Jeppesen, Elrey Borge
EntrepreneurEnshrined 1990 1907-1996
Jepp received numerous plaques and awards over the years, but he was most proud of the letters he received from pilots who said, “Jepp, you saved my life, made my flying safer and easier, and given me great confidence on those dark, stormy nights.”
- Began flying as a barnstormer with Tex Rankin’s Flying Circus.
- Flew for Fairchild Aerial Survey, photographing the Mississippi Delta area around New Orleans.
- In the 1930’s, Jepp realized the need for accurate navigational aids for pilots. Before this innovation, pilots relied on Rand-McNally Road maps. Highlighted landmarks, elevations of obstructions and airport runways while flying mail runs.
- Manuals prove effective, and United Airlines bought the charts for their pilots.
- During World War II, “Jepp Charts” were adapted by the Navy as their standard flight manual.
- After World War II – USAF and World’s Commercial Airlines contracted Jepp’s manuals and navigation charts.
Elrey Borge Jeppesen’s aviation career spanned more than 60 years. He is famous for his development of manuals and charts that allow pilots worldwide to fly safely.
After buying an Eaglerock, Jeppesen joined Tex Rankin’s Flying Circus in Portland, Oregon. He barnstormed his way down to Dallas and obtained a job flying for Fairchild Aerial Surveys, photographing the entire Mississippi Delta area around New Orleans.
In 1930, he went to work for Varney out of Portland and later joined Boeing Air Transport. Being on reserve as a co-pilot, Jeppesen didn’t get much flying time and decided to return to Fairchild. Following the Great Depression, Jeppesen wound up mail-flying Boeing 4OBs. Because no adequate navigational aids for pilots existed at that time, pilots used Rand-McNally road maps to help guide them. At the age of 23, Jeppesen realized that more information was necessary to make flying easier and safer. He started to compile information from any place he could: city and county engineers, surveyors, farmers, road maps and from his own mountain and smokestack climbing.
Jeppesen started writing down all of the important information in a 10-cent, loose-leaf notebook. He highlighted landmarks, elevations of obstructions and airport runway information to help him on his mail runs. After several of his fellow pilots expressed interest in this valuable information, Jeppesen decided to print copies of the material and allow his friends to buy the manual for $10 each. In 1936, he married his sweetheart Nadine and together they worked on the charts out of their basement in Salt Lake City.
After moving to Denver in 1941, the manual business had grown so much that it was necessary to move into a building near the Jeppesen’s home. Elrey personally checked and initialed all of the charts before they went out. Jeppesen continued to fly for United while the manual business was growing. The company was printing its own charts at the time, but the pilots usually wound up using the Jeppesen charts. Eventually, United bought Jeppesen’s service for their pilots.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy adopted his “Jepp Charts,” as they were called, to be its standard flight manual. Following the war, the newly-created United States Air Force and many commercial airlines also contracted for Jepp’s manuals and air navigational charts. The demand for the “Airways Manual” soon made Elrey Jeppesen the world’s aerial cartographer, mapping the skyways and airports for commercial, military and private pilots. On dark, stormy nights pilots felt more confident with Jeppesen charts at their side. Elrey Jeppesen stayed with United Airlines until 1954. That year, he left the airline to concentrate on the chart business, which he maintained ownership of until the early 1960s.
In 1961, he sold his firm to the Times Mirror Publishing Company of Los Angeles but remained as president and later chairman of the board. The company which Jeppesen founded in his basement is now worldwide in providing navigational charting and electronic computerized aids for the world’s pilots and for flight training programs. Jeppesen Sanderson Company is the world’s leading publisher of air navigational information and flight training systems.
Elrey Jeppesen has been inducted in the OX5 Aviation Hall of Fame and has received the NBAA Meritorious Service Award along with Charles Lindbergh, Igor Sikorsky, Donald Douglas and Jimmy Doolittle. The main terminal at the Denver International Airport is named the Elrey B. Jeppesen Terminal in his honor
Elrey Jeppesen died suddenly at his home in Colorado on November 26th, 1996.
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