Elrey Borge Jeppesen

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Jeppesen, before 1923

Elrey Borge Jeppesen (January 28, 1907 – November 26, 1996) was an American aviation pioneer noted for his contributions in the field of air navigation. He worked as a pilot and began making detailed notes about his routes at a time when aviators had to rely on little more than automobile road maps and landmarks for navigation. He created manuals and charts that enabled pilots to fly much more safely. Finding there was a demand for his work, he founded the Jeppesen company in 1934 to sell what he had developed.


Jeppesen at age 13 or less (picture taken no later than 1920)

Jeppesen was born on January 28, 1907, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States. His parents were immigrants from Denmark. His father, Jens Hans Jeppesen, was an architect and builder trained in Denmark. Elrey grew up on a farm that his father had cleared and homesteaded in Odell, Oregon, before moving to Portland.

As a child, Jeppesen would spend hours watching eagles fly, and flying became his obsession.[1] In 1921, 14-year-old Jeppesen got his first taste of flying when a barnstormer took him up in a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" for a ten-minute flight for US$4 (equivalent to $61 in 2021).[2][3]

In 1925, at the age of 18, he joined Tex Rankin's Flying Circus "as a ticket taker, a prop turner, a wing walker and an aerial acrobat".[2][4] He soloed after two hours and 15 minutes of flying lessons and purchased his own Jenny for $500,[2] using money borrowed from customers on his newspaper route.[1] For two years beginning in 1928, he worked for Fairchild Aerial Surveys, flying photographers to map Mexico in a De Haviland DH-4.[2][4] That same year, the United States government issued its first pilot's licenses; Jeppesen had Oregon's 27th license.[citation needed] His pilot license number is 7034 and was signed by Orville Wright.[1] His Mexican pilot license is 34.[citation needed]

In 1930, Jeppesen joined Boeing Air Transport as an airmail pilot.[2] According to one source, on May 15, 1930, he was the pilot of the flight carrying the first stewardess, Ellen Church.[3] (Heinrich Kubis had been the first male flight attendant in 1912.)

While airway beacons assisted aerial navigation on specific routes, most pilots at that time depended on dead reckoning, generally using automobile road maps (such as those from oil companies or commercial mapmakers), railroad tracks and landmarks to find their way.[2][5] Jeppesen purchased a ten-cent notebook and started writing down detailed notes about his routes.[1] He even climbed hills to determine their height and collected telephone numbers of farmers willing to provide weather reports.[4] Word got around about his "Little Black Book", and soon he was giving copies to his fellow pilots.[2] Jeppesen was the first to design enroute procedures, let down procedures, approach procedures, and the all-important, missed approach procedure.[citation needed] If the weather was bad and visibility dropped to zero, if the Jeppesen Airway Manual had a missed approach procedure for that particular airport, the pilot could use it to determine what heading to turn to, how to miss any mountains and how high to climb. Today, all airlines use the Jeppesen Airway Manual for navigation.[citation needed]

In 1934, as demand picked up, Jeppesen founded Jeppesen & Co. in the basement of his Salt Lake City home to sell his information for $10 (equivalent to $203 in 2021) a copy.[6]

On September 24, 1936, Jeppesen married his flight attendant, Nadine Liscomb.[2] She helped him run his company.

On June 10, 1941, Jeppesen was involved in an accident at Denver Municipal Airport. While landing in a rainstorm, the United DC-3 aircraft overran the landing area, traveling through the airport boundary lights and into a 3-foot (1-metre) ditch where the right landing gear failed. Neither the crew nor any of the 15 passengers were injured, but the aircraft itself sustained major damage.[7]

In the 1940s, with the onset of World War II, the United States Army and Navy kept Jeppesen busy as he supplied them with his charts. Jeppesen retired from United Airlines (into which Boeing Air Transport had merged) in 1954.[2]

In 1961, Jeppesen sold his company, staying on as chairman.[2]

On November 26, 1996, Jeppesen died at the age of 89.[8]


The Jeppesen company continues to exist today, currently as a subsidiary of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, which acquired the business in October 2000.[9][10]

There was a 16-foot (4.9 m) statue of Jeppesen, by the artist George Lundeen, in the center of the main terminal at Denver International Airport. Around the base of the statue was the accolade: "Airmail Pilot - Airline Captain - Wing Walker - Air Navigation Pioneer - Barnstormer - Air Safety Pioneer - Businessman - Instructor". The main terminal is also named in his honor.[1] Jeppesen was the first passenger to disembark from the first flight to arrive at the new airport, United Flight 1474 from Colorado Springs.[11]

The Museum of Flight holds the Elrey B. Jeppesen Collection in its archives. A facsimile of the Little Black Book is also on display in the museum's galleries.[12]



  1. ^ a b c d e Thomas Jr., Robert (November 28, 1996). "Elrey B. Jeppesen, Pilots' Friend, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dumovich, Eve (2005). "The early adventures of Captain Jepp". Boeing Frontiers. 4 (4).
  3. ^ a b Baird, Cary (February 2007). "New Book Marks Jeppesen's 100th Birthday". Archived from the original on June 27, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Elrey Borge Jeppesen: Pioneer". Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register. June 3, 2007. Archived from the original on March 30, 2015. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  5. ^ "Elrey B. Jeppesen: CAHS Honored in 1970". Colorado Aviation Historical Society. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  6. ^ Griffin, Dawsalee (2009). "Charting the course" (PDF). Boeing Frontiers. 8 (7).
  7. ^ "DOT Special Library Collection, Aviation Accidents". US DOT National Transportation Library. US Government. Archived from the original on 2016-08-27.
  8. ^ "E. B. Jeppesen, Pioneer Flier, Dies At Home". Rocky Mountain News. November 27, 1996. Retrieved 2011-11-26. Elrey Borge Jeppesen, the pioneering pilot who charted the skies and made an indelible mark on aviation history, died at his home Tuesday. He was 89. ...
  9. ^ "The Boeing Company – Jeppesen". Jeppesen. Retrieved 2020-06-04. Jeppesen is a subsidiary of The Boeing Company
  10. ^ "Historic timeline of the Jeppesen company". Archived from the original on 2008-12-16. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  11. ^ Powell, Erin; Sylte, Allison (February 27, 2020). "Literally just 113 facts about DIA". KUSA.
  12. ^ "Museum Archives". Museum of Flight.
  13. ^ Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1-57864-397-4.
  14. ^ a b c "Jeppesen, Elrey Borge: Entrepreneur". National Aviation Hall of Fame.
  15. ^ Holmes, Charles W., Editor, Honoree Album of the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, The Colorado Aviation Historical Society, p.27, 1999, Audubon Media Corp., Audubon, Iowa.
  16. ^ The Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor, established by Oregon Department of Aviation in 2003, is located at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
  17. ^ "Meritorious Service to Aviation Award". National Business Aviation Association.
  18. ^ "The Edward Warner Award ... A Commemoration of Greatness". International Civil Aviation Organization.
  19. ^ "Past Recipients". Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society.

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