Air Mail

By Steve Altus

August 2015

When I was 5, my father taught me to recognize aircraft types by the location and number of their engines, and to tell a 707 from a DC-8 from the "spike" pointing forward from the top of the tail.

When I was 8, I asked him what that spike was. He said, "I don't know, why don't you write to Boeing and ask them?" In retrospect, I'm surprised the letter -- addressed simply to "Boeing Company, Seattle, WA" -- even got through. But their response was amazing -- an apparently personally written letter (maybe they got this question a lot?) and a load of photos and stickers.

I wish I still had the letter, but I remember that it started out, "You have a sharp eye," before going on the describe HF (and other) antennas and communications. With it were a letter-sized photo of a 707 and postcards and stickers for the 707, 727, 737 and 747.

My passion for aviation likely would have been just as strong if my letter had gone into a black hole, but I had a special love for Boeing because of the response to that letter. The older I got, the occasional times I thought about it, the more impressed I was that they took a few minutes to respond to a little kid and send the haul of loot.

When I started working for Boeing, when I saw the passion that all my co-workers have for our industry and the products we contribute to it, it all became clear. I don't think I've met a Boeing employee who doesn't go out of their way to share their love of all things airplanes. I can imagine that things were exactly the same back in the 1970s when I wrote my letter. Working in this environment is inspiring, and I have no doubt it's a huge contributor to the quality of our products and services.