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R.I.P.: Boeing’s Joe Sutter, ‘Father of the 747’

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Boeing engineer Joe Sutter, the “Father of the 747,” takes a turn in the pilot’s seat. (Credit: Boeing file)

Boeing engineer Joe Sutter, who led the engineering team for the 747 jet in the mid-1960s and played a role in the investigation of the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986, died this morning at the age of 95.

His passing was announced online by Ray Conner, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The cause of death was not mentioned.

Sutter’s role in creating Boeing’s biggest passenger jet earned him the title of “Father of the 747.” His 4,500-member team came to be known as “the Incredibles” for putting the plane into production 29 months after it was conceived.

“It remains a staggering achievement and a testament to Joe’s ‘incredible’ determination,” Conner wrote.

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Boeing trims back 747 jet production

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A Boeing 747-8 jet is assembled at the company’s factory in Everett. (Credit: Boeing)

The Boeing Co. says it will cut back the production rate for its 747 jets to one every two months and report an $885 million pre-tax charge against earnings, due to the slower-than-expected recovery of the air cargo market.

“Global air passenger traffic growth and airplane demand remain strong, but the air cargo market recovery that began in late 2013 has stalled in recent months and slowed demand for the 747-8 Freighter,” Ray Conner, Boeing vice chairman and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Jan. 21 in a news release.

He voiced confidence that business would pick up for the 747-8 jet as companies replace their older 747-400 freight airplanes, but said cutting back production was a “prudent step to further align production with current market requirements.”

Some observers were less sanguine about the 747’s prospects.

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