The name Joe Sutter might ring a bell for those who have been in love with civil aviation for some time now. Joe is indeed considered to be the father of one of the most iconic commercial aircraft of all time, the Boeing 747. Sadly enough, last December marked the end of an era as the very last Boeing 747 rolled out of Boeing’s production line in Everett, Washington. A Joe Sutter decal has been attached to the last jumbo jet to celebrate the genius behind this astounding aeronautical engineering project that lasted for over 50 years. Let’s have a look at how the celebratory decal suits the last Queen of the Skies ever to be produced.

A Joe Sutter decal to pay tribute to the father of the “Queen of the Skies”

December 2022 was a particularly tough month for commercial aviation geeks. Indeed, Boeing dismissed the production of one of the most loved commercial aircraft of all time, the Boeing 747. This aircraft, also known as “jumbo” for its majestic size, was not an ordinary aircraft but a real masterpiece that conquered the heart of aviation enthusiasts and millions of passengers worldwide.

British Airways (Landor Retro Livery) Boeing 747-436 G-BNLY (3)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Joe Sutter, the father of the jumbo jet, has come to be considered more a hero than the head engineer who played a pivotal role in the development of the Boeing 747 project. To celebrate his genius, a Joe Sutter decal has been applied on the front, right-handed side of the very last jumbo jet ever to be produced. The aircraft, with registration N863GT, has been delivered to one of the leading contract freighter operators, Atlas Air, which will fly the last Boeing 747 on a wet lease basis for the cargo company Kuehne+Nagel after it has completed all test flights.

Why is Joe Sutter considered the father of the Boeing 747?

March 21st, 1921 marks the day Joseph “Joe” Sutter was born. After achieving a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Wahington in 1943, Sutter served in the US Navy during World War II. With such a brilliant academic and professional background, Sutter became a highly sought-after candidate for aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing and Douglas. Joe eventually decided to join Boeing, which was determined to path the way to the jet era in commercial aviation with the launch of the Boeing 707.

After some time spent working on the Boeing 707 and some other narrowbodies projects, Sutter was appointed head engineer for the ambitious Boeing 747 project. Sutter led a team of approximately 4,500 engineers, who worked tirelessly to define every little detail of the jet that was about to change the fate of commercial aviation forever. In February 1969, the first jumbo jet took to the skies for a test flight. The following January, it entered service with the airline that had commissioned Boeing with the double-decker aircraft, Pan American Airways. Over 54 years, Boeing manufactured 1,574 jumbo jets. And it is precisely on the side of the 1,574th Boeing 747 that the Joe Sutter decal has been applied, together with a payoff that reads “forever incredible“, like the aircraft he managed to design and bring to the skies of the whole world.

Atlas Air is, however, not the first airline to celebrate Sutter’s accomplishment. Another cargo carrier, Cargolux, which operates an all-Boeing 747 fleet (28 aircraft, according to ch-aviation), has already applied a decal similar to the one featured on the last jumbo jet on its almost eight-year-old Boeing 747-8 with registration LX-VCL.

Some interesting facts about Joe Sutter

According to Boeing, Joe Sutter had his own favorite picture of the Boeing 747. In this picture, one of the very first Boeing 747s is flying by a snow-capped mount, which happens to be Mount Rainier, in the US state of Washington.

What you might not know about this picture is that this is the traditional picture of a Boeing aircraft. Indeed, all jets Boeing has manufactured have been immortalized in a picture featuring Mount Rainier in the background, which has become a sort of ambassador for the manufacturer. Boeing’s affection for this mount translates into the fact that, internally, it is called “Mount Boeing”.

Joe Sutter died in August 2016, aged 95. However, his legacy still animates Boeing in various ways. First, the manufacturer has dedicated its main engineering building for commercial aircraft to the father of the Queen of the Skies. Additionally, Joe’s grandson, Jon, also works for Boeing. More precisely, there has continuously been a Sutter at Boeing since 1940, when Joe’s brother started working for the aircraft manufacturer, followed by Joe in 1945.

Jon refers to the Boeing 747 as a game-changer that thoroughly revolutionized the world of commercial aviation. Indeed, with its state-of-the-art technology and passenger capacity, the Queen of the Skies significantly impacted aviation economics, lowering per-seat costs, enabling carriers to lower their fares, and, thus, increasing traffic. Additionally, as underlined by Jon, not only did the Boeing 747 represent a milestone in the development of commercial air travel, but it is also a very recognizable jet. Even the least interested person in commercial aviation probably knows what a jumbo is. Its shape and elegance have attracted the attention of millions of passengers over the centuries, children and adults, who have stopped to stare at the beauty of this majestic aircraft while parked at the airport or flying above their heads.

KLM Boeing 747-406(M) PH-BFW (1)-1

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Did you know the story of Joe Sutter? Let us know by clicking on the comment button below!

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    Key Product Lines:
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