EVERETT — Joe Sutter, known as the “Father of the 747,” a plane often called the “Queen of the Skies,” died Tuesday.
He was 95. His death was announced by Ray Conner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive officer.
In a message sent Tuesday afternoon to all Boeing employees, Conner said: “We lost one of the giants of aerospace and a beloved member of the Boeing family.
“Joe was loved. He made a difference in the world. He made a difference to us. We will miss him and cherish our time with him.”
The 747, with its characteristic hump, might be the world’s most iconic jetliner. It revolutionized long-haul flying, connecting far-flung destinations with one flight. The fact the 747 required an enormous new factory brought Boeing to Everett.
Everett workers have produced more than 1,500 747s since production began in 1967. An estimated 3.5 billion passengers have flown on 747s.
“Joe lived an amazing life and was an inspiration — not just to those of us at Boeing, but to the entire aerospace industry,” Conner’s statement said. “He personified the ingenuity and passion for excellence that made Boeing airplanes synonymous with quality the world over.”
Sutter led the engineering team that developed the 747 in the mid-1960s. Conner said that Sutter’s team, along with thousands of Boeing employees, became known as The Incredibles. They produced what was then the world’s largest airplane in record time — 29 months from conception to rollout.
“It remains a staggering achievement and a testament to Joe’s incredible determination,” Conner said.
Sutter remained active in the company after he retired, serving as a consultant to the Commercial Airplanes Senior Advisory Group. Conner said he was a familiar sight to many people working at the company. “His hair was white and he moved a little slower, but he always had a twinkle in his eye, a sharp mind and an unwavering devotion to aerospace innovation and The Boeing Company,” Conner said.
Sutter helped celebrate the company’s centennial at the Founders Day weekend last month.
In a 2014 interview in The Herald, Sutter said, “We knew we designed a good airplane because we listened to what the customer said they wanted.
“When you see a 747 taking off from Seattle to go to London with 350 people on it, or see a freighter carrying relief supplies halfway around the world after a typhoon, you know you’ve done some good for the world,” Sutter said.
Herald reporter Dan Catchpole contributed.