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Bill Boeing Jr. celebrates 90, recalls infancy of flight

Bill Boeing Jr. commemorated his 90th birthday with a party at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.(Chris Sullivan/KIRO Radio)

Carrying the Boeing name isn’t easy, but Bill Boeing Jr. does it with ease.

The son of aviation pioneer Bill Boeing was honored Monday night at the Museum of Flight on his 90th birthday, and boy does he have some stories about the infancy of flight and the Boeing company.

The year 1928 will go down as one of the biggest in his life. Bill Jr. was 5-years-old. He cut the ribbon on Boeing Field and took his first flight.

He remembers the Boeing Field dedication more for how much trouble he got into rather than the gravity of the moment.

“I was told to stand on what I thought looked like a pretty shaky platform,” Boeing Jr. said. “So I knelt, and that’s why I remember it because I got a little flack for not standing.”

He remembers his first flight in Boeing’s mail plane in 1928 not because of the sensation of flying but because the pilot didn’t do what he asked. Boeing Jr. said the pilot was outside and so he couldn’t hear his requests.

“The pilot really wasn’t cued in and so we only went around the house once,” he said. Bill Jr. wanted to circle his house several times to get a good look. “I was greatly disappointed that he didn’t go around a couple times.”

Boeing Jr. is still amazed by how far aviation has come since his father began the company, especially now that the company is making a plane out of plastic.

“They moved from wood to steel and now to plastic, and they’re learning,” he said proudly wearing a 787 hat. “Plastic is not all that easy so it’s a challenging deal, but anytime you can save that amount of weight you’re way ahead.”

While Boeing Jr. never officially worked for the Boeing Company, he has long been involved in promoting aerospace education and advancement. His passion for aviation can be seen on the smile on his face every time he talks about it, but he has a warning for America if it wishes to stay relevant in the industry.

“In this country, we seem to have forgotten about math and science,” he said. “A lot of these other countries are giving us a pretty good lesson. I think the nice thing about math and science is that young students get something like that they can use it throughout their life.”

Boeing Jr. celebrated his 90 years surrounded by family, friends and some family members of the first generation of aviation, including descendants of the Wright Brothers.

His cake was decorated with historic Boeing planes and topped, quite appropriately, with a Dreamliner.

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