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Opinion: Boeing, up and down

A few decades ago, when I was working in Seattle and supervising the work of two aviation writers, among others, there was a saying among those who flew on airliners:

“If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.”

Seattleites had a fierce loyalty for Boeing, which at that time was one of the best-paying employers in the city — if not THE best-paying.

The big 707 passenger jet had made aviation history when it buzzed Lake Washington during the city’s annual Seafair celebration, sucking the breath from onlookers who had never seen anything quite like it.

A decade or so later, another big jet — the 747, biggest in the world at that time — gave Seattleites another reason to brag when the prototype took off and landed from the Boeing airport in Everett.

Thousands gawked and gasped when the big plane seemed to blot out the sun when it took off and landed.

Boeing planes not only were big and fast — they were safe.

Then along came the 737 passenger jet, which seemed to be not only less safe, but also less comfortable as airlines crammed their passengers into the 737’s seats and aisles. A joke went around that on some versions of the 737, passengers would pay more to be able to stand up instead of having to squeeze into the seats.

The 737, instead of reflecting Boeing’s sterling reputation for safety, began to crash more frequently, leaving passengers to mutter, “if it’s a Boeing, I ain’t going.”

The most recent crash, we are told, may not have been Boeing’s fault. An Iranian Airlines Boeing 737-800 apparently was shot down by Iranian missiles Tuesday. One hundred seventy six passengers and crew were aboard, and all perished.

First news of the crash sent Boeing stock plunging like the Iranian jet, while later news that the crash may have been an act of war sent the stock back up again. One of the odd realities of the airline industry.

By the way, a 737 contains as much as 40 miles of wiring. A 747 has about 150 miles of cable. About 7,046 737s have been built since the first one was rolled out on Feb. 9, 1997.

• • •

There are three kinds of people — those who can count and those who can’t.

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Do you ever wonder whether illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?

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