It’s been a century since William E. Boeing took the fortune he made in timber in the Pacific Northwest and invested it in the fledgling field of aviation but the company he founded has survived and prospered and been at the forefront of many of the 20th century’s aviation innovations. To celebrate that achievement I’ll share a look back at Boeing’s first hundred years and add a few of my most memorable Boeing flights.

Wanting to avoid a wicked case of jetlag flying to Tokyo several years ago I opted to drain my United Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flyer account to redeem for an award on All Nippon Airlines (ANA) whose Boeing 777 nonstop flight from San Francisco was equipped with a new business class that features cubicle-like private seats which fold down fully flat to allow a restful night sleep. Here’s a video review of the ‘staggered business class’ as it’s called on this aircraft.

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All Nippon Airways Review by Geek Beat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The in-flight service and dining aboard ANA was impeccable with a choice of western or Japanese cuisine served with very personal attention paid to each guest. A choice of warm or cold saké was offered with a corresponding brief description from the steward as to the subtle flavour differences from region-to-region. Needless to say I drank all the attention – and saké –  all in.

While sadly several global airlines have announced in the past year plans to phase the iconic Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet” out of their fleets it’s always been a pure pleasure to ascend the stairs to the upper deck and enjoy the business class service in this cozy space. My last visit to the upper deck was on a transatlantic trip to Madrid onboard British Airways who instead of having all passengers face forward seat them facing each other separated after takeoff by a privacy screen.

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photo by author

The upper upper deck comes with a few other perks such as the handy storage cabinets beneath the windows which is far more convenient that stowing carry-on items in the overhead bin. The champagne flowed freely and the service while not quite as formal as on ANA was as warm and personable, especially from an attendant born and raised in Seville who took the time to tell me all about his hometown and come by later with a champagne refill and handwritten card with key sights and festivals not to be missed.

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photo by author

Another very memorable 747 ride was also in business class on the upper deck on a Northwest Orient jet landing at the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong in 1998 a week before the airport with its runway jutting into Victoria Harbour was decommissioned. The low and slow final approach coming in seemingly metres above the rooftop antennas was an exciting introduction to what has become one of my favorite destinations.

The story of the 747 and it’s revolutionary size and design is a fascinating one and for those who are interested there’s an excellent documentary, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet – The Plane that Changed the World, here.

As the 747 is reaching the end of its operational life, Boeing’s innovative 787 Dreamliner is finding aviation fans for its flyer-friendly features including higher humidity and lower cabin pressurization, both or which help ease the effects of jet lag. Watch Boeing maneuver this All Nippon Airways 787-9 Dreamliner through the skies as it practices for the 2016 Farnborough Airshow.

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If you haven’t taken in the Boeing tour just north of Seattle it’s well worth the detour. More information here.

It’s been quite a century of flight for Boeing and here’s a look back at the firm’s first century.