William Boeing reportedly takes his first airplane ride on July 4, 1915.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 11/22/1998
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 367
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.


Sources: 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.

Related Topics:   Aviation | Business | Firsts

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You