June 2008 Archives

To market

We’re heading into July – and that means it won’t be long before Farnborough Air Show time. That also means my marketing colleagues and I are busy formulating Boeing’s 2008 Current Market Outlook (CMO).

For us at Commercial Airplanes, the CMO is a road map that tells us how people are going to travel over the next couple of decades, and what our customers needs are going to be. The CMO helps shape our decisions on what products to bring to market, and when.

What we’re seeing in the marketplace, and focusing in on with our strategy as we go forward into the future, is providing the best possible options to travelers. That includes the option to travel direct - which incidentally turns out to be the most economic and environmentally-progressive option.

So, what do travelers really want?

Well, you want to travel to where you want, when you want to:

  • With a choice of convenient departure and arrival points
  • At the lowest possible cost
  • While being environmentally responsible
  • And with reliable service
  • Wherever you are in the world
  • While enjoying a reduction in government-imposed restrictions, allowing you to fly direct, nonstop, or with as few stops or connections as possible on the way
  • All the while experiencing a comfortable environment on board an airplane with the best amenities

Our Current Market Outlook is based upon these universal desires of air travelers and the way that airlines have and will meet those desires. When the 2008 CMO comes out next week, we’ll also be talking about passenger growth, and the more and more routes becoming available to greater numbers of the world’s population. And how the shift is not to very large airplanes, contrary to the views of our competitor.

But how about my points above regarding what the traveler of the future is going to want? Have I missed anything?

The power of 1

As promised, we’ve launched a dedicated Web site that we think captures just what 787 Power On is all about. You’ll get to see the actual tests, as well as interviews with experts, and executive commentary.

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This is an interactive Website with a series of screens where you can click on each zone of the airplane for details on the Power On testing process, as well as links and videos to show you the progress we’ve made on Dreamliner #1. We think the site will help you understand how Power On relates to the overall program.

I’ve mentioned before, that Power On is a process, with a series of methodical steps. And as you’ll learn when you navigate the Website, behind the milestone we completed last week are “millions of individual design decisions made by thousands of experienced professionals, and countless hours of detailed installations made by gifted craftspeople based on the exacting instructions created by dedicated experts.”

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Click on the image to go directly to the Power On Website.

This Website takes you through that process each step of the way, with video from real tests, and interviews with the real people who really did the work.

Did I mention that it’s all real? You’ll see actual scenes during testing. That’s the neat thing about this site - it allows you to get an inside look at this significant milestone in the 787 program. I hope you’ll also get a sense of what it means to the people who work here.

I think you’ll enjoy it.

Hour of power

Just last week we reported that we’d taken the first steps toward “power on” for the first 787 Dreamliner. Today I can tell you that we’ve successfully completed this very significant milestone – a major accomplishment for the entire 787 team.

As I mentioned here in the blog, Power On is a series of tasks and tests – not a single flipping of a switch. Well, we’ve now finished the full testing sequence to bring electrical power onto the airplane and get the electrical systems working.

There’s a lot of work left, but there’s no doubt this is an important achievement in keeping to our new schedule as we progress toward first flight.

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Running Power On tests in the 787 flight deck are (from left) James Townsend, aviation manufacturing technician inspector; Allen Smith, test technician; Jon Stephenson, production test manufacturing engineer; and Riger Vazquez Jr., production test team leader.

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The Power On test sequence lasted for just over a week and proved the functionality and installation of the airplane’s electric systems.

“Power on” actually began early this month with what we call pre-test continuity checks. These checks determine whether the airplane wiring is connected properly. Next, starting with flight deck displays, we slowly began to bring full power into the airplane systems. Once we had that power going, the team was able to use the pilot’s controls to direct the power to new systems, one area at a time.

At each step we verified that the power arrived, and that it was converted, controlled, and utilized as expected.

It’s a methodical process. But with approximately 60 miles of wiring throughout the airplane, thousands of line-replaceable units, and millions of lines of computer code, it’s important that we do it this way - so that any issues can be isolated, examined and resolved quickly.

This also helps us make sure that the airplane’s electrical power system is installed properly, and that it functions the way we designed it to. By that I mean we were able to determine that the systems do indeed function in a real airplane environment – just as they did in our laboratory tests.

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Boeing test technician David Haskell plugs an external power cart into the first 787 Dreamliner as part of the Power On testing sequence.

We made the strategic decision early on to introduce new “systems architecture” to the Dreamliner – providing a more efficient electrical power system. So this is really the culmination and validation of five and a half years of designing and testing the innovative Dreamliner electrical systems.

Now the work continues – with a goal of first flight later this year.

And as I mentioned last week, check back here on Monday for some links to an interactive Website focused on Power On testing for the 787.

Tanker protest upheld

We just found out that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found in Boeing’s favor on a number of issues related to our protest of the U.S. Air Force’s award of the $35 billion aerial refueling tanker contract.

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In response to the ruling, Boeing has released a statement from Mark McGraw, our vice president, Tanker Programs:

We welcome and support today’s ruling by the GAO fully sustaining the grounds of our protest.

We appreciate the professionalism and diligence the GAO showed in its review of the KC-X acquisition process. We look forward to working with the Air Force on next steps in this critical procurement for our warfighters.

"Power on" begins

Yesterday, we got word that we’ve taken the first steps towards providing power to the first 787 Dreamliner in the Everett factory.

“Power On” is a milestone accomplished on all new airplanes. But this one is especially important because the 787 is a more-electric airplane, replacing the pneumatic, or bleed air, system with electronics.

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Airplane 1, in the factory last month, getting ready to begin “Power On.”

There is a complex series of tasks and tests needed to bring power to Airplane #1 - as we begin to exercise the use of the electrical systems. Keep in mind this is a process and not a one-day event.

At each step of the process, power is allowed to flow into an additional area - and gauges are used to verify that the right level of electrical power reached the intended area.

When it’s completed, the Power On sequence will mark a major milestone on the path to first flight later this year. It’s really significant because it ensures the integrity of the airplane’s systems by verifying both that the electrical power distribution system is installed as designed, and that it functions as intended.

We’re confident that we’ll reach this point by the end of the month. And that will allow the airplane to move into ground-testing, a very familiar area for Boeing and one that we can clearly outline in terms of tasks and schedule.

When Power On is complete, we’ll have some interesting content to share with you, including insight into the actual tests, and interviews and commentary from experts and executives on the program.

Three of four

We’ve had another first flight. This time it was a brand new Dreamlifter, the third of four planned Dreamlifters. The new airplane received FAA certification about a week ago after a successful flight in Taiwan.

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Dreamlifter 3 – taking off from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport last week. The Certificate of Airworthiness was hung on the airplane after the 2 hour, 47 minute flight.

The Dreamlifter is a specially modified 747-400 jet that transports major assemblies of the 787 Dreamliner. The first two have been in use since 2007. This Dreamlifter will enter service by early July. Modifications began on the fourth airplane in February and will conclude next year.

A second test flight took place just this week, and next, another will be performed with an Evergreen International Airlines (EIA) pilot on board for their verification flight. Evergreen is the operator of the Dreamlifter fleet.

After that, we complete the post-flight intermediate inspections and then take “re-delivery” of the airplane from Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corporation (EGAT) – which, despite the similar name is not connected to Evergreen International Airlines, by the way!. EGAT is a joint venture of EVA Air and General Electric, and is the company which has done a marvelous job transforming the 747s from passenger airplanes to one of the most unique cargo airplanes in the world.

The handover in the next few weeks would complete EGAT’s responsibilities for Dreamlifter 3. And shortly after that EIA can begin officially operating the airplane.

We plan to have a total of 4 Dreamlifters in the fleet. And now that we’re about to enter number 3 into service, we’ll not only have a backup when one of the airplanes is receiving scheduled maintenance, but we’ll also have more flexibility to deliver 787 assemblies to Everett from our partners around the world.

Challenging times

I’m back at the blogging desk after a brief absence. Family and civic responsibilities have been keeping me busy. This past week I was serving on jury duty. Never did get to serve on an actual trial, though.

But my other duty did see me serving as a chaperone for my youngest son’s 5th grade class on their outdoor “learning experience” at Camp Colman just outside of Seattle. Spending 3 days and 2 nights with 75 ten and eleven year olds - believe me, there’s nothing quite as rewarding, exciting, and challenging!

Except maybe when you consider the challenges our industry is facing right now. You’ve seen the news these past couple of weeks about U.S. carriers trying to cope with high fuel prices. It’s an extraordinary time and airlines are in a difficult position, especially those in the United States. They’re moving quickly to respond to these challenges.

With fuel prices at unprecedented levels, several U.S. carriers have elected to reduce capacity later this year. What we’re seeing is the removal of the oldest and least efficient airplanes from fleets - the MD-80 series aircraft as well as “Classic” 737 airplanes (737-300, -400, and -500).

You might ask, what does this mean for Boeing and for the industry as a whole? It means that airlines will continue to have strong demand for the world’s most capable and fuel-efficient commercial airplanes - such as the Next-Generation 737.

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Coming off the assembly line: the Next-Generation 737 - the most modern, most fuel-efficient airplane in its class.

The “Next-Generation” is much more efficient than older “Classic” aircraft.

When you compare a 737-800 to an MD-83, for example, the 737-800 carries about 18 more passengers, has about 720 nautical miles more range, a 17% lower fuel burn per trip, a 27% lower fuel burn per seat, 19% overall lower cost per seat, and a 50% smaller noise footprint.

This is why there are 2,200 Boeing Next-Generation 737s on order right now. So, just how efficient is the Next-Generation 737? Some argue that it is as fuel efficient (or more) as a Toyota Prius. Check out this interesting piece.

My thought - if you were really to drive from New York to Los Angeles as they suggest in the story, it would take a couple of days by car nonstop instead of just a few hours by air. As the article points out, “if you have to be somewhere and you don’t want to waste a lot of gas” and if you don’t want to leave a big carbon footprint, a Next-Generation airplane is the way to go.

But getting back to the recent challenging times for airlines - we definitely share our customers’ concerns about fuel prices. We’ll continue to be focused on staying close to them, and as their partners, provide fuel-efficient technologies and solutions.

 

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