Alan R. Mulally brought together a worldwide team of engineers and companies that, "working together," changed the way airplanes are designed and built. Born in 1945, Mulally grew up in Kansas and had a childhood love of drawing and a youthful fascination with physics. He took up flying as a teenager. For Mulally, "flying was art and physics and creativity all coming together." He went on to earn degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Kansas. As a student, professors took note of his great energy and talent for team-building. In 1969, those attributes helped him land a job with Boeing's Commercial Airplane Group.
Amidst thousands of engineers, his enthusiasm and ability did not go unnoticed. His first position as a Boeing manager came at the Langley Research Center in Virginia where he worked on testing of the Boeing 737. As the company developed more sophisticated aircraft, Mulally took on new assignments and greater responsibility. He led special teams that tackled important technical problems and probed fatal jetliner accidents caused by weather. He was named chief engineer on the design of the avionics and cockpit of the 757 and 7657, Boeing's most advanced planes at the time. In 1978, Boeing named Mulally as Engineering Employee of the Year. In the fall of 1990, Boeing committed itself to build the 777, the most technically advanced and customer-focused aircraft ever built.
The concept of "design/build teams" and a culture called " working together" were enhanced by the world's largest collection of linked mainframe computers. Public Broadcasting System followed Mulally, the 777 project leader, and his team for three years to create a five-part television special entitled 21st Centruy Jet: The Building of the 777. In 1994, Mulally received the University of Kansas' Distinguished Engineering Service award and was elected a Fellow of England's Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1995, he was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
In 1996, he was named Design News Engineer of the Year and AIAA awarded Mulally its prestigious Reed Aeronautics award for a "lifetime in commercial aviation." He accepted the National Aeronautical Association's Collier Trophy on behalf of the 777 team for the "greatest achievement in aeronautics and astronautics for 1995." In early 1997, Mulally became a senior vice president of the Boeing Company and in August became President of Boeing Information, Sapce and Defense Systems. After 29 years at Boeing, he takes daily pleasure in being part of a team of talented people. When he is not working long hours, Mulally likes basketball, tennis, and art, and his "doodles" are famous within the company. He and his wife, Nicki, and five children live near Seattle.
In the fall of 1990, two Boeing executives signed off on a hand-written note, drafted by a top executive at United Airlines, that pledged the two companies to work together to build the Boeing 777. That rough contract was key to both Boeing's and Mulally's future in the aerospace industry. In the process of building the 777, Mulally and his team redefined "how an aircraft is designed and built" at virtually every phase. When the 777 first took to the air in September 1994, it made history as it had been designed by all who would use, build, repair, and fly it.