An evenhanded and informative history of Boeing, the American airframe manufacturer that bestrides the world of civil aviation like a colossus. Drawing on a variety of sources, Rodgers (Beyond the Barrier, 1990) offers a lively, anecdotal account of the plane maker's dicey transformation from a fly-by-night operation in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest into the Global Village's leading supplier of jetliners. The name Boeing evokes not only images of the 707 and 747 transports that revolutionized air travel but also memories of WW II's workhorse B-17 and the Cold War's B-52 bomber. Without altogether scanting the Seattle-based concern's considerable accomplishments as an aerospace and Pentagon contractor, however, the author focuses on how experience gained on military projects has helped Boeing best any number of rivals (Airbus Industrie, Convair, de Havilland, Douglas, Fokker, Lockheed, et al.) in the invariably intense and seemingly endless competition to furnish commercial carriers with moneymaking aircraft. In addition to detailing the substantive risks run by the company (which turned 80 this year) in getting breakthrough designs from the drawing board to flight line, Rodgers addresses Boeing's frequently rancorous labor relations as well as its typically arrogant management style, vulnerability to economic cycles, and jarring brushes with scandal (notably, the illicit procurement of classified defense documents and payoffs made to foreign customers). Also covered are the visionary executives, engineering wizards, and lesser lights who over the years made Boeing what it is today. An astute and independent observer's engrossing (albeit unsparing) perspectives on one of the 20th century's genuinely consequential enterprises.