We are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement, "It can't be done." – William Boeing

After making his fortune trading forest lands around Grays Harbor, Wash., William Boeing moved to Seattle, Wash., in 1908 and, two years later, went to Los Angeles, Calif., for the first American air meet. Boeing tried to get a ride in one of the aeroplanes, but not one of the dozen aviators participating in the event would oblige. Boeing came back to Seattle disappointed, but determined to learn more about this new science of aviation.

For the next five years, Boeing's air travel was mostly theoretical, explored during conversations at Seattle's University Club with George Conrad Westervelt, a Navy engineer who had taken several aeronautics courses from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The two checked out biplane construction and were passengers on an early Curtiss Airplane and Motor Co.-designed biplane that required the pilot and passenger to sit on the wing. Westervelt later wrote that he "could never find any definite answer as to why it held together." Both were convinced they could build a biplane better than any on the market.

In the autumn of 1915, Boeing returned to California to take flying lessons from another aviation pioneer, Glenn Martin. Before leaving, he asked Westervelt to start designing a new, more practical aeroplane. Construction of the twin-float seaplane began in Boeing's boathouse, and they named it the B & W, after their initials.

Conrad Westervelt was posted East before the plane was finished. William Boeing continued the project and, in 1916, completed two B & Ws. When it was time for the B & W's first flight, the pilot was late. Boeing grew impatient and took the controls himself. As the pilot rushed to the hangar, he saw Boeing taxi to the end of the lake, turn, gun the engine and lift off for a quarter-mile hop.

Although the loss of Westervelt was a setback, it did not affect Boeing's commitment to his fledgling company. On July 15, 1916, Boeing incorporated his aeroplane manufacturing business as Pacific Aero Products Co.; a year later, he changed the name to the Boeing Airplane Co.

For more information about the history of the Boeing company please go to http://www.boeing.com/history/index.html

For more information about Boeing’s history in the UK please go here.