August 2010 Archives

Learn to fly

CALGARY - I’m in Canada for the next few days meeting with media. I’ll have more about that later in the week. But I wanted to share a bit about a significant event back home.

Last Thursday we officially launched 787 pilot training at our Boeing Training & Flight Services campus in Seattle, with a media day and public unveiling of the 787 full-flight simulator.

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The 787 full flight simulator in action.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), our launch customer for the 787, is set to begin training - and that will mark an important step toward getting the Dreamliner into service with our customers.

We’ve talked at length over the past several years about the breakthrough technology of the 787. Well, that extends to the way we’re going to train pilots and maintenance crews.

787 training is based around ultra-realistic simulation technology. We want to replicate the feel of flying the actual airplane.

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During the media tour inside the 787 full flight simulator last Thursday Boeing Training & Flight Services pilot instructor Gregg Pointon adjusts the controls while Aviation Week’s Mike Mecham looks on.

We’ve incorporated real airplane data into the full-flight simulator (FFS), creating a more authentic representation of flight and maintenance scenarios.

And it’s not just for pilots. For instance, for maintenance training we have a 3-D virtual airplane so that mechanics can “walk around” the 787 and use the same tools and performance data they’d use on the flightline - without ever setting foot outside the classroom.

It’s been quite a journey getting 787 flight training underway. To get a real flavor of the process of assembling the simulator, check out the “put together quickly” video below. I think you’ll find it fascinating.

By the way, with the 787 we’ve moved to paperless training. That means no notebooks, heavy manuals or binders. It’s all digital - notes taken on tablet PCs, manuals stored on flash drives to take home after training, and electronic documentation made during sessions in the FFS for after-flight debriefings.

Another innovation is the ability for captains and first officers to learn to fly the 787 on a flight training device (FTD) that replicates the real flight deck without the investment and infrastructure of a full flight simulator.

This device incorporates touch-screen panels and real flight deck hardware. It also uses the newly standardized electronic flight bag and the heads-up display. The FTD means pilots can do some of the training in a more cost-effective manner before moving to the full flight simulator.

Bottom line, yes, we’ve had our share of setbacks on the 787 program, but with pilot training getting underway we continue to make steady progress with our entry into service preparations.

Still to come: the launch of 787 training around the world - at Gatwick, Singapore and Tokyo later in the year.

Straight on

By now you’ve seen the news about the target for first delivery of the 787.

As you know, we said earlier this summer that it was possible that our first 787 delivery could move a few weeks into 2011. The reason was a combined impact of several issues unrelated to the airplane’s performance in flight test. Then, just recently, Rolls-Royce experienced some engine availability challenges.

The cumulative impact of this new issue, on top of the other issues, has led to our revising our expected timing for first delivery by a few weeks - to mid-first quarter next year.

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ZA001 and the 787 program continue to fly straight on toward first delivery.

Fortunately, as the program awaits a substitute engine from Rolls-Royce and we work with them to address the contributing factors in the test incident, our flight testing across the program continues at a healthy pace. We recently completed polar navigation and autopilot testing, and wet runway landing demonstrations.

We’ve said it before: Building a new airplane is hard work. But the certification and entry into service has to be right. And that’s what the team is focused on today and every day.

Clearly first delivery will be a great event when it happens because we’ll know that the airplane we’re presenting to our customer is safe, efficient and reliable.

In the big picture, the date of the event is much less important than the thoroughness of the process that gets us there.

Sharks and jets

Aviation, like any other business, requires that you stay close to your customers, to understand their wants and needs - while at the same time always keeping your eye on the competition.

So I’ve been watching recently as Airbus has become more aggressive, a little bolder, both in their positioning vs. Boeing and in what they’re saying about themselves

One of their recent marketing thrusts has been around “sharklets” for the A320 family, and along with that what I find interesting is that Airbus is positioning the A321 as a potential replacement for the 757.

Why is that interesting? Because the best possible 757 replacement already exists - the 737-900ER (Extended Range).

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The 737-900ER: Clearly the most capable 757 replacement airplane.

The Airbus “sharklet” is a wingtip device, a lot like our Blended Winglets, that allows them to improve the performance and efficiency of the airplane.

By the way, Blended Winglets entered service on the Next-Generation 737 back in 2001 - but more about that later.

First, let’s do a comparison:

  • 737-900ER and A321 are about the same size - 180 passengers in a standard two-class configuration for the -900ER vs. 183 for the A321.
  • 737-900ER has a max. range of 3,265 nmi vs. 3,055 for the A321.
  • A321 is nearly 10% heavier, and consumes 4-5% more fuel per seat.
  • A321 is 7-8% more expensive to operate per-trip, 5-6% more expensive to operate per-seat/mile, and it’s less reliable.

So, the 737-900ER is virtually the same size, yet travels farther for less fuel and less money and does it more reliably.

Note that only with the addition of these new winglets can the A321 even approach the 737-900ER, and it still needs to play catch-up in range and efficiency.

I will say that I felt a bit nostalgic when I saw the Airbus “sharklet” pitch. It reminded me of the marketing materials we pulled together almost a decade ago on Blended Winglets for our airplanes.

Which brings me to the differences between the winglets on our airplanes vs. theirs. First and foremost, the winglets provided by Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) have now been in service for more than 10 years. They’ve proven their performance in operation.

APB estimates that our winglets have already saved the industry 2 billion gallons of jet fuel. The other guys won’t be able to start delivering performance improvements for another couple of years.

Second, unlike the Airbus offering, winglets are available both on new production Boeing airplanes and on an aftermarket basis, so all of the Next-Generation 737 airplanes can benefit. In fact, winglets are also now flying on the 757 and 767 to improve their performance as well.

So, too bad if you own one of the more than 4,290 A320 family aircraft already delivered - no winglets for you!

One final point - as our competition tries to catch up, we continue to move forward and evolve.

Don’t forget, later this year we’ll be delivering new interiors on the Next-Generation 737. And next year and into early 2012 we make improvements to the aerodynamics of the airplane as well as engine upgrades for a 2% improvement in fuel burn.

So if you think the Airbus sharks are gonna have their way over the Boeing jets you probably also believe in fish stories!

Heavy rotation

We like to say all the time how flight testing is about stretching the capabilities of the airplane above and beyond what you’d experience in normal flight operations.

How about taking off weighing more than a million pounds (454,500 kg)?

Check out the video story:

This test flight in Victorville, California for the 747-8 Freighter also happened to set a record for the heaviest takeoff we’ve ever attempted with a Boeing airplane.

Business travel rebound

I’ve been saying for months that this is a year of recovery for our industry, and I wanted to share something that gives a little anecdotal evidence that we are indeed seeing a rebound.

I’m traveling right now myself - on vacation - but clearly there are those who are seeing business travel returning as well.

Take a look at this short video clip from a travel correspondent who attended last week’s National Business Travel Association (NBTA) international convention.

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Speaking of business travel, Continental Airlines featured its new BusinessFirst seats in a 787 Dreamliner display at the NBTA convention. This 787 mockup is now on view at Continental’s Houston hub in Terminal E of Bush Intercontinental Airport. (Continental Airlines photo)

The video clip from the NBTA convention gives you a good idea of the view from those in the industry seeing the recovery in terms of increased load factors right now - airline executives and other travel managers.

In this case, they’re talking specifically about business travel, but their observations are a good barometer for all passenger travel.

Do you think travel is making a comeback?

The "Crickets"

I’ll be doing some traveling coming up, including some much-needed vacation, but I wanted to share one last bit of fun from Farnborough.

It has to do with an honor bestowed upon me for my performance on the field at the end of the air show last month.

The cricket field, that is.

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On the field, batting ..

The Boeing air show Communications team has a tradition during Farnborough years. After a long week of working the chalet, the team retires one evening to a rural village in the county of Surrey called Pirbright.

It’s about 35 miles southwest of London, just 6 miles from Farnborough and is the home of the Pirbright Cricket Club, whose members play on the same village green where their predecessors first trod more than 220 years ago.

My colleague and good friend Charlie Miller, our Boeing vice president of International Corporate Communications, is a member of the Pirbright club.

He and a few other club regulars helped explain the rudiments of the game to their colonial cousins from the States (before we proceeded to generally embarrass ourselves).

It was a lot of fun as we tried our hand at bowling (pitching) with a straight arm that you’re not allowed to bend at the elbow - and batting with a large bat made out of willow that you have to carry with you as you run.

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.. and running.

By the way, cricket is also a great opportunity to enjoy an adult beverage while you play, and our hosts showed us wonderful hospitality, including said beverages as well as barbecue and pot luck dishes.

Well, to my surprise at the end of a balmy evening, Charlie and the other Pirbright players unanimously selected me as “Man of the Match” for my all-round performance. Incidentally, last time it was awarded to the “Woman of the Match.”

I’m told that I quickly grasped the somewhat unnatural technique of bowling. Apparently I batted quite well and scored some good runs.

I also made a “stunningly good” catch right on the boundary. Keep in mind that when compared to baseball, not only is the cricket ball harder, you don’t wear a glove in the field.

So, I humbly received my award - a Pirbright Cricket Club sweater, which I will wear with pride back home in Seattle.

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Here I am receiving my Pirbright Cricket Club sweater, along with Tom Downey, Boeing senior V.P. of Communications (center), and Charlie Millier, V.P. of International Corporate Communications (right).

By the way, I had to turn down the offer of a game playing for the club side on the Sunday after the air show (I was headed home) - but I suspect they may have been just a little kind with their offer.

As Buddy Holly would say, “that’ll be the day” I’m good enough to compete alongside those pros!

787 flyover

Crowds along Seattle’s Lake Washington got a thrill over the weekend when ZA003 flew over the annual summer event known as Seafair.

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The 787 Dreamliner over Seattle and Lake Washington on Sunday.

It’s a bit of a tradition. Nearly every Boeing commercial airplane has flown over Seafair.

As you may recall, back in August 1955 (55 years ago almost to the day), Boeing test pilot “Tex” Johnston put the 707 prototype Dash 80 into a couple of barrel rolls over Lake Washington during the show.

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Boeing Test and Evaluation pilot Capt. Mike Bryan (r) gave the crew of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels a tour of the Dreamliner during Seafair weekend.

About 200 787 employees and their families (including 787 V.P. and general manager Scott Fancher) watched and cheered the flyover on the shore.

A great sight, that if you’re lucky enough to live or work in south Seattle, you do get to see quite often as Dreamliners take off and return from Boeing Field during ongoing flight testing.

Speaking of Dreamliners, I thought I’d give you a look inside one of the other airplanes in the flight test fleet, ZA001.

In this 3-minute video, Flight Test director Scott Peterson points out some of the test equipment inside the first 787. As he says, and as you’ll see, it’s not your typical airliner interior.

These are the times

We’ve posted a great video highlighting the events and accomplishments of the 2nd quarter.

I thought you’d like to take a look if you haven’t already discovered it.

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Click above to go to the Boeing Commercial Airplanes 2010 2nd Quarter Highlights video.

Air safety report

Boeing has just updated our annual air safety report.

It’s the 41st annual “Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents,” our way of studying trends to help prevent future accidents.

Much like the Current Market Outlook, this analysis is a definitive source for the aviation industry that Boeing shares widely with all of our stakeholders.

We’re committed to safety, and we work with governments, operators and industry members every day to advance safety across the global air transportation system.

I invite you to take a look as well.

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You can click on the cover image above to download the PDF of the latest Boeing Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes Airplane Safety Engineering prepares this document. This year’s update includes stats on large western-built commercial transport jets in worldwide operation from 1959 through 2009.

 

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