April 2008 Archives

Poseidon adventure

The start of final assembly is always a significant milestone. But in this case it’s a historic adventure as well.

Boeing Renton employees received the first fuselage from Spirit AeroSystems earlier this month, and final assembly is underway on the first P-8A Poseidon - the multi-mission maritime aircraft that Boeing and our partners are building for the U.S. Navy

image/photo

Members of the P-8A team greet the first fuselage at the Renton factory.

The historic part is the fact that with the arrival of this fuselage from Wichita, the Renton site has opened manufacturing operations on our new Final Assembly Line 3. It’s the latest chapter in Boeing’s long and successful Renton legacy – as we begin building a military derivative of the best-selling airplane in the world, the Next-Generation 737.

That legacy, our company historian reminds me, features an impressive list of Renton-built military aircraft over the years, including:

image

A depiction of the P-8A over Mount Rainier.

The P-8A Poseidon is a derivative of the 737-800. As the team puts it, the Poseidon will be a “long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft” for the Navy.

And here’s a key piece of this story: the P-8A program benefits from and builds on the proven production system and performance of more than 5,655 Boeing 737s delivered to date.

image/photo

First flight of sorts – as the P-8A fuselage swoops into position by crane over the factory floor.

Thanks to Commercial Airplanes and Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) teams working closely together as one Boeing team, the program has moved from “design” to “build” rapidly. Production started on the P-8A fuselage for the first test aircraft at Spirit in December, and it was completed on schedule last month. This approach enables the program to build the aircraft in a moving line - as we do with commercial versions of the 737 - with major military changes built and integrated up front as the aircraft goes through final assembly in Renton.

This is a significant change. In contrast with other business models that modify “green tail” commercial airplanes to fit military applications, the Poseidon will be ready with all provisions to “plug-and-play” its required mission systems.

image

Click on the image to view a short video about the arrival of the first P-8A fuselage in Renton.

One interesting side note to this story is that the opening of the P-8A line in Renton coincided with opening day for baseball in Seattle earlier this month. In fact, the fuselage, carried by rail, rolled past the sold-out crowd at Safeco Field during the bottom of the second inning of the Seattle Mariners’ opener.

BCA is scheduled to hand off the first P-8A Poseidon to IDS later this year, with subsequent mission systems installation, flight test, and delivery of the first aircraft to the U.S. Navy in 2009.

By the way, the home team won their opener. And we believe the P-8A is going to be a winner too.

Growth and guidance

The Boeing Company shared some strong financial results today, and projected some solid growth to come.

You can read through a lot of the details in our first quarter earnings release. But I wanted to briefly touch upon some of the key points for Commercial Airplanes.

BCA delivered 115 airplanes this past quarter, and reported 289 orders. For the 787 Dreamliner there were 75 orders in the quarter – and the program continues its record-setting sales pace with 892 firm orders and 57 customers since launch.

As we learned earlier this month, we’ve shifted the 787’s first flight to the fourth quarter of this year, with deliveries moving to third quarter of 2009. The plan is for a more gradual ramp-up to full production. The delays have been a deep disappointment to us and to our customers. But we think the new plan reduces the schedule risk a great deal. We’re talking with our customers now about how the schedule will affect them, and how we can reduce the impact.

During the earnings call with investors and media, Jim McNerney mentioned his recent visit to the 787 factory. He saw good progress on Airplane #1 toward meeting our commitments for power on and first flight. He also mentioned that the static and fatigue airplanes are moving along, and that the condition of the assemblies we’ve gotten in Everett from our partners are noticeably improved on Airplanes #2 and #3.

Much has been said about the 787 and the problems we’ve encountered on the program. However, from this earnings report it’s clear that our core business continues to deliver improving performance. Our 737, 747, 767, 777 and services teams are executing their plans very well.

I also want to point out that we’re moving ahead on other development programs, including the 777 Freighter, and the 747-8.

image/photo

Major assembly for the 777 Freighter began in the first quarter. And final assembly got underway this month. This is a view during “final body join” of the first 777F in the Everett factory.

On the guidance side of the message, we’re expecting to deliver between 475 and 480 commercial airplanes this year, and between 500 and 505 in 2009. We also expect 2010 deliveries to be higher than in 2009.

Let me also touch briefly on what we’ve heard about the U.S. economy as it affects our industry today. Capital markets have weakened and we saw some small airlines file for bankruptcy in the first quarter.

As we look at these economic conditions going forward, it’s important to note that our total backlog is strong and diverse by region, product and customer. For example, only 11% of BCA’s backlog is from airlines based in the United States. A large piece of the commercial backlog is with customers in Asia and the Middle East, where economic conditions are more favorable.

Demand globally remains strong for new, more efficient commercial airplanes due to high fuel prices and environmental concerns. So, while the market has become more volatile, as you can see from our guidance, the delivery up-cycle continues.

And, as Jim McNerney put it earlier today, if there’s a more significant downturn, we think we’re in a good position to weather it.

Joining forces

Reducing the impact of aviation on the environment isn’t just a Boeing or an Airbus “thing.” It’s of importance to the entire world.

So a working-together initiative just signed by both companies in Geneva is a great step in increasing efficiency and reducing emissions around the globe. Read about the agreement here.

Siga o Mestre

I mentioned a couple of weeks back how I had the opportunity to appear on the Brazilian television channel TV Ideal.

photo

Click on the image to watch the video clip.

Since I had to endure the makeup process for this High Definition interview, I guess you can endure watching a two and a half minute clip from the broadcast of Siga o Mestre.

It’s available on the station’s Website and I thought it might be fun to give you a chance to view it.

Program update

We’ve updated our plans for the 787 Dreamliner’s first flight and deliveries. Here’s the news release: Boeing Revises 787 First Flight and Delivery Plans.

Obviously there’s been a lot of anticipation in the aviation and financial communities surrounding this announcement. We’ve undertaken an extensive assessment with input from across the 787 program and our partners to reach this new schedule.

The main thing I want to convey is that we understand this further delay is deeply disappointing to our customers, our partners, and to all of you who closely follow our industry. It is disappointing to us as well. As program chief Pat Shanahan said this morning, we want to get this right, and we’re confident in our plan going forward. But the key is performance.

We’ve accomplished some amazing things so far, and we believe that the Dreamliner is a great, high-technology, state-of-the-art airplane and will be a true game-changer in the market.

Inside the 787

Now that I’m back from a great trip to South America, I wanted to share with you a short (1:30) video clip that I used in my presentations at the FIDAE air show and earlier during my visit to Brazil.

image/photo

Click on the image to take a short ride inside the 787 Dreamliner.

I’ve shown this video quite a bit in my travels, and it tells the story of what it’s going to be like flying the Dreamliner far better than I can say it in words.

Among other features, I’d be curious what you think of the electronic window shades as demonstrated in the video.

Fuel cell flight

Have you had a chance to check out this story today about the first-ever flight of a manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells?

You can also read more about it here, and view a video of the flight.

image

This experimental airplane made three test flights in February and March, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The test flights – true aviation firsts – took place in Spain and are part of the work of the team at Boeing Research and Technology Europe together with our industry partners.

 

More posts