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aviation ––– usa

Return flight

The successful first flight of Bill Boeing’s Model 1 seaplane in 1916 launched a company that would change the face of 20th-century transport – and the aviation pioneer’s hometown. During the Second World War, Boeing plants built bombers (pictured) that were critical to the Allied war effort. Those factories later formed part of Jet City, with planes rolling off the assembly line. Tens of thousands of engineers and machinists prospered and Boeing’s workers were encouraged to engage in civic life and even run for public office. Seattle became the town that Boeing built.

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But in 2001, Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago. The then Washington state governor Gary Locke said that the surprise move “leaves a void in our economic and cultural life”. In 2022, Boeing relocated again, to Northern Virginia. Every time the company’s leadership moved further away from its core engineering and assembly operations in the Seattle area, the firm’s fortunes seemed to nosedive. First there were the fatal 737Max crashes of 2018 and 2019, then the 737Max-9 door-plug incident in January this year.

The aviation giant once banked on the slogan, “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going”. Now travellers are deliberately avoiding Boeing aircraft. This crisis of confidence led ceo Dave Calhoun to announce that he will resign at the end of this year, while former coo Stephanie Pope has taken over the commercial aircraft division. But this widely anticipated leadership shake-up isn’t enough. To truly reform what was once the pride of American industry, Boeing must move its headquarters back to Seattle.

Relocation would facilitate the most urgent task – of restoring Boeing’s lapsed safety culture – by allowing the company’s leadership to visit the factory floor daily to untangle the quality-control issues plaguing its assembly lines. Closer proximity to Boeing’s talent pool would also foster the most necessary change at the top: appointing competent engineers to the C-suite.

A corporate culture desperately in need of replicating Boeing’s glory days would benefit from a return to the company’s geographic roots. Executives could visit the Red Barn, Bill Boeing’s modest workshop, which is faithfully preserved by the Museum of Flight next to Boeing’s in-city airfield. They could walk along Boeing’s first runway on Lake Union and admire the b-1 on display inside the Museum of History and Industry. These monuments to Boeing’s ingenuity and mastery of craft are a far more impressive means of inspiring confidence in visiting airline executives than any lavish client dinner. It’s not too late to course correct and rediscover what helped Boeing take flight more than a century ago. Like an aircraft waiting to be assembled, all the parts are here in Jet City. — L

Scruggs is Monocle’s Seattle correspondent.


travel ––– finland

Stay in touch

Short-term holiday rentals have become synonymous with Airbnb. Yet there’s no shortage of companies keen to redress its market dominance. One contender is Finnish operator Bob W, which is backed by prominent investors and entrepreneurs. Unlike Airbnb, Bob W manages and operates its apartments. Co-founder and ceo Niko Karstikko says that the firm is aimed at the “Airbnb generation that has grown up and expects more”.

Bob W is short for “best of both worlds” and was chosen because the company wants to combine the consistency and standards expected from great hotels with Airbnb’s “live like a local” approach. “Short-term rentals are often hit and miss and you never really know what you’re going to get,” says Karstikko. The hotel market has well-known brands and a regulated quality system; clients know what to expect. But, says Karstikko, they “don’t feel local or personal; they’re pretty much the same wherever you go”.

Bob W focuses on hip areas and provides breakfast in nearby cafés. “We want our guests to feel like they are part of the community,” says Karstikko.

Having launched in 2018, Bob W now manages more than 3,000 apartments in 17 cities across 10 countries. Revenues, according to Karstikko, are in the “tens of millions of euros” and are set to at least double this year. The company has also secured more than €70m in funding. “Only about one per cent of the short-term rental market is commercially branded,” says Karstikko. “The potential is immense.” 

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