On July 4, 1915, pilot Terah Maroney gives airplane rides to William E. Boeing (1881-1956) and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Conrad Westervelt in a small seaplane based on Lake Washington. Some historians doubt this date because it was a Sunday, and believe Boeing's first flight occurred later. Regardless, inspired by their first taste of flight, Boeing and Westervelt would join forces to found what would become the Boeing Airplane Company in 1916.
Boeing had been fascinated with flight since January 1910, when he attended the first U.S. air races in Los Angeles. He also may have witnessed Charles Hamilton's aerial demonstrations later that year at the Meadows Race Track, which marked the first airplane flight in Seattle.
Boeing and Westervelt met at Seattle's College Club in the summer of 1915. Discovering their mutual interest in flight, they resolved to find a pilot who would take them up. Two years after this inaugural flight, Boeing and Westervelt built their first plane, the "B&W," and founded the Pacific Aero-Products Co. in 1916, which became The Boeing Company.
Harold Mansfield, Vision: The Story of Boeing (New York: Popular Press, 1966), 7-11; Robert Serling, Legend & Legacy: The Story of Boeing and Its People (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), 1-2.
Note: The original version of this essay incorrectly stated the year of Boeing's first flight as 1914 (based on Mansfield, who interviewed Conrad Westervelt in 1956). Site visitor Jules James and Boeing archivist Mike Lombardi aided HistoryLink in confirming that W. E. Boeing more likely took his first airplane flight on July 4, 1915, a date also reported in the August 30, 1915, edition of Aerial Age Weekly. However, other historians such as Paul Spitzer are not convinced because July 4 fell on a Sunday in 1915 and pilots such as Maroney would have been in high demand for demonstration flights. The file was corrected on August 24, 2001, and emended again on June 12, 2006.
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