Clairmont L. Egtvedt
was born on a farm near Stoughton, Wisconsin and received his
primary education in the area. He and his family moved to Seattle in
1911. Upon graduating from the University of Washington, Egtvedt
joined the one year old Boeing Company as a mechanical engineer on
June 4, 1917. He never worked for another employer and, with almost
startling rapidity, he became the boss of this one. One year after
joining Boeing Egtvedt was named chief experimental engineer and
shortly after that was named chief engineer.
It was the close at
hand familiarity which put him in the frail aircraft of those days,
a pad of paper strapped to his leg, taking notes on airspeed,
temperatures, pressures, rate of climb and altitude. He liked to
recall those trials and tribulations but never seemed impressed with
his own role.
He tells of the time
he and Eddie Hubbard, a test pilot of substantial Boeing fame, flew
the Boeing B-1, Flying Boat. "Undeterred by a supervisor who offered
to bet William E. Boeing that the plane would never get off the
water, Hubbard and I taxied out past a long row of ships anchored in
Lake Union. Hubbard poured on the power and the plane rose sharply
into the air and up over the anchored ships. Then the engine stalled
and the plane started to dive towards the water.
Nose down the engine
picked up and we zoomed skyward just over the ships' masts only to
have the whole procedure repeat several times. The plane zoomed and
dived several times until Hubbard was able to find a clear area and
made a hasty landing. We discovered that the fuel pump only
delivered fuel when the nose was down, point it up and the fuel flow
ceased. A workable pump and a wider elevator was the result of that
first test hop."
Those were tough,
formative years for Boeing but through them all Egtvedt gathered
ideas and experience rising to vice president and general manager by
1926. In 1933 he was named president. Egtvedt guided the company
toward revolutionary changes with emphasis on large aircraft; the
Model 314 flying boats and the Boeing Stratoliner.
He was named chairman
of the company in 1939 and began devoting his time to developments
of the Model 299. He is recognized as the father of the B-17, the
world's most famed bomber and often credited with playing a major
role in the Allied victory. Colonel Robert Morgan, pilot of the B-17
Memphis Belle, states in his book, "...they perfected a prototype
design that would soon help save western civilization ..." Morgan's
book, The Man who flew the Memphis Belle, provides more
details about the aircraft and its design.
In 1944 Egtvedt began
a term as both chairman and CEO. He would be on the board of
directors until he resigned on April 25, 1966.
Clairmont Egtvedt, June 18, 1927
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
(photo courtesy Boeing)