January 2010 Archives

Great gig in the sky

I’m heading to Singapore, but before I leave for the air show, I wanted to point you to some great new material about 787 flight testing.

Clearly the Dreamliner is the subject of intense interest right now. And many of you have been asking for some time whether Boeing plans to launch a site on the Web dedicated to updating progress with flight test.

Well, this week we did just that, with a new 787 Dreamliner Flight Test site. There’s a lot of great features on the site, including “Flight Test 101” and a way to track the paths of ZA001 and ZA002.

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Click on the image above to go to the 787 flight test site and view the stall test video featuring Chief Pilot Mike Carriker.

With the launch of the new site, we’re also giving a first look at “stall tests” on the Dreamliner.

During the testing pilots reduce power to both engines and then recover normal flight speeds. We’ll be doing many more of these stall tests as flight test progresses.

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A couple of screen images from the video now posted on the 787 Dreamliner Flight Test site. During stall tests pilots slow the airplane down to the point where it actually shakes, resulting in 1.5 g-forces.

The testing went very well. As described in the video, it’s a way to demonstrate that in the rare event a pilot encounters a stall during flight, the airplane reacts benignly and recovers smoothly.

It’s a great gig, and as Mike Carriker puts it, “great fun.”

Alignment

Over the past several months I’ve been asked over and over again about the future development of the 777 and 737. It’s an understandable question in light of our new competition and the changing marketplace.

Today we got some answers, a realignment of our organization to better address these issues. As Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Jim Albaugh put it to employees today, we’re making these changes to enhance functional excellence and execution, and better position us for future growth.

The leadership announcement puts the focus on Boeing’s execution and performance and our long-term future. A big part of what you’ll take away from this is that we’re determined to develop a clear “vision and roadmap” for our single-aisle and twin-aisle market strategies.

In terms of defining our future product strategy, we have a new team in place:

  • Nicole Piasecki will lead a new BCA Business Development function responsible for the overall integration of strategic planning and analysis.
  • Mike Bair will lead a new group, Advanced 737 Product Development, responsible for planning the future of Boeing’s single-aisle airplane.
  • Lars Andersen, former 777 vice president and program manager, is returning as a senior consultant to lead Advanced 777 Product Development.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with, or for, Nicole, Mike and Lars over the years. I can tell you that this is a very strong and dynamic team that will make their mark on Boeing’s products going forward.

I worked closely with Lars Andersen on the 777 program, and had the unique experience of traveling with him on the world’s longest flight. One of the funny memories of working with Lars was the time I had dim sum with him in Hong Kong at a restaurant where we spoke no Chinese and no one else spoke any English! Lars has a strong relationship with our customers and deep understanding of their requirements - making him perfect for this job.

I’ve worked for Mike Bair twice. Once when I led product marketing and then in my role today. He’s worked in virtually every aspect of our business. And for several years he’s played a significant role in developing our product and services strategy.

I’ve had the longest relationship with Nicole Piasecki, going back to the mid-1990s. In fact, in my office I have a picture of our 1997 North America Sales team which we were both a part. She brings a new and fresh perspective to the development of our strategy.

So, with the appointment of Nicole, Mike and Lars, and the other appointments announced today, we’ve got the best possible team in place.

They’ll be working to define our product strategy and to position Boeing for the extremely competitive global economy of today as well as the increasingly dynamic geopolitical realities of tomorrow.

Challenges and achievements

By now you’ve read about our 4th quarter and full year 2009 results.

We’ve discussed here many times the challenges we faced over the past year. So I’m not going to tell you it was a totally successful year, from our point of view. But when you consider how we ended the year vs. how it began, no question in many ways Boeing had a good year.

In other words, I think we ended up in better shape than we might have anticipated one year ago – when we faced an unprecedented market environment. After a lot of turbulence, we finished the year maybe even with a bit of a tail wind.

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ZA002, the second Dreamliner, during flight testing over the snow-capped peaks of the Pacific Northwest.

In terms of financial results, those speak for themselves. The earnings for the quarter and full-year reflect the development program impacts we’ve talked about before. However in one sense we had a record year, with revenue of $68.3 billion, which is up 12% from a year ago. That’s a solid performance.

So despite huge challenges, we also made tremendous progress. The Dreamliner is flying, and the first flight of the 747-8 is approaching. 2010 is going to be about successful flight test programs and first deliveries for both airplanes late in the year.

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Two of the flight test 747-8 freighters are on the flight line in Everett as first flight nears.

Among the big stories of 2009 were our selection of North Charleston, South Carolina as the location for a second final assembly site for the 787, and the acquisition of sole ownership of Global Aeronautica. With our operations there now integrated, it will mean increased productivity for the 787 program and long-term competitiveness for Boeing.

News of two big orders came at the end of the year: United Airlines’ selection of the 787 and Korean Air becoming the first Asian airline to order the 747-8 Intercontinental. Assembly of the passenger version of the 747-8 is set to begin mid-year 2010.

We saw the most-ever deliveries of both Next-Generation 737s and 777s, and we saw the entry into service of the 777 Freighter.

The 767 program continues to win orders and to deliver to our customers. This year the program reached a great milestone – 15 million flight cycles.

Commercial Aviation Services marked a number of milestones, including the opening of a new two-bay hangar at Shanghai Pudong Airport for Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services as well as an agreement with China Cargo Airlines, making them the first airline in China to operate the Airplane Health Management (AHM) and Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) combination.

Looking ahead, our 2010 delivery guidance is a little lower than 2009. We expect to deliver between 460 and 465 airplanes. This figure is a reflection of anticipated fewer twin-aisle deliveries this year, but does include the first 787s and 747-8s.

As was summed up in our earnings call today, the global recession has most definitely affected our airline customers – with reduced air traffic growth and resulting capacity reductions. We think that ultimately traffic is going to come back, but it’s still going to take time for all of the other economic indicators that affect our industry to rebound significantly.

Visionary design

LONDON - I’ve been traveling this week, first to Dublin, then here in London and on to Warsaw. And I’ve been looking over your great comments to the recent post linking to our 747-8 Design Highlights site.

Thank you for all those impressions and suggestion so far.

Well, that was such a big hit, I thought I’d keep the momentum going and share the link to our 787 Dreamliner Design Highlights site.

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Click on the image above to go to the 787 Design Highlights site.

If you haven’t visited this site already, I think you’ll really like it. One of my favorite features is the animation demonstrating the smoother ride you’ll enjoy on the 787.

Initial airworthiness

We’ve reached our first 787 flight test milestone this week, completing what’s known as “initial airworthiness” testing. I imagine no one is happier about that than our flight test engineers.

What this milestone means is a couple of things. It makes way for more Dreamliners to enter the flight test program, and more crew members (those flight test engineers) to take part in the flights.

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We’ve logged nearly 60 flight hours on the 787 – combining both of the first 2 airplanes. We’ll log more than 3,000 hours before completion.

Flight test airplanes operate with an experimental flight certificate, which limits the people onboard to those required for testing objectives. Until we proved the baseline performance of the 787, we kept the flight crew to a minimum – just the two pilots needed to operate the airplane.

Since first flight one month ago today, the flight test engineers have had to be content sitting in our telemetry room and monitoring the airplane’s performance from there. From now on they can be on board the airplane, allowing more real-time interaction with the pilots and a deeper real-time analysis of the data generated by all of the monitors and sensors we’ve installed on the airplane.

It’s times like this that make me wonder if I could go back to being a flight test engineer. But at this point in my career I don’t think I’d be welcome! Regardless, I’m ready for my first 787 flight.

The Dreamliner has been performing as we expected and it certainly has been busy so far:

  • Number of flights: 15
  • Hours flown: 59 hours, 15 minutes
  • Maximum altitude: 30,000 feet (9,144 m)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.65
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To date, we’ve run initial stall tests and other dynamic maneuvers on the 787, as well as conducted an extensive check-out of the airplane’s systems. Six different pilots have been behind the controls.

Looking ahead, the 787 team will continue to expand the flight envelope, to reach an altitude of more than 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and a speed of Mach 0.85. Following that we plan to push the airplane beyond expected operational conditions.

In addition, we’re working to get the remaining 4 flight test airplanes in the air as we work through the process of certifying these airplanes.

The next important step is called TIA - Type Inspection Authorization. Upon achieving TIA, the real certification testing begins.

747-8 interactive

We’ve just updated our newairplane site with an information-rich package called 747-8 Design Highlights.

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Click on the image above to go to the 747-8 Design Highlights site.

On the site you can explore a number of interactive features, such as the passenger experience on the new 747-8 Intercontinental, the -8’s economics and performance, the market leadership and efficiency of the -8 Freighter, details on the flight deck, wing and engines, environmentally progressive features, and a lot of other highlights of this new airplane.

Let me know what you think.

On target

As has been my tradition these past couple of years, I just took a look back at our post from this time last January. Here’s what I said then:

I don’t think there’s any need to “sugar-coat” the outlook for 2009 and beyond. It’s going to be tough, challenging, difficult ..

I guess we just about nailed that one, huh? In that same post I hinted that 2009 would be one for the history books, and that it certainly was.

On the positive side, we did achieve some of the significant milestones that were on the horizon for us one year ago – first delivery of the 777 Freighter, 787 first flight and commencement of flight test, and final assembly and factory completion of the 747-8 Freighter as that airplane gets ready for its first flight.

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Into a gorgeous sunset for the 787 as flight tests continue into 2010.

In terms of year-end orders and deliveries, we’ve just released those numbers. You can take a look at the details here and here. For me, the key takeaways from our year-end 2009 numbers are that we met our delivery target for commercial airplanes and our core manufacturing business is running extremely well.

During 2009 we delivered 481 airplanes to customers, which is within our announced guidance of 480 to 485 deliveries for 2009. And we retain a strong backlog of 3,375 airplanes.

To no one’s surprise, the challenges of 2009 were reflected in our order totals. But we did have a strong year once again for the Next-Generation 737, and a significant order towards the end of the year for the 747-8 Intercontinental.

I did some media interviews on Thursday, and when asked about the future by a number of reporters I told them couple of things. First, we don’t give guidance until we do our 4th quarter earnings later in the month. However, we do expect – as I’ve said before - 2010 will be a year of economic recovery, while 2011 will be a year in which airlines recover. Which means that in 2012 we should see an increase in airplane demand.

On another issue, you may have noticed reflected on our orders Web site that our good customer ANA has opted to convert their 787-3 orders into other models. Simply put, getting aircraft into their hands for earlier delivery was a better solution for them.

As a result there are no longer any 787-3 orders in the backlog. Going forward, we’ll continue to assess the market viability of the -3.

By the way, the ANA order conversion does not impact the overall 787 order count. As of January 7, the 787 Dreamliner has a total of 851 orders from 56 customers.

New year dreams

Welcome to 2010.

I can’t think of a better way to kick off the year than with some spectacular air-to-air photos of the continuing flight testing of the 787 Dreamliner since last month’s first flight.

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ZA001 bathed in sunset light over downtown Seattle. Click on the photo for a larger view of this great shot of the Dreamliner on a recent test flight.

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Clearer skies over the Puget Sound area have certainly given us some remarkable photo ops during ongoing test flights.

As you probably know, a total of six Dreamliners will make up the flight test fleet. We plan to log more than 3,000 hours of flying time prior to certification.

 

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