Joe Sutter: the man who designed the Boeing 747

A tribute to Joseph ‘Joe’ Sutter, the ‘father’ of the 747 from a 2021 special publication on the Jumbo.

There is little doubt the Boeing 747 has transformed the aviation industry.  The iconic aircraft brought air travel to the masses and opened up affordable international flights that made the world significantly smaller.  However, the ‘Queen of the Skies’ would not have been possible without the ‘Incredibles’, the highly skilled and motivated 50,000-strong workforce that took just 29 months to design and build the world’s first widebody jet. 

In charge of this band of construction workers, mechanics, engineers, secretaries and administrators was Joseph ‘Joe’ Sutter, a role that earned him the moniker ‘the Father of the 747’. 


The Making of an Incredible

Born on March 21, 1921, Sutter was the son of a Slovenian immigrant working in the Seattle meat-packing industry.  His fascination with aviation started early, and his aeronautical engineering course at the University of Washington was funded by a paper round and a part-time summer job on the Boeing assembly line. 

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