The Boeing Company, perhaps contrary to popular belief, did not quickly or easily skyrocket to top of the aviation market; in fact, the company suffered several significant setbacks that would have caused many to throw up their hands and close their doors. Founder William Boeing would not be dissuaded or deterred, however.
In 1923, The Boeing Company started to turn around and began its transformation from a struggling company to an aviation powerhouse. What sparked its upward mobility? A dose of healthy competition: The race to design and build the best Army Air Service pursuit fighter biplane had begun, and pitted Boeing against another aircraft innovator, Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.
Beating Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. would be no mean feat. The company, formed in New York in 1916 and headed by President Glenn Hammond Curtiss, was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States throughout the 1920s and 1930s. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor’s history is also fascinating.)
The Boeing Company prepared for battle with Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. The prize for victory was the first Army Air Service contract, and with it came the opportunity to build pursuit fighters. Ultimately, Curtiss Aeroplane’s design won the company the contract. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop Boeing!
Six months later, The Boeing Company unveiled its Model 15 (PW-9) pursuit biplane, which propelled the company into a decade of prosperity as the premier producer of military air fighters. In fact, Boeing went on to sell to the U.S. military 586 of a later model pursuit aircraft, the P-12/F4B, operated by the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy. This geek’s retelling of an aviation giant’s history is not yet over—there’s more to come!