Joe Sutter, the Boeing engineer who ushered in the modern era of long-range travel by spearheading the 747 jumbo jet in the 1960s, has died. He was 95.

“Joe lived an amazing life and was an inspiration – not just to those of us at Boeing, but to the entire aerospace industry,” Ray Conner, chief executive officer of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, told employees in a message announcing the death Tuesday. “He personified the ingenuity and passion for excellence that made Boeing airplanes synonymous with quality the world over.”

The 747 was the capstone of a career spanning the twilight of piston-engine airliners to Boeing’s rivalry with Airbus four decades later. Starting with a swept-wing prototype in 1954 paving the way for the first U.S. jetliner, Sutter’s stamp was visible on aircraft through the 757 and 767 in the 1980s.

“He was a great engineer,” said Phil Condit, a former chief executive officer of Boeing who was once a member of Sutter’s 747 engineering group. “He dearly, dearly loved that airplane.”

Like the 747, Sutter was a throwback to a time when large, physical products defined U.S. innovation. With Boeing’s survival on the line, Sutter led a team that crafted the jet in less than 2 1/2 years even as he defied the design wishes of the first buyer: Juan Trippe, the Pan American World Airways founder who was then the most powerful person in aviation.

“The aircraft was iconic and so was he,” Richard Aboulafia, a Fairfax, Virginia-based aerospace analyst, said of Sutter. “It was a time of moonshots.”

Sutter retired in 1986 at 65 as executive vice president in charge of Boeing’s commercial airplane engineering and product development. He served as a senior adviser emeritus for a quarter-century, regularly stopping by a Seattle-area office into his 90s.

“I have lots of ideas on how to develop good airplanes, and I will voice my comments to the fellas,” Sutter said in a 2010 interview. “They listen to me sometimes, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s the give-and-take of Boeing.”

Sutter helped shape the planes that cemented Boeing’s industry dominance while U.S. competitors faltered. He also didn’t shy from defying senior executives. Ordered to fire 1,000 engineers to save money on the 747, Sutter refused and demanded Boeing hire another 800 workers. He later wrote that he was certain he would be fired. He kept his job, and got extra manpower.

“One on one, he was really neat,” ex-CEO Condit said in a 2015 interview. “He could be a bit bombastic in a group.”

Sutter served as second-in-command on the narrow-body 737, launched in the 1960s with prodding from Deutsche Lufthansa. The jet became Boeing’s best seller.

His next assignment was the plane envisioned as an aerial ocean liner by Pan Am, then the dominant global carrier. While Trippe wanted a revolutionary double-decker seating 400 people, Boeing saw it as a mere stopgap in the march toward a vision of supersonic travel.

To Sutter, Trippe’s insistence on a single-aisle design with two decks doomed the chances for the big plane’s success. Sutter held out for the single-deck, twin-aisle design – then a novelty but now the standard in long-range jets.

Tensions ran high, Sutter recalled, until the Pan Am chief visited factory mock-ups of the competing concepts. “You made the right decision,” Trippe told Sutter.

Joseph F. Sutter was born in Seattle in 1921, five years after Boeing was founded. He fell in love with aircraft as a child in a working-class neighborhood south of downtown overlooking the airfield where Boeing tested new planes.

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