Running to Catch a Glimpse

By Scott Dort

June 2016

When I was a young boy growing up outside Chicago (long before it would become Boeing's corporate headquarters) and O'Hare airport, I learned at a young age how to identify just about every airliner from the ground. The 707 had four engines, the 727 had three engines, and the little 737 had only two and so on.

Those old turbojet and low-bypass turbofan engines put out a lot smoke and noise when they would fly over my folks' house in Elmhurst, Ill. That's a far contrast from what we see today from our smokeless, whisper-quiet planes, especially the 787.

As with most things in life, the planes became routine and ordinary. It was really all I had ever known, but the newspapers (no Internet yet) started talking about a new, even bigger Boeing plane that would be showing up soon over the skies of Chicago.

I remember the first time I saw a 747. I was doing some yardwork for my dad on an otherwise quiet Saturday morning. Nothing too special until we all heard that unmistakable deep-pitch grind of a JT9D high-bypass turbofan. We had no idea what it was until it emerged above the rooftops of our suburban neighborhood painted in the unmistakable United Airlines livery paint scheme.

It was and still is a remarkable plane. The hump on top of the forward fuselage, the extra landing gear boogies, and the massive four engines were unmistakable. There was nothing else like it.

The amazing thing about this event, besides the airplane itself, was that everyone as far as the eye could see would run outside to get a glimpse of this new amazing plane. That would go on for weeks until the newness wore off, but I don't think the 747 has ever really lost that celebrity status.

From that point on in my life, I knew I'd be a part of the aerospace community -- reading all I could gather on planes, getting a private pilot's license in high school and going off to Parks College of Saint Louis University to study aerospace engineering, and ultimately getting a job at The Boeing Company.

Thanks, Boeing. We make more than planes. We make history.