Joe Sutter

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Joe Sutter
Joe Sutter
Born (1921-03-21) 21 March 1921 (age 95)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Education Aeronautical engineering
Alma mater University of Washington, B.S. 1943
Employer Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Known for Chief engineer for the development of the Boeing 747
Notable work 747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation
Spouse(s) Nancy French [1]
Children Gabrielle, Jonathan, Adrienne
Parent(s) Franc Suhadolc (father), Rosa (mother)
Awards United States Medal of Technology (1985)
Daniel Guggenheim Medal (1990)
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aircraft Award
Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy[2]

Joseph F. "Joe" Sutter (born March 21, 1921 in Seattle, Washington) is a former engineer for the Boeing Airplane Company and manager of the design team for the Boeing 747 under Malcolm T. Stamper, the head of the 747 project.[3] Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine has described Sutter as "The father of the 747".[4]

Early life[edit]

Sutter was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in the vicinity of Boeing's Seattle plant. He is of Slovenian descent — his father, Franc Suhadolc (1879–1945) from Dobrova, Slovenia, came to America because of gold fever. Sutter attended the University of Washington and graduated with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1943.[5]


In 1940, Sutter took a summer job at Boeing Plant 2 while studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington. He eventually ended up becoming the "father of the 747".[6] Aside from his work at Boeing, Sutter served as a junior officer aboard the destroyer escort USS Edward H. Allen (DE-531) in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Later life[edit]

Sutter served on the Rogers Commission, investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He was also selected as a recipient of The International Air Cargo Association's 2002 Hall of Fame Award and is now an engineering sales consultant.[7][8] As of July 2010, he is a member of the Boeing Senior Advisory Group which is studying a clean sheet replacement of the Boeing 737 or to re-engine the current design.[9] For decades, he has resided in West Seattle. In 2011, on his 90th birthday, Boeing's 40-87 building in Everett, WA, the main engineering building for Boeing Commercial Airplanes division, was renamed the Joe Sutter building.


Aviation author and historian Jay Spenser worked closely with Sutter for 18 months to write his autobiography, entitled 747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation (ISBN 0-06-088241-7). It was published by Smithsonian Books/HarperCollins as a hardcover in 2006 and as a paperback in 2007. This book tells of Sutter's childhood and describes his life and 40-year career at Boeing.

The book details Sutter's tenure as chief engineer of the development of the 747 and elaborates on its design, manufacturing, testing, certification, and delivery to the world's airlines. The book also describes subsequent models of the 747 and the two major-derivative updates to the type, the 747-400 of 1989, and the 747-8.[10]


For his contributions to the development of commercial jet aircraft, he was awarded the United States Medal of Technology in 1985.[11]


External links[edit]