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Russia Has a History of Using Boeing Aircraft

November 17, 1996

"Clipped Wings" (Nov. 10), about Russia's Aeroflot order for 10 Boeing 737 airliners, overlooked an irony of likely significance to Boeing and its employees, especially those who worked for Boeing during the Cold War.

In 1944 and 1945, several U.S. Army Air Corps Boeing B-29s, unable to return directly to their bases because of battle damage or low fuel, landed in territory controlled by our "ally" Russia. The crews were eventually allowed to leave, but the Russian dictator Josef Stalin kept the B-29s without further comment. In the late 1940s, when the U.S. thought it was the only power capable of delivering atomic weapons from bombers, the U.S. and the rest of the free world were stunned when the Russians showed up at an international air show with a fleet of long-range four-engine bombers capable of carrying nuclear bombs, something previously thought impossible for any Russian plane to do. The Russian bombers were virtual look-alikes of the Boeing B-29, built in secrecy by the Russian designer Tupolev, who derived his modern heavy bomber not from his own design and engineering teams, but rather by the process of "reverse cloning"--taking apart the American B-29s and copying their components piece by piece.

Boeing was never paid one nickel in licensing fees or patent-infringement damages by the Russians for this blatant theft of the Boeing design with its state-of-the-art developments such as tandem landing gear, remote-controlled gun turrets, cabin pressurization and heating and many other innovations, which quickly bootstrapped the Russian aircraft industry into modern aircraft design and development light-years faster than would have been possible on its own.

So it does seem fitting that now, more than 50 years later, they still need Boeing airplanes, and this time are finally having to pay for them.

LAWRENCE M. DAUGHERTY

Hemet

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