Elrey B. Jeppesen was born on January 28th, 1907 in Lake Charles, LA but grew up in Hood River, OR. After a long career as a pilot he died on November 26th, 1996. He began his flying career as most pilots of the era, flying anywhere and anything he could. The father of modern aeronautical charts started his careeer flying a war surplus JN4 “Jenny” as a barnstormer.
In 1930 Jeppesen eventually joined Boeing Air Transport eventually delivering mail in a Boeing 40B. Jeppesen used road maps like most pilots of those days, but Jeppesen understood that eventually someone would have to create flying charts to replace them. Realizing someone had to collect aviation data, Jeppesen began compiling information in the famous Jeppesen “Black Book”. As Jeppesen flew his routes he added notes to his “Black Book” allowing Jeppesen to remember significant data about the various airports Jeppesen flew into.
An example of Jeppesen’s work can be seen in these images copied from the famous Jeppesen Black Book:
Jeppesen would record certain landmarks, provide elevations of obstructions and airport ruway information for the field Jeppesen flew in and out of. Jeppesen designed enroute procedures, approach and missed approach procedures to be used when the weather was bad. Other pilots were constantly asking him for his navigational information. The requests became so frequent that Jeppesen began offering copies of his book for $10. Many pilots collected additional data on their own routes and reported it back so he could add to his growing collection of airport and route information.
Jeppesen also tested the new radio navigational aids and developed ways to use the technology for improving point-to-point navigation and also began designing instrument approach procedures, using the information he had gathered on airports throughout the Northwest. These procedures were documented on his instrument approach charts, the only source in the country for this type of information.
In the late 1930s, Varney Airlines, Boeing Air Transport and several other companies merged to become United Airlines. United decided to use Jeppesen’s charts throughout their organization, becoming one of the first airlines to subscribe to his early Airway Manual Service. The chart business took off.
Jeppesen is known as the father of modern aeronautical charts and while a pilot for United Airlines, Jeppesen and his wife, a stewardess for United Airlines, began the chart business around 1936 putting together the Jeppesen Airway Manuals in the basement of their home. By the time the U.S. entered World War II Jeppesen had charted most of the United States and his “Jepp” charts had become standard issue to military pilots.
In 1954 Jeppesen retired from United Airlines and he and his wife Nadine put all of their efforts into the chart business. In 1961 they sold to the Times Mirror Corporation where Jeppesen remained chairman until 1988. Later the company became known as Jeppesen Sanderson and has since been sold to Boeing.
Thank you Elrey Jeppesen for all you have contributed to aviation.
The new Denver International Airport Terminal is named after Elrey B. Jeppesen, and the following video gives a little more history on one of aviation’s true pioneers:
Be sure to check out all of the Jeppesen Training Manuals elsewhere on this website.
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Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
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