The Man Who Built The 747
It was certainly
something new in 1966 when Malcom Stamper was approached by
then-Boeing CEO Bill Allen.
"How would you like to build an airplane — in fact, the
biggest airplane in the world?" Allen asked, according to "Legend
and Legacy," a history of Boeing written by Robert Serling.
"Mr. Allen, the only airplane I ever built had rubber bands on
it," Stamper said.
"Do you or do you not?" demanded Allen.
"I'd welcome the challenge," Mr. Stamper replied.
And a challenge it was. Boeing put its future on the line for
the 747 -- as did Stamper. He oversaw the construction of the
world's biggest factory in Everett, WA, to build the jumbo jet.
Even years later, Stamper was awed by his company's creation.
"I get an emotional
pull when I see one fly," he told the Seattle Times just before
retiring in 1985. "I go into a trance. It's still very magical to
me that people could put all that inanimate stuff -- aluminum,
copper, wire, rubber and plastic -- together and make it
Stamper died Tuesday of prostate cancer in Seattle. He was
While Boeing was certainly the focus of his life between 1972
and 1985, Stamper did have other driving interests. He climbed
Mount Ranier. He ran for Congress. He skied in the Arctic and
served on the boards of several corporations. But perhaps next to
Boeing, his greatest love was for children's books. After retiring
from the aerospace business, Stamper read a book written by his
son, Jamie. He fell in love with it -- so much so that, along with
wife Mari, he started a company to publish it.
"He thought books about animals conveyed some good messages to
children, messages of compassion and respect and responsibility,"
Judy Golden, president of the Boston-based foundation Operation
Outreach-USA, told the Times Thursday. Her operation has
distributed 1.8 million free books and helps about 60,000 children
A sentimental and gentle man, Malcom Stamper has gone west,
where airplanes fly unfettered and children always have something
good to read. Happy trails, Malcom.