 and KC-135. The plant also built all of the 727 commercial jets that followed, the first of which rolled out 50 years ago this month, in November 1962. That same year Boeing purchased the Renton plant from the Air Force. In 1970, in response to a severe economic downturn, all single-aisle airplane programs were consolidated in Renton, including the 737, which was moved from the Thompson site on Boeing Field. The same economic downturn led the company to try a number of diversification programs, including hydrofoil boats. Renton built six USS Pegasus-class hydrofoil missile ships for the U.S. Navy, as well as 24 commercial jetfoils. The airplane business turned up in the 1980s and Renton launched the single-aisle 757. Along with the Everett-built twin- aisle 767, these jets introduced the two-pilot “glass cockpit” to commercial jetliners, referring to the flight deck’s use of more automated, electronic flight instrument displays. Today, the Renton site continues to make history. Nearing 10,000 deliveries, the 737 will soon pass the production record of the legendary DC-3. Douglas produced 10,629 DC-3s and its military variant the C-47. Nearing 10,000 deliveries, the 737 Renton also is producing another aircraft in the original building will soon pass the production built by the Navy in 1941. This 737-based military derivative is the P-8A Poseidon, a submarine hunter and maritime patrol aircraft. record of the legendary DC-3. After 70 years, the historic plant is finally building long-range patrol planes for the U.S. Navy. n PHOTOS: (Top) The first of 1,050 Boeing 757s rolls out of the michael.j.lombardi@boeing.com Renton, Wash., plant. (Above) U.S. Navy Pegasus-class hydrofoil missile ships under construction at Renton. BOEING ARCHIVES BOEING FRONTIERS / NOVEMBER 2012 11


Frontiers November 2012 Issue
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