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.