LEGEND AND LEGACY: The Story of Boeing and Its People by Robert J. Serling

LEGEND AND LEGACY: The Story of Boeing and Its People

Email this review


Aviation buffs probably will revel in this thoroughgoing chronicle of Boeing Co., but the relentlessly upbeat text provides nonenthusiasts with appreciably more detail than they're likely to want. Sterling, a novelist (Something's Alive on the Titanic, 1990, etc.) and journalist (Eagle, 1985, etc.), offers a lively, anecdotal account of the plane-maker and how it grew from a small outfit in the Pacific Northwest backwoods into the world's leading supplier of commercial jetliners. The name Boeing evokes images of WW II's B-17 and B-29 bombers as well as of the 707 and 747 transports that revolutionized air travel. As Serling makes clear, though, the company (which turned 75 last July) is a force to be reckoned with in other markets. Among other achievements, it built the first stage of the Saturn rocket that started us on the way to the moon; developed the Minuteman missile system; and is designing America's space station. In less affluent times, the author recounts, Boeing produced such offbeat goods as boats, furniture, low-income housing, railroad cars--and milk (from a corporate herd of cows). For all its vaunted engineering and organizational skills, though, the company has been a consistent failure at diversification. But memories of the ill-starred ventures and of the colorful characters (including a salesman tempted to swap a used 727 for $12 million worth of new underwear) who helped create a multinational colossus afford welcome respites from the author's preternatural fascination with the technological minutiae of almost every Boeing plane or system ever built. Troubling as well are his short-shrift, exculpatory accounts of the company's recent brushes with scandal--in particular, payoffs made to foreign customers, and Pentagon overcharges. An exhaustive log that may strike some as merely exhausting.

Pub Date: July 24th, 1992
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: St. Martin's