Boeing Battles for Dominance

ByABC News
February 17, 2005, 5:38 PM

SEATTLE, Feb. 17, 2005 — -- Seattle is home to the Boeing Co., the aviation giant that has struggled in recent years, but has built some of the most important aircraft in the history of flight.

Boeing's 737 is the best-selling commercial jet in the history of aviation. It was first built in 1967, and with each generation, technology and better fuel efficiency has made it a popular choice for both short and transcontinental trips.

The plane's fuselage is built in Kansas. When it arrives at the Seattle factory, the rest of the plane is manufactured within 11 days.

Everyone in every Boeing facility knows that the European consortium Airbus provides tough competition. When Boeing loses to the Europeans, the economic impact is huge. In a plant where many people's fathers and grandfathers once worked, it's about morale, as well.

Bill Boeing built his first plane in 1916. It was all about flying the mail in those days. But even a random notation of Boeing aircraft is a history of the country.

The Navy's flying fortress known as the B-17 flew in every World War II combat zone. The company built 4,000 B-29 planes during the war, one of which -- the Enola Gay -- delivered the atomic bomb to Hiroshima.

The B-52 bomber still active in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For several generations, American commercial aircraft had no competition -- the Boeing 707, the 747, the 777.

Then the world began to change. Airbus began to challenge American dominance with a whole new family of aircraft that were efficient and less expensive.

Five years ago, Boeing had 117,000 employees in its commercial aircraft group and produced 620 aircraft a year. Last year, however, the company had 53,000 employees in the group and produced 285 planes.