Elrey Borge Jeppesen

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"Elrey" redirects here. It is not to be confused with El Rey or ElRay.

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 developed manuals and charts that allowed pilots to fly much more safely.


Elrey as a youth, dreaming about flying

He was born on January 28, 1907, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. His parents were immigrants from Denmark. His father was a cabinetmaker. He grew up in Odell, Oregon, before moving to Portland.[1] As a child, he watched eagles flying for hours and flying became his obsession.[2] In 1921, then 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 $4.[3][4]

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".[3][5] He soloed after two hours and 15 minutes of flying lessons and purchased his own Jenny for $500,[3] using money borrowed from customers on his newspaper route.[2] For two years beginning in 1928, he worked for Fairchild Aerial Surveys, flying photographers over Mexico in a De Haviland DH-4.[3][5] That same year, the United States government issued its first pilot's licenses; Jeppesen had Oregon's 27th license, and it was signed by Orville Wright.[2] In 1930, he joined Boeing Air Transport as an airmail pilot.[3] According to one source, on May 15, 1930, he was the pilot of the flight carrying the first stewardess, Ellen Church.[4] (Heinrich Kubis was the first male flight attendant in 1912.)

Pilots at that time depended on Rand McNally automobile road maps, railroad tracks and landmarks to find their way.[3][6] Jeppesen purchased a ten-cent notebook and started writing down detailed notes about his routes.[2] He even climbed hills to determine their height and collected telephone numbers of farmers willing to provide weather reports.[5] Word got around about his "Little Black Book", and soon he was giving copies to his fellow pilots.[3] As demand picked up, in 1934, he founded Jeppesen & Co. in the basement of his Salt Lake City home to sell his information for $10 a copy.[7]

On September 24, 1936, Jeppesen married his flight attendant, Nadine Liscomb.[3] She helped him run his company.

He was involved in an accident at Denver Municipal Airport on June 10, 1941. While landing in a rainstorm, the United DC-3 aircraft overran the landing area, travelled through the airport boundary lights and into a 3-foot (0.91 m) ditch where the right landing gear failed. None of the crew or 15 passengers was injured, but the aircraft incurred major damage.[8][9]

With the onset of World War II, the United States Army and Navy kept Jeppesen busy supplying them with his charts. Jeppesen retired from United Airlines (into which Boeing Air Transport had merged) in 1954.[3] He sold his company in 1961, though he stayed on as chairman.[3]

He died on November 26, 1996.[10]


The Jeppesen company continues to exist today, currently as a subsidiary of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, which acquired the business in October 2000.[11]

There is 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. The main terminal is also named in his honor.[2] Around the base of the statue is the accolade: ″Airmail Pilot - Airline Captain - Wing Walker - Air Navigation Pioneer - Barnstormer - Air Safety Pioneer - Businessman - Instructor".

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. ^ Bedell, Tom (2011). "2011 Oregon Hall of Fame" (PDF). Oregon Aviation Historical Society. 20 (2). 
  2. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Jr., Robert (November 28, 1996). "Elrey B. Jeppesen, Pilots' Friend, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dumovich, Eve (2005). "The early adventures of Captain Jepp". Boeing Frontiers. 4 (4). 
  4. ^ a b Cary Baird (February 2007). "New Book Marks Jeppesen's 100th Birthday". Archived from the original on June 27, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Elrey Borge Jeppesen: Pioneer". Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register. June 3, 2007. Retrieved August 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Elrey B. Jeppesen: CAHS Honored in 1970". Colorado Aviation Historical Society. Retrieved August 25, 2012. 
  7. ^ Griffin, Dawsalee (2009). "Charting the course" (PDF). Boeing Frontiers. 8 (7). 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ "DOT Special Library Collection, Aviation Accidents". US DOT National Transportation Library. US Government. 
  10. ^ "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. ... 
  11. ^ Historic timeline of the Jeppesen company
  12. ^ "Museum Archives". Museum of Flight. 
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.

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