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Edward Wells, Designer of Boeing Aircraft, Dies at 75

July 05, 1986|From Times Wire Services

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Edward C. Wells, who for nearly half a century helped design every Boeing airplane from the B-17 to the 747, has died at age 75.

Wells, who died Tuesday at his home here of cancer, was recognized for contributions to developing complex aerospace systems and for his accomplishments in aircraft design engineering. He received 15 patents for inventions, mostly for mechanical and flight systems.

Born in 1910 in Boise, Ida., Wells went to work for Boeing in 1931 after earning an engineering degree from Stanford University. He retired as a senior vice president in 1972 but continued as a consultant and board member until 1978.

Wells led engineering advances in wing flap systems, pressurized bodies, centralized fire control, power turrets, and increases in bomb load capacity and effective range.

He was made chief of Boeing's preliminary design unit in 1936, and by 1943 had worked his way to chief engineer.

In 1937, he rendered what many consider his most far-reaching design, changing the shape of a plane's wing so that it served as an air brake on landings. The design, used today on nearly all jets, was seen initially on the B-17, the Flying Fortress credited with giving the United States bomber superiority in World War II.

In 1958, Wells was named a vice president and general manager of the systems management office, which assembled and tested the Air Force Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile.

He became vice president and general manager of the military aircraft systems division in 1961.

In 1943 he was given the Lawrence Sperry Award and in 1945 the Fawcett Aviation Award, two of aviation's highest honors.

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