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A Priceless Archive

Boeing 747 General Description June 1966 (Tom Harris Collection)
Joe Sutter RA001 Boeing 747 (Photo: Boeing) Cropped
Joe Sutter with RA001 (Photo: Boeing)

Joe Sutter, one of the greatest aerospace engineers of all time, and the undisputed ‘father’ of the Boeing 747, once said, “that guy sure knows a lot about airplanes.”  

The ‘guy’ to whom he was referring is Tom Harris, a lifelong student of aviation and a proud member of #AvGeek Nation.

An avid student of the world he inhabits, Harris derives great pleasure from an eloquent turn of phrase, a sweeping architectural line, and anything, and I mean, anything related to aircraft and Boeing.  I’ve spent many a day with Tom, exploring the wilds of the boneyard at Victorville (VCV), perching on the ‘Grassy Knoll’ at the In-N-Out at LAX, debating the merits of the L-1011 vs. the DC-10, or tolerating his bizarre obsession with post-WWII French flying boats. Do not get him going on the Latécoère 631!

British Airways Boeing 747-436 G-BNLE at VCV
British Airways 747-436 G-BNLE at VCV (Photo: Aero Icarus)
In-N-Out LAX British Airways 747-436
British Airways 747-436 at LAX (Photo: Naish)

A day with Harris is anything but dull. On our last outing, I found myself rocketing along the highways of California’s high desert being bombarded by the soundtrack to Hair, in German, at a decibel level that can only be compared to the whine of a JT-9D at full thrust. And that was only the first fifteen minutes of our adventure that day.

Hair (Haare) Soundtrack in German

Harris’ love of all things aviation-related is surpassed only by his love for his wife and son. 

Over the years, Harris has accumulated a world-class collection of what he so aptly describes as “aviation ephemera.” His collection ranges from one-of-a-kind prototype models and first flight covers to aviation lithographs, flight manuals, and last flight memorabilia. He possesses more than 5,000 die-cast models (his wife Emily is clearly a saint), many of which he commissioned while he was running the Seattle Model Aircraft company in the early 2000s. His collection of aviation books would fill several libraries and he has read all of them – many more than once.

Amongst Harris’ vast treasures are a large number of Boeing brochures, marketing pieces, design manuals, and development reports – several of which were autographed for him by Joe Sutter during one of the many times Sutter was interviewed by Harris.  A lot of this material has been lost to the ages, or is preserved only in Boeing’s own archives, and is not often shared publicly.

Tom Harris with Joe Sutter
Tom Harris with Joe Sutter

Thanks to Tom’s kind generosity, we are privileged to be able to make this material available here on TheAvGeeks.com site and to provide you with access to some of his collection of aviation ephemera.

The first of the treasures from Tom’s collection to be shared is a brochure below by the Boeing Company from June, 1966 identified as, ‘Boeing 747 General Description.

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2 Responses

  1. Chris Engelhardt

    When I knew the 747’s were becoming retired in america I knew for my honeymoon I had to get on one. Secretly routed us via NRT on Delta 9 months before retirement and had the opportunity to even sit up top and chat with one of the relief pilots for a couple hours. loved everything about that 13+ hours. Felt like a private jet up top the entire time!

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