February 2011 Archives

Landing the tanker

BERLIN - I’m traveling in Berlin today for some media and aviation forums, but couldn’t escape hearing all the predictions that EADS would win the U.S. Air Force refueling tanker contract. So when word came down that Boeing landed the deal, I couldn’t have been happier. Needless to say, it means a lot to every employee at Boeing and even more so to our 767 team in Everett. Here’s to our bright future with the KC-46A tanker (click here to see a new video featuring tanker animation). You can read our news release here.


The NewGen Tanker.

Dreamliner milestone

The 787 Dreamliner team now has 1,000 reasons to smile. On Wednesday, the Dreamliner took its 1,000th flight. The milestone was reached when test plane ZA004, one of seven planes taking part in flight testing, landed in Yuma, Arizona. Chief pilot Mike Carriker says the airplane continues to behave well in testing.


ZA004 frames Mt. Rainier during a flight test earlier this year.

The Dreamliner has now racked up a total of more than one million miles to date. But the bigger deal doesn’t have anything to do with the number of flights, miles or hours logged. What’s most important is the Dreamliner has now completed about 80 percent of the flight test conditions with Rolls-Royce engines and just over 60 percent for those with GE engines.

Congratulations to everyone involved for reaching this milestone.

Ticket to ride

If you’re a Boeing employee, you probably hear one question all the time: “Can you get me a job?” It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t love working for this company, which is why I’m always receiving inquiries or resumes from job hunters.


Ready to find that first job. Here’s me from the 1981 Cornellian yearbook.

Now, there’s a new way to track job opportunities here at Boeing. Our Facebook page dedicated to Boeing Careers just launched a few days ago. Obviously, the best part of the page will be frequent postings about job openings.


Our new Boeing Careers page on Facebook.

As we step up our production rates on the 737, 747 and 777, we’ve been hiring new aircraft technicians and assemblers. But we’re not stopping at the production line. We’re hiring all over the company— from all over the world— and we’re looking for the best and brightest.

In addition to job openings, the new Facebook page is also dedicated to giving you a better feel of what it’s like to work for Boeing. Imagine watching your creation go from the drawing board to the skies. A recent post focused on engineers with the Boeing Design Center in Russia along with a link to current openings for engineers.

As many readers know, I started my career at Boeing in 1981 as a flight test engineer. It’s been an incredible ride—a ride I’d encourage anyone interested in a career at Boeing to take. If you want to see just how exciting it is to work here, check out the video below of our employees’ 2010 accomplishments.

California Dreamin'

Getting to the airport at the crack of dawn isn’t one of my favorite things. But earlier this month, I gladly crawled out of bed at 4am to head for Boeing Field.

After sitting down at the house for a long overdue breakfast with my daughter, who I usually miss in the mornings since she swims most days at 5am, I took off for San Bernardino, California. That’s the current home of two of our 747-8 Freighter flight test planes (RC501 and RC521). It was a chance for me to connect with our team that has spent a lot of time away from their families as we get the freighter ready for delivery.


RC501 takes off in San Bernardino.

Since I started my career on the flight tests of the 757 and 767, I can personally testify that the work our team does in California is no easy job. As they work to certify the aircraft, they’re expected to come up with quick solutions for any issues that surface. This high pressure environment mixes engineering, science and a little art. It’s a challenging job, but thankfully our folks love what they do.

On the day I arrived, our first test plane RC501 took part in Flight Loads Survey testing. For all you engineers, the Flight Loads Survey involves flight tests where the aircraft is instrumented with equipment that can measure aerodynamic pressures over the surface of the wing and the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. From these tests, we can calculate the loads (forces) these surfaces are experiencing. This data is essential for two important reasons: (1) it allows us to determine where we have design margin in the airplane (to further improve the mission capability of the airplane) and where we might need further strengthening, and (2) it helps us in our continued efforts to validate and refine our design/analysis models.

In other words, we test to make sure the aircraft can withstand the forces it will encounter during its lifetime. RC501 is a spectacular plane that carries more flight test instrumentation than any other plane in Boeing history. Check out the video below showing a day in the life of our California team.

San Bernardino makes for the perfect test site but it also has its challenges. Although it offers a long runway and great weather, we’ve had to make the most of some rather small hangars. In the pictures below, you can see just how tight of a fit I’m talking about. We had to cut a special opening for the freighter’s tail, and the nose sits right up against the wall.


You can see the special opening we had to cut at the top of the hangar.


A tight squeeze in San Bernardino.

Before the plane left on its flight test, I went on board to meet the crew. It also gave me the chance to pose with two of our flight test program’s unofficial mascots. “Sharky” has been around the block, flying on many different test flights over the years. The Gnome is specific to the 747-8 program. We consider them good luck and they’ve always done us proud.


Posing with Andy Hammer, 747-8 Flight Test Manager, and our lucky charms.

But it’s not luck that drives the success of our flight test program— it’s our people. Although I loved seeing the freighter in action during my trip, it was even more of a pleasure to see our team. In fact, I was joined by 747-8 deputy program manager Elizabeth Lund who came to personally thank the team for all their sacrifices. They’ve worked long hours, missed holidays with their families, and dedicated themselves to making sure we deliver the freighter by the middle of this year. Thanks to them, our California Dreamin’ will soon be a reality. (Apologies to my predecessor Randy Baseler for swiping the California Dreamin’ theme that he first used on this blog back in 2006.)

How far we've come

I’ve never seen so many people blown away by the sight of an airplane. I was there Sunday as the new 747-8 Intercontinental was unveiled in its surprise red-orange Sunrise livery symbolizing prosperity and good luck. Instead of writing more about the premiere, I thought I’d let some “behind the scenes” pictures and a video do the talking so you can see just how far we’ve come.


It’s a little hard to see, but violin players took the stage for the big reveal.


Mike Wiegand (left) and Jeff Haber (aka “The Crazy 8’s”) from our marketing team warmed up the crowd with thunder sticks.


A proud day for Todd Zarfos, VP of Engineering for the 747-8 program.


One of the many media interviews I did over the weekend. A news organization in China even made a special mini-site for the event.


Enjoying the big day with my son Joel.


Korean Air and VIP customers have joined launch customer Lufthansa in ordering a total of 33 747-8 Intercontinentals.


Posing with 747 chief pilot Mark Feuerstein.

Traffic in the sky

As anyone who reads this journal or follows our industry knows, we’re going to need tens of thousands of new airplanes over the next 20 years (as well as pilots and crews to operate and maintain them) to meet the demands of growing markets around the world.

But a couple of questions keep coming up when we talk about this tremendous growth: How in the world are we going to advance the existing air traffic infrastructure to handle a lot more air traffic? And, how will we be able to better enable pilots to fly the most efficient routes from takeoff to landing?

Well, we’re not standing still in these crucial areas. Boeing is a major player in air traffic management (ATM). In fact we’re a prime contractor and one of three companies working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to research and develop the Next Generation Air Traffic Management System, or NextGen - part of a 10-year agreement signed last year worth up to $1.7 billion.


Boeing is playing a leading role in transforming global air traffic management.

We’ve just posted a great Q&A interview in Boeing Frontiers with three of Boeing’s leaders in ATM - Neil Planzer, who leads BCA’s Global ATM Solutions, Greg Deiter, who leads Boeing Defense, Space & Security’s Defense and Government Services division and Gene Hayman, of Boeing Research and Technology who manages the ATM upgrade program known as Systems Engineering 2020, or SE 2020

I think the team does a great job explaining why this is an especially exciting time in terms of moving forward toward a technologically advanced air transportation system.


Boeing’s ATM leaders during a recent visit to the control tower at Paine Field in Everett. (From left, Gene Hayman, Greg Deiter, Neil Planzer). Click on the image above to go directly to the Frontiers story.

As Planzer points out, ongoing R&D is key, but we already know what direction we need to go - transitioning from today’s radar systems to state of the art technologies involving satellites for precision navigation, surveillance and global communications.

Imagine the efficiencies possible when pilots and airline operations centers have access to precise data about the location of their airplanes - with instant communication between the flight management computers on board the airplane and on the ground.

Clearly, it’s going to take some doing. But I think Boeing is uniquely qualified to get us there. Working with the FAA and other regulatory agencies worldwide and with our customers and other stakeholders, combined with our expertise at retrofitting existing airplanes and equipping new airplanes with the latest technology, this is a job we can accomplish.

And by the way, achieving this goal will not only reduce congestion and delays, it will save fuel and reduce carbon emissions, as we transition to a safer and vastly more efficient air transportation system - and manage the future traffic in the sky.

A lot of excitement and a little mystery

Our 747-8 team is putting the finishing touches on what promises to be a huge event this weekend as we unveil the new Intercontinental. You can watch it all from the comfort of home by logging on to our live webcast from Everett starting at 11 a.m. (Pacific) this Sunday, February 13.


Our special website celebrating the big event.

You can find the webcast and much more on our special 747-8 Intercontinental website. We’re updating the content frequently leading up to the premiere and you can even leave your memories of traveling on or seeing a 747.


Inside the 747-8 Intercontinental.

We’ve already shown you images of what the interior will look like. But there’s a lot of buzz and mystery surrounding the exterior for this event. Everyone is wondering what kind of Boeing livery the plane will be sporting on Sunday. I won’t spoil the surprise so be sure to log on to the webcast to find out. I’ll be there and will bring you a behind the scenes wrap up early next week.

Numbers Game

Here’s a question: when is a year not really a year? When it comes to making airplanes, the answer is all in the math.

As the market keeps demanding more and more airplanes, we here at Boeing keep upping our production rates to make sure the supply meets that demand. Last week, Airbus followed by announcing a rate increase for the A330 family (since the A340 is no longer being mentioned, I guess it is unofficially out of production).

But beware of how production rates are calculated. There are some major differences between Boeing and Airbus.

Boeing factors down time into production. In other words, down time is absorbed. But at Airbus, down time isn’t factored into the equation. Each year, Airbus loses about a month of work on its wide-body production and about half a month on its single-aisle planes. But they don’t account for that missed time in their production rates.

Here’s an example. We recently announced that our 777 production rate will increase to 8.3 a month in 2013. Airbus has now followed by increasing its wide-body plane production to 10 a month in 2013, which you may assume works out to 120 planes a year. But if you factor in the lost month of work, the real number is 110.

Boeing 777

8.3 x 12 (months) = 99.6 planes a year

Airbus A330 family

10 x 11 (months) = 110 planes a year

On the single-aisle side, production of our 737 will jump to 38 a month in 2013. Airbus plans to increase single-aisle production to 40 a month in 2012. If you factored in the half month of lost work, what you’d expect to be 480 ends up really being 460.

Boeing 737

38 x 12 (months) = 456 planes a year

Airbus A320 family

40 x 11.5 (months) = 460 planes a year


Next-Generation 737s on the production line in Renton.

It really is like comparing apples and oranges. Or maybe oranges and lemons. I’m not saying the way we calculate the rate is better—it’s just different.


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