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Joe Sutter, the 'father of the 747,' dies at 95

Sutter led the engineering team that developed the world's first jumbo jet, as well as being involved with creation of several other iconic aircraft.


Joe Sutter, who led the engineering team that developed Boeing's 747, has died at 95.


Joe Sutter, regarded by Boeing as the "father of the 747," died Tuesday at the age of 95.

Sutter, whose death was reported by the aerospace giant, led the engineering team that developed the world's first jumbo jet in the mid-1960s. He was also involved in the development of other iconic commercial aircrafts, including the 707 and the 737. But it was the 747 that "secured his place in history," the company said.

Sutter was "one of the giants of aerospace," Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said in a tribute posted to the company's website.

"His team, along with thousands of other Boeing employees involved in the project, became known as the Incredibles for producing what was then the world's largest airplane in record time -- 29 months from conception to rollout," Conner said. "It remains a staggering achievement."

The 747 made its commercial debut in 1970 with Pan Am and held the passenger capacity record until 2007, when it was dethroned by the Airbus 380. With the advent of supersonic airliners, the 747 was expected to be rendered obsolete after a production of about 400 planes. But as of 2016, the company had delivered more than 1,500 aircraft.

Born in Seattle on March 21, 1921, Sutter took a summer job at a Boeing plant in 1940 while studying at the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1943. During World War II, Sutter served as a junior officer in the US Navy, and in later life was part of the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.

In 2011, to mark his 90th birthday, Boeing renamed the main engineering building for its commercial airplanes division after Sutter.