We just finished the new book, American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company. It is well worth reading.
There’s very little about Mulally and his time at Boeing, though there are lots of references. The most extensive discussion is Chapter 3, The Man on the White Horse, in which Ford CEO William Clay Ford Jr. approaches Mulally to leave Boeing and the process Ford–and Mulally–went through for his decision-making.
Part of the process was the interaction between Mulally and Boeing CEO Jim McNerney–and McNerney doesn’t come off looking too good. This may not be particularly surprising, since the story is told from Ford’s and Mulally’s viewpoint and is not a deep look into the Boeing side of things. But this examination is nonetheless interesting. This is a big omission, but the machinations reported are insightful.
But the main event–the crisis Ford was facing when Mulally joined, and how he built a team to deal with it–is fascinating reading. It makes you wonder how different things might have been on the troubled 787 program had Mulally been here as things went south, with his applied management tactics that were very different than the atmosphere widely discussed among employees once Mulally left. This atmosphere, employees said, punished bad news rather than rewarded honesty and candor, and Mulally’s successor, Scott Carson, simply didn’t have the technical background to cope with the 787’s growing challenges.
The author, Bryce C. Hoffman, was the automotive reporter for the Detroit News. He gives a candid look at some of Mulally’s errors, but by-and-large this is a story in which Hoffman paints a picture in which Mulally can do little wrong.
Is he a fawning story-teller or do the results speak for themselves, driving the story to its constant pat-on-the-back approach to Boeing’s refugee? We think largely a results-story. At the end, Hoffman gives credit to those who also had a hand in saving Ford, but almost as an after-thought–except for Bill Ford himself, who realized he didn’t have the depth or experience to do the job himself and set aside his ego and family legacy to bring in Mulally.
Tags: Alan Mulally, American Icon, Boeing, Boeing 787, Bryce G, Ford Motor Co., Hoffman, Scott Carson, William Clay Ford Jr.
About a week ago- the author did review on CSPAN as I recall. He mentioned ( from the book I assume ) about Allan ‘ stoplight’ charts and what happened when finally someone at ford had the guts to stand up and say ‘ we have a problem’ – waiting for the decapitation.
Instead alan clapped, and … the rest is history.
I know many who worked with/for alan, and I have few alan stories of my own… I have not read the book- but on the basis of what the author said- it seems to present a fair picture.
even so – one thing many boeing ex managers found out the hard way – alan wanted facts and data- and had/has little tolerance for the bcratic BS and phony power point presentations.
Thanks for the tip from the “Leeham Book Club”. Maybe this will become a new monthly feature of your blog 😀
I knew Alan professionally and I’d say the prevailing public image does not precisely coincide with the Alan I worked with. I think these contrasting perspectives on Alan exist even within Boeing, the difference being those who saw him from outside his immediate circle of leaders and those who worked in direct contact with Alan behind closed doors.
Alan was always a man of the people; he was well liked at the working level, accessible, responsive and personable… He would have made an incredible politician. However, this public image of being the consummate consensus builder is not really a true/complete reflection of who Alan was at Boeing. Alan wasn’t always the calm and patient leader bringing people “together” as he’s often made out to be. Alan could also be arrogant, autocratic, and dismissive with his leadership teams. We wouldn’t hesitate to raise his voice or tear into an under-performing leader when the door was closed. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but it’s certainly different than how Alan is represented in the public realm.
As for whether the 787 program would have turned out differently under Alan… I don’t think so. Not that Alan isn’t a terrific leader. I believe he is, and I believe he’s a better leader than Carson or Albaugh. However, the 787’s issues can be traced fairly directly to fundamental risks which were inherent in how the program was structured – something which was driven by Stonecipher. Alan would had led the 787 program with these same conceptual flaws in how the business was structured and scheduled. To believe it would have been different under Alan is to believe he could have prevented the program from being structured in the way it was. On the technical side, Alan could not have helped the program work through the major issues (side of body, ZA002 fire, late fasteners, etc) any more efficiently than was achieved. I’d suggest those technical issues would have been addressed by the same people and in the same way whether Alan was leading or not.
My 2 cents on a great (and unfortunately former) Boeing leader.
What we see externally are the results. And, I’m not surprised Alan could be, “arrogant, autocratic, and dismissive with his leadership teams,” to get those results. Leadership styles/personalities are infinite, yet the desired outcome must fall within a definite envelope to ensure the business meets near-term and strategic goals technically and financially.
And, with regards to the 787 program, I agree he may not have been in the position to effect a better overall program structure, yet to speculate, surely the structure would have been much different had he been the head of MD before the merger. And, to speculate further, would a MD under him been a much stronger enterprise with a strong portfolio considering his Ford result?
The head of Ford Sync must of got an ear full, “when the door was closed.”
I remember when the CEOs for the big 3 flew in private jets to Washington for bailout money from the governement, only to be rebuffed for their extravagance. So the following week, they all drove to Washington in hybrid cars.
I wonder how they are getting around today.
But if I recall well Mulally always said that Ford did not need bail-out money.
That is correct. Mulally wanted to divest Ford of underperforming and costly divisions like Jaguar, Volvo, Range Rover, and reduce the Ford footprint in Mazda. He also consintrated in improving quality at Ford. The unions at Ford generally supported him, including his 2010 decision to close the Mercury line. Ford is a much smaller company now than it was in 2008-2009, but it is a much stronger company that actually makes real money, as opposed to the accounting tricks at Government Motors or Chrysler.
I am under the impression that this is the main reason why Mulally left Boeing. Combined with the fact that he was not offered the job he wanted most.
You mention “the conceptual flaws in how the business was structured and scheduled”. That was all too apparent for me early in the 787 program, even though I was only an outside observer. From the start I found that the reports I was reading throughout the development of the Dreamliner were alarming. So I was not surprised one bit when the 787 program crashed.
But I am afraid that the damage done by Stonecipher might be irreparable.
“But I am afraid that the damage done by Stonecipher might be irreparable.”
Don’t you think that is a bit extreme? 777 sales going well, the 737, despite the NSA/MAX hiccup is going quite well, the 787 will ramp up, albeit not as quickly as Boeing and its “cheerleaders” would want or accept.
I don’t believe all the Boeing propaganda, be it from official sources or from comments made on the internet, but I truly do believe that it is in no danger of dying (neither a quick death nor a long and slow one).
You didn’t need to jump to such an extreme conclusion. Unless it is an internal fear that you try to express unconsciously. But I will leave that for Freud and Jung to analyse.
What I meant is that the damage is extreme, and Boeing will never be the same company it was in its glorious past. The cultural transformation brought about by Stonecipher coincided with the rise of Airbus. Therefore we could say that under Stonecipher’s reign the crown was slowly passed from McBoeing to Airbus.
Just check the time period when the Airbus rising curve met the Boeing declining one, and at which crossing point we could see overall parity. But please ignore the last quarter results, or the next one for that matter, because that is how large corporations are destroyed.
Sorry Norm but Boeing’s problems started years before Stonecipher. You might try reading the following.
He left because of Succession plan 101. First thing you do when you take the top job is remove your competitors. As the Romans did “send them to the Provinces”. Oddly, this is yet another area where Condit utterly failed the company in the merger, not getting rid of Stonecipher. Mually failed to get the top job, he had to go. He would have otherwise been a threat internally to the legitimacy of McNerney. He was in the position of either jumping ship, or being sent to some backwater “province” that would limit his potential. Logically, he jumped ship to Ford.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Stonecipher was a big shareholder. Wasn’t he? Therefore to get rid of him would have been a difficult task for Condit.
Again, Condit utter failure, allowing McD to buy Boeing with Boeing’s money… or stock as the case may be. Condit was so wrapped around an axle about creating a “rock star” CEO legacy, that he failed to follow basic M&A rules.
Thanks for the book information, it will be a good read .I have been following Mullaly’s performance for some time now ;I believe, his leaving was a big loss to Boeing. Here was a man who delivered so well on the 777 program , knew the business inside out ,but was overlooked for the top job- perhaps due to the obsession with the boards these days of “run way left”-i e age. Fact is , he would have handled 787 program differently from the current team ; problems would have surfaced sooner , which means a year or more could have been saved from the delays.
His coming to Ford was the best thing that happenned to Detroit and him ofcourse. He has done very well. Boeing loss is Ford’s gain.
Boeing needs to go back to its roots, kick all power point bean counters out of this once great engineering company.
In the economy that follows this easy credit junk economy its the companys that can adapt to old ways that will survive. I am 100% sure the Bernanke economics will fail utterly, nothing has really been solved but creating even greater debts. The economy needs to go through a 1930´s cleansing of all the bailouts and ignorant economists at charge. Soon all of the western world is like Greece.
Find the way back to old roots and stay alive!
“Push beancounters out”
That was the original objective of “PowerAid” at Airbus : get rid of some superfluous papershufflers ( the unions defanged that a bit 😉
One reason I find VV’s vita amusing.
I think that Boeing hiring McNerney and the covering the rear as Howard noted pointed Alan to the door. Alan may have stayed under different terms but with the 787 program structure dictated to him and his power restrained, he may have seen that he would be responsible for a program that he did not have the authority to run the way he thought it needed to be done. He was probably also ready to try something else and be the top man.
I worked 4 years around Automotive construction in Detroit just as I was out of college. Back then, Chrysler had no money but was getting a new lease on life due to Lee. GM had excellent plant management but was blind on product development – The X cars was the great example. Ford did not even give the manager of a 3,000 worker plant a $50K authorization limit for construction changes – GM Plant mangers had something like $1M.
Ford Management was very inbred then, but did have a good product development group. Alan when he came into Ford was given the authority to shake up the whole place to rid it of the cascading empires. Seeing what he did at Ford makes me think that if he remained at Boeing with the authority to really run the 787 program things would have been different.
It was shocking to see the 7/8/7 rollout with the claim it would fly in like 90 days. This is followed in 60 days with a 90 day delay, then another 90 day delay 3 months later. Those announcements were taken as just fantisy by anyone in the know as it would be impossible to do that much in so short of a time. Alan would have been getting better feedback so such pronouncements would not have occurred.
building legends, fully recognize wath CM says, great leaders are just like people if you happen to be around them. Smart one makes sure to claim succes and forget glitches. The 777 was on spec, on time. Forget budget..
Mulally was and continues to be a fabulous organizer and deserves full credit
for the Ford rescue, but based on personal experiences, he was autocratic, a
BAD LISTENER and together with H. Stone-cipher, totally responsible for the
disastrous delay on the 787 program, by the outsourcing of major sections of
This because a Dr. L.J. Hart-Smith, a member of the MDD Fathom Works,
had written a thesis in the late 1990s, which confirmed why Out-Sourcing of
the MD-11 program was the main reason for MDD going bankrupt!
After Boeing purchased MDD in 1997, when Dr. L. J. Hart-Smith became a
Boeing employee, he also warned the Stonecipher/Mulally team NOT TO OUT-
SOURCE THE 787 PROGRAM, by submitting his thesis and repeatedly urging
them not to follow the bad MDD example!
Instead of taking his advice into account, they fired him! Mulally a good listener?
Rudy, you say that “Stonecipher is totally responsible for the disastrous delay on the 787 program”. If he is totally responsible, and I believe he was, why then further on do you also make Mulally responsible? Did Mulally, who was under Stonecipher, have any choice? Is this not the primary reason why he left Boeing? Was Mulally personally against Hart-Smith’s thesis?
You were well positioned at the time to know what was going on inside Boeing. And you certainly know a lot more than most of us about all this. So I would appreciate if you could elaborate a bit more on the subject.
If you don’t mind John, I will rewrite your sentence to make it more complete and accurate:
“Back then, Chrysler had no money but was getting a new lease on life due to Lee” and government bailout money.
Please don’t see any malice on my part, but only a desire to set the record straight.
None taken Normand, for the sake of brevity I omitted that loan, but Chrysler did repay it (I think because they hated all the strings attached.) But Lee did get Chrysler thinking about cars, design, and desire again. A huge difference than the monobots that were there before.
I retired in 1989, but stayed in contact with both of them for many years.
Firstly, I was strongly opposed to the “Sonic Cruiser” and after Boeing switched
from high speed to high-risk efficiency with the all carbon fiber 787, I expressed
my concerns with that big jump in the use of exotic materials such as carbon
fiber, which had not been applied to full commercial airplane structures before.
I urged them to more seriously look into the unprecedented jump in aeronautical
efficiency achievable with the Blended-Wing-Body concept, instead and the rest
I was not aware of the thesis written by Dr. L.J. Hart-Smith, until much later.
A link to Dr. Hart-Smith’s thesis for those unfamiliar with it. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2011/02/04/2014130646.pdf
Thnx, scanned it. From the start it seems a bit pre occupied and therefor less scientific. The warnings and risk assessment proved very accurate though, certainly from a 2001 perspective. Painful to see there were folks that were obviously not capable of convince the Mullaly’s etc. in charge at the time. Guys that still live in enormous houses and live a life of wealth.
Experienced similar issues, “I freakin told you 7 yrs ago and not only told you, here’s 3 memos”. But in the end you can only blame yourself for not having beeing able to convince the others avoiding trouble.. maybe you where not so sure afterall..
Both Stonecipher and Mulally were responsible for launching the 787 and
they were both fully aware of the Hart-Smith thesis when they did, I must as-
sume, therefore, that they were both also responsible for ignoring the thesis.
As we all know, Mulally was a tough guy and the fact that he reported to Stone-
cipher, would and should not have prevented him from taking the Hart-Smith
thesis into account!
The main and only reason wine why Mulally left the company, was the fact that
he was not chosen to replace Stonecipher when he, Stonecipher, was fired for
Condit was also fired on similar grounds I believe. They really made a nice pair those two! Just think of all the damage done to the heritage, reputation and image of Boeing around the world. The aftermath still lingers long after their departure.
When corporate boards are asked why they pay their CEOs about 180 times the average salary inside their company, they invariably answer that it is because they need that to attract talents. Yeah, sure.
Huh?!?! Yeah, right.
There is something else I would ask but Scott would slam me for it.
There is a nice theory of the cycle of a company. The first generations builds, the second manages and the third generation corrupts it. I think the third generation is too far from the roots and have other priorities.
The greed of today doent help either. People are too greedy to really give it their best, I hope this financial crisis and collapse will clean out all this sickness in the western world.
Several of people replying have had personal experiences as well as being a part of the Company during the development of the 787 so are far more insightful .
I only raise a question that has not been mentioned and that is the decision to involve other Companies as well as outsourcing as a way of reducing the financial committment necessary to undertake this project. That is, rather than betting the Company against the success of the new model, it shifted some of the risk on to other suppliers who could ultimately benefit by its success.
I think the failures of management to oversee these arrangements contributed to the dismal outcome. But the idea of relieving the initial costs with “partnerships” is something that may have been very appealing and appropriate if managed properly.
Perhaps some others will comment on this concept…not its failure but its approach.
PLs. read the Dr. Hart-Smith’s thesis, by going up to the BucK T comments above.
When you do, you’ll find that “rather than betting the Company against the success
of the new model, it shifted some of the risk on to other suppliers who could
ultimately benefit by its success,” was the excuse or the blunder by both Mulally
and Stonecipher, because the H.S. thesis specifically makes the point, that the manufacturer, in this case Boeing, cannot make any money by just bolting major
sections of the airplane together!
Profits on each subassembly, is part of the price Boeing agreed to pay to the
subassembly manufacturers who, therefore, not only get fully paid by Boeing
for designing and building the major sections, they do NOT share any of the losses
ultimately incurred by Boeing on the whole program.
Without reading it again, that is essentially what the Dr. Hart-Smith’s thesis is and
it is therefore totally irresponsible, for both Stonecipher and Mulally to have ignored
it, not only because Dr. H.S. could point to the MDD disaster, but for the fact that
instead of listening to is well founded advice, they fired him.
Hence, the $35 billion dollar losses Boeing has incurred on the 787 program so far.
Maybe Mulally also left Boeing, before the sh… hit the fan?
Needless to say, it appears the Board of Directors did not scutinize this arrangement carefully enough and the rest is history
“Maybe Mulally also left Boeing, before the sh… hit the fan?”
He did, looking back. Unclear if he knew, but he had total insight and lots of experience.
Lets not forget that John McDummy was also on then bored or directionless, and later another GE wannabee. Apathy reigned- and as part of the MCDummy buyout, way to many FOS ( friends of stony ) and FOM (of McDummy) were salted in at top level positions within Heritage Boeing… and the results of that are still felt today.
Under stonys direction, they not only shot the messenger, but bayoneted the stretcher bearers.
Philbert lost his jewels, and became management enuch
The rest is OBVIOUS . .
Don Shuper, Always good to read your colorful ways of describing the past. You have not posted in a while and am glad you are still weighing in.
Any thoughts on the current situation with the 787’s and the realigned relationship with the Unions. Has Boeing learned anything from its ways or was the 737Max another unexpected surprise.
…. Any thoughts on the current situation with the 787’s and the realigned relationship with the Unions. Has Boeing learned anything from its ways …
Of course I have thoughts and opinions- having pen t over 30 years BA ;-PP and retiring in 1995. ”
has BA learned anything from then 90’s – yes, but maybe not quite enough ..
I have noted that even after two decades or so, the (IMHO) triggering events of the decline of BA in the 90’s and early 2000s have yet to be discussed or written about in any detail.
One such attempt – was a book written a few years ago, which sort of touched on the issues, but also left out or downplayed a lot. “Boeing versus Airbus” by John Newhouse is one- and another is ” Turbulence ” (Boeing and the state of american workers and Managers ) by greenberg,grunberg,moore, and sikora .
IMHO the most significant triggering event was the largely misguided attempt to computerize the ancient method of drawings, data, and manufacturing processes.
In the long run of course it was the right thing to do- but the so called implementation was driven by early computer whizzes who had NO real appreciation for handling data- and believed that a computer had ” artificial intelligence ” and was the cure all.
It was the FUBAR integration of existing mainframe systems into the production and assembly process started in 1990 that resulted in the 1997 shutdown of Assembly operations. Which in turn caused Philbert and friends to hide the problems, etc
That story really sort of started in the 1980’s as Numerically controlled machines for aerospace were in their infancy as were computer aided design tools/
By 1990 or so, grand plans and presentations were made, and many neat viewfoil and early type ‘power point’ presentations were ascendant. IBM established a large mainframe farm in Issaquah ( east of Seattle about 10 miles ) to handle CATIA and other streams. The holy grail was called DCAC/MRM. Grunts had dumb terminals, or PCs and managers had either early Macs or simply let their secretaries work on early versions of Windoze. Several computer aided drawing systems were floating around- CATIA ( Dassault ) in Color, and at least one other whose acronym I forgot.
By the way- in the late 60’s- early 70’s, Lockheed had started on a computer part design system ( loosely referred to as CADAM or CAD/CAM in black and white) which eventually was used by Northrup to a very large extent on the B-2 program by Northrup and Boeing. ( NCAD and NCAL ) .
There is NO question that such change – integration was needed. For example very primitive computer design tools were used in tooling and manufacturing areas on the 767 in the 1980’s. But there was no real integration with other ‘ production’ systems relying on miles of bar chart paper being ground out every day from which graphs were prepared on primitive pc and posted by the yard in control rooms- only to be taken down, updated, and reposted the next day.
Add to that, the each customer got a wide range of ‘ accessories” whiten had to be tracked, and the result of a botched job of integration was guaranteed.
Nuff for now
Did not realize that Don and Don Shuper were one and the same. They actually write like two different individuals with a different style.
Look foward to hearing your thoughts on current interaction between management and the factory floor as well the role of the engineers in the production process.
These were issues which you addressed often in the past and I wonder if you have heard of changes that have improved these situations
. . . Look foward to hearing your thoughts on current interaction between management and the factory floor as well the role of the engineers in the production process. . . .
That subject has long been very near to heart.
1) The short answer is that I believe McN[earney–edited–no name-calling] learned a little regarding his foot in mouth comments as to why BA went to Charleston– to prevent strikes —
Both the R and D sides totally bloviated/miss-stated about what really happened and just why his comments were against the law- short version is that BA can locate a plant anywhere for any business reason EXCEPT to retaliate against unions for striking.
2) re Engineers/Techs and management /production issues
There have been over the last two decades some significant movement in a positive manner regarding recognition of Engineers and Techs working in production and equal opportunities for advancement and recognition. Whether the advances made with IAM regarding benefits and wages will pour over to SPEEA remains to be seen. Preliminary negotiations have just started
SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth opens Friday’s negotiation session with The Boeing Company at SPEEA headquarters.
Negotiations continue Thursday (June 21) SPEEA and Boeing hold Prof & Tech negotiations
3) A bit of history for which I was very much involved in – partially resulting in my comments in the above (2)
Until the late 1980’s, Boeing maintained a two tier system for Engineers – those in ” Engineering ” ( Design and development ) and those in ” Operations” – Tooling and Production.
An Engineer with a BS degree who chose to work in Operations was limited in pay grades to at least one step less than the same BS degreed engineer who worked in Engineering. Result was an average pay versus service of about 10 to 15 percent less than his/her counterpart in Engineering.
Also – such Engineers in operations were blocked from participating in ‘ technical fellow” programs and pay grades available to ‘ top’ engineers in “Engineering”
After I raised the first issue ( less pay and blocked pay grades ) at a shareholder meeting, Frank Shrontz was surprised- but took near immediate action to remove the pay limits- within a monthn or two- and later announced in the Boeing news.
However, the second issue regarding ‘ technical fellow’ was still not available to those in operations.
In the early 90’s- I continued to push the issue- and with the help of a few high level people and the press, got a one on one meeting with the then guru in manufacturing/operations named Dean Cruze. He was NOT a happy camper nor was the top HR person involved. He made it very clear that he was NOT about ready to try to ‘ lower the standards’ for entrance into the Technical Fellow ranks to accommodate the grunt Engineers in Operations. The meeting lasted about an hour- and ended with an agreement to disagree ….
However, within a short time, the ‘ door was opened’ somewhat as a result of some spirited discussions in high places ;-)). And a few Engineers in Tooling and related operations were given a chance to join the elite after meeting various hoops and publications, and other evaluations.
Time passed, and within the last 2 to 4 years, a similar fellowship status has been made available to Techs.
So its been at least two decades since Frank Shrontz mentioned in a management memo in the early 90’s about changing the BA past practice of NOT using/hiring the ‘ best and brightest’ into Operations…
How much of the above ( other than the standard rhetoric of working together ) will truly carry over into the current negotiations and realistic program schedules remains to be seen.
You are absolutely right about that. It could be argued that Boeing’s decline was initiated by Phil Condit.
What this Business Week article made clear to me was that Condit had an opportunity to drop the McBoeing deal, or at least postpone it, when the assembly line difficulties started to overwhelm the management. In my opinion Condit should have given priority to the production catastrophe that was fast developing when he had his eyes set on MD. It looks like greed won again.
In those days I was following the story in Business Week’s sister magazine Aviation Week. Those reports were a revelation for me. I started to realize how far behind Boeing had fallen compared to other large corporations. Especially for an aerospace company.
AW was alluding to the fact that priority was given to the stock value rather than developing new products in order to remain competitive with Airbus. Although I adhered to that line of thinking, I did not fully understand what was going on until I read the BW article today.
I know that we cannot rewrite History, but if Condit had dropped the MD deal, Stonecipher would probably have never set foot in Seattle, where Boeing would probably still be headquartered today. And another major production catastrophe would have been avoided ten years later.
I got very familiar with Boeing while working for Pan Am as a lowly troubleshooter for Chief Engineer John Borger during the days before the delivery of the first 747. I had the privilege of sitting in on many meetings with Borger and the Boeing heads; Joe Sutter, Ray Fox, et al. They were great men to me then and still are. Even their salesmen – Speedy Munson, Ron King, were damn good engineers.
Both companies were technocracies; if you weren’t an engineer or a pilot you just didn’t belong. Both had similar strengths; a loyal brilliant middle management that could be depended upon to perform miracles. Both abused that middle management. Both suffered from the same problem of failure to develop successors and both went outside for senior management and usually paid a price. Both were eventually taken over first by marketeers and then moneycrats.
Pan Am is of course gone and the present Boeing does not much resemble the old Boeing I knew, though it still has an excellent middle management.
What I miss most though is the can do attitude, the certainty that they could succeed, and the joy they took from performing well.
I don’t think the old Boeing senior management would think much of the new Boeing senior management.
. . . I don’t think the old Boeing senior management would think much of the new Boeing senior management…
AGREED ! My put is if you wired up Bill Allens grave with a coil of copper wire, you could probably power a small factory as he spins . . .
“What I miss most though is the can do attitude, the certainty that they could succeed”
I sometimes wonder if that optimist, can do attitude worked all that well for the Dreamliner. “Naysayers” were ignored, sidelined in the post 9-11, 7e7 vs A380 Can Do rush.
Blaming bean-counters / outsiders is what I usually read. IMO Boeing was / is still very much technology driven..
I guess we need an outsider to write a book the Dreamliner adventure 1998-2018..
Jesus Christ, Keesje! Can’t you read?
I was clearly saying that what you call the “optimist” attitude is missing today at Boeing – and has been for some time. So of course it didn’t “work all that well” on the Dreamliner!
It was replaced by “wishful hopefulness”.
That is what got them into the Sonic Cruiser mess – another Concorde.
And into promising the NSA by 2020 or even earlier – when they didn’t even have a good enough engine to start the PD.
Everyone in the world except some of you guys knew that was never going to happen.
After all the troubles the 787 had getting into service, I wish to end at least my
comments on this subject, by stressing very sincerely, that the 787 has turned
out to be the first completely new generation of ultra modern all carbon-fiber
aircraft in the history of aviation, with an excellent in-service record, so far!
It was inexcusable however, that Boeing management at the time of launching
the program, completely ignored the very substantiated report by Dr. Hart
Smith on the demise of MDD, primarily based on outsourcing of the MD-11
program, which in turn was ignored by Boeing management, causing the major
787 program delay and the $30+ billion loss on the program, which may never
Fred, as you know I am part of the “some of you guys”.
What “was never going to happen” is the availability in the next ten to fifteen years of an engine offering performances a quantum leap beyond present day technology. To expect that “ideal engine” before starting the NSA can be considered wishful thinking. As far as I am concerned, Prop-fan technology is a dead end. At least for the foreseeable future.
It is a waist of time for the OEMs, and especially Boeing, to wait for that hypothetical engine. The LEAP and GTF are promising enough to start the NSA right now. It is more urgent than a lot of people might think.
A NSA started now won’t bring anything worthwhile into the equation beyond better engines.
But the same new engines can be hung onto the current NB craft without much hassle.
See the NEO and slightly lagging on too short gears the MAX.
Just look at the recent “revolutionary” poster project that gets its gains to a very large extent from better engines. An Al-Li A330++ aka A350Mk1..2 would have been on par at much lower
investment _and_ risk.
Boeings problem is that their platform has distinctly less potential.
But you can not fix taking the wrong path with a new project now imho.
You are looking at the NSA from the Airbus perspective. There is no surprise there. I think what you don’t like about the neo is the potential for it to kill the neo business case.
There’s insufficient payoff for the NSA without an engine that can deliver 25 – 30 % better economics than the best of today’s engines.
NSA economics depend on the engine.
Without that better engine what does the NSA offer?
The first generation GTF and LEAPX engines only get halfway there.
The second generation GTF (and maybe the LEAP, but less probable) may achieve this, but Boeing cannot gamble on a presently not even hypothetical second gen engine with no in-service experience even on the first gen engine.
Neither can Airbus.
I agree, I don’t like UDF’s, but the nuts running the environmental show may force our hand.
In that case I see the narrowbody market splitting into a very lightweight 150 pax 1500 nm 0.7 m UDF powered and a 200+ pax 3500 nm 0.85 m very high bypass turbofan powered aircraft.
Noise is also part of the environment. And that alone disqualifies UDFs from the start.
Gee, Fred, what part of clean air and reduction on the dependency of oil don’t you like?
greens want to have their cake and eat it too.
i.e. they are completely averse to tradeoffs.
thus you can’t sell them slightly more noise for
a significant reduction in gaseous polutions.
Additionally the new greens are the pensioneers.
( Look at the opponents in FRA and MUC )
Well, yes, also going by published research projects.
Incremental seems the way to go at the moment.
Also it may stay the way to go in the future.
(stepchanges in transport technology are rare)
Mh, just thinking: what about inserting a solid state MHD generator
in front of the HPT stage for electricity generation in lieu of a rotating
generator driven by gearbox?
??. It is late in the night here and I may be a bit dense at the moment, but ??..
I think Normand means the NSA’s potential to kill the NEO Business case. I think the NSA will kill the NEO, probably after 3000 deliveries, depends on its EIS, maybe 2022-23?
It is a typo. It should read “I think what you don’t like about the NSA is the potential for it to kill the neo business case.”
Good morning Normand, that makes more sense now.
Moving the project start for a “from new” NB forward (earlier) will increase compromises and cost, and reduce potential gains.
This is valid for both airframers imho. Physics are impartial.
( Starting the NSA on a timeline that would have
satisfied potential customers away from the NEO had high
potential to develope into an exponentiated Dreamliner experience. )
On the same “imho” Airbus has slightly higher potential for further upgrades. This is supported by a fully integrated highly adaptable flightcontrol system.
767 and A330 show a similar runoff. Watching how the A330
stands up with the 787 around will give hints into the future.
A final Q:
What do posters think are the refined potential gains for the GTF? ( i.e. for a mature engine in 5..10 years after EIS on
the A320 ) 25% over the current CFM56-5B baseline ?
Rudy and Fred – the more airlines learned about the Sonic Cruiser the less attractive it became to them.
Soon after the Sonic Cruiser went public, Boeing presented it in detail to potential customer airlines, including predicted performance and economics. Three alternatives were shown:
-The original M.98 transonic canard design
-A M.98 transonic alternative with a mid-fuselage wing and aft vertical and horizontal stabilizers.
-A conventional M.85 twin, roughly the size of what became the 787.
The two transonic airplanes had incredible performance but their tapered and area-ruled fuselage had virtually no constant cross section. Although the airplanes looked really cool, passenger seats-abreast in all three classes kept changing throughout the cabin. Underfloor cargo volume was limited because the lower lobe height and width were variable along the fuselage. Container or pallet usage would have been inefficient because their sizes would have been limited by the ever-changing lower lobe cross section. Why fly 20% faster if turnaround between flights is a few hours longer because all the cargo plus 300 passengers’ baggage had to be bulk-loaded and unloaded?
It would have been difficult to make stretch versions without recontouring the entire fuselage to meet the area rule. The airplanes were transonic because M.98 cruise would have required demonstration of high-speed characteristics at max operating and max dive Mach numbers above 1.00. Finally, although flight times were shorter, especially over very long distances, fuel consumption was something like 20% higher due to the aerodynamically- delayed but still ever-present transonic drag rise.
The M.85 airplane used the same composite construction but its cabin had a constant section throughout. It was not as fast as the transonic aircraft but it had lower fuel consumption and much better passenger and cargo revenue potential. It also would have been much easier to stretch.
Once the airlines had all the facts and data (Alan, thanks for that phrase), their overwhelming preference was for the M.85 alternative. The rest is history.
This is the best description of the Sonic Cruiser I have ever seen. Thanks for the insight!
Personally I never bought into the Sonic Cruiser concept. I eliminated it from the start because of its high fuel consumption. I was even surprised that it was ever considered and thought that Boeing had lost touch with reality.
I saw it as an example of a large corporation which had lost its way. It even made me reluctant to accept the Dreamliner afterwards. There was so much noise coming out of Seattle in those days that I took all this fanfare as genuine bullshit. Boeing Spin (BS) at its best. Or worst, I should say.
The Sonic Cruiser episode made me lose faith in Boeing long before the Dreamliner fiasco. They looked like a bunch of guys who did not know where they were going. It was sad to watch. 🙁
As Normand said, thanks for the insight on the m .98 designs.
But, wouldn’t the same problems arise with any blended wing/body design regardless of cruise speed?
And wouldn’t such designs require such changes to the infrastructure – the airport/terminal/gates that just that inertia cripples the proposal?
I have nothing against incremental changes. On the contrary! But when your bank of potential incremental changes is nearly empty, and you see that your competitor has plenty of margin left, you might as well go for the kill right away.
Toting a big riffle while expeditioning into the desert doesn’t guarantee meeting elephants 😉
Normand, you are very much mistaken. I was there. The presentation I described was packed with many [very proprietary] performance and economics charts for all three aircraft. Boeing had what they thought was a good idea, but as always they went out to the customers for feedback. They did then what had been done many times before – tell the customers what they wanted to know, answer their questions, and give them the tools they needed to draw their own conclusions.
I could very well be mistaken. But what I am saying is how it looked from the outside. I mean how in this world can you possibly offer an airplane that burns 20% more fuel in order to save half an hour. That is sick!
Normand, I don’t disagree that in hindsight the Sonic Cruiser looks like it was a terribly conceived idea. However, to criticize Boeing for showing the concept to customers is to lack perspective on several levels. I worked on the program for about 2 years 2000-2001 and will try to put the the decision to show the airplane to customers into proper context.
1. The Sonic Cruiser was conceived in a different world than we live in today. When airlines were shown the airplane, jet fuel was selling for under $0.35 per gallon , 9/11 had not yet happened, and other than a very transient blip on fuel prices during the first gulf war, few people had any notion in the late 1990s the cost of fuel would increase 10X and become the dominant cost factor for this industry. There also was less emphasis within commercial aviation on figuring out how to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint in the late 1990s.
2. Boeing’s product development process works in a gated fashion, with passing gate 2 being a determination that a concept is technically feasible. Gate 2 also provides product development engineers the first opportunity to show the concept outside the company. The is very early in the 11 gate process, and is not in any way intended to be an effort to sell the airplane. In fact, this is well in advance of the gate which includes board approval to offer a product for sale. When Boeing shows the Sonic Cruiser (or any other conceptual product) to operators, it is far from evidence the company is serious about moving forward with a design. Far from it. Gate 2 approval to show a product is specifically intended to generate a conversation about a concept in order to help refine it with industry feedback.
Many of the posts here, yours included, seem to indicate you believe the Sonic Cruiser was “offered” to the airlines (your word not mine). Nothing could be further from the truth. We had no authority to offer the airplane. Only permission to show the concept to operators for the specific purpose of getting industry feedback on the concept. Feedback which pointed us in a better direction, proving only one thing… The gated process works and led us to the right product strategy.
The Sonic Cruiser “teaser” was neccessary to have a product distinct from Airbus.
And later there was a concerted effort to show the Dreamliner as a derivative
swapping out speed for efficiency but having the same “soul” so to speak.
The following perfect storm of a marketing campaing built on that ( egged on
by “too cheap to pass” pricing ) pushing towards the sales success of the 787.
It was mandatory that UDH worked towards killing the A350Mk1. Perfectly managed perceptions! ( wonder what he got out of it. It will be interesting to see if the resultant XWB developes into “blowback” for Boeing.)
authority to offer is approved when enough launch customers have “committed”.
Boeing wanted to leapfrog Airbus, many airlines made clear the A330 probaly would be their next candidate. No need to downplay Boeings ambitions at the time. The airlines thought differently and an even better carbon A330 was the result. Langley research, development and prototyping In the nineties showed carbon had become feasible.
RE: The Sonic Cruiser.
Throughout history, every new method of transportation had to offer improve-
ments in 3 principal categories i.e. comfort, speed and economics!
The S.C., met the first two requirements, but miserably failed the third, but as
a bad example, the Concorde failed to meet all three basic requirements!
The A380 was launched in January 2001 and the Sonic Cruiser in March of
the same year.
I was in Europe at that time and every little newspaper, even in small towns
all over Europe, had front page articles and pictures, describing the Sonic
Cruiser as a Boeing coupe and their answer to the A380!
I hate to think how much that publicity stunt cost Boeing, in addition to the huge
amount of money lost during two years of development costs, before they
finally gave up, making the smart switch from high-speed to better economics,
with the more standard speed and all carbon-fibre 787.
If only Boeing would have listened to the strong warnings from Dr. Heart Smith
against outsourcing, the Boeing Company would be in a much better financial
and a more reputable position today.
Great reading, my comments relative to BCA past leaders and future business. I visit SEA regularly although I never worked with Alan M. I think he was just lucky to have the cards stacked against him and thus opened the door to his departure, lucky for him. Future for 787 is bright, given the ability to solve EIS hardware issues, but a global economic crisis and more Air India type airline contract activity will turn the program and Boeing upside down fast. It is amazing to hear even young engineers speak about their programs and bosses in a negative fashion. One young guy told me “he who makes the best .ppt wins.” That has been verified by Sr folks nearing the end of their careers. Sad really.
Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure the Concorde made improvements in speed.
Your opinion on this does little to change the fact that many of the technologies developed for the Sonic Cruiser program are now in service on the 787. I have no idea why you want to believe this was spin from Boeing. Certainly you are smart enough to understand the CFRP structure, repair and manufacturing technologies, bleedless systems, IMA avionics, many aspects of the interior, etc. are easily positioned to benefit either type of airplane.
A beautiful conspiracy theory without a shred of evidence to support it. I would also suggest people’s view of Hazy’s influence in this business is very much overstated. SUH’s rejection of the original A350 may have been the straw which broke the camel’s back, but airlines had been telling Airbus through multiple revisions of the A330 they preferred an all new airframe. The A330 cabin width heavily compromised the airplane’s competitiveness against the 787, and this was one thing none of the pre-XWB A350’s was able to address.
Your confident statements about how the Boeing PD process works are exactly 180 degrees from reality. You are describing gates 3 and 4, but in the order of 4, 3. I don’t expect to be able to help you here, because you have always been more inclined to believe what you want about Boeing (usually the worst), even when the facts all point in a different direction. Regardless, I will direct you to the presentation linked below, which contains a lot of information about the Boeing gated process being used around the time of the Sonic Cruiser. If you are inclined to absorb some facts, you will see the business decisions of “show”, “offer” and “launch” are linked with gates 2, 3 & 4, respectively. You are imagining a world where the exit criteria for gate 4 triggers gate 3. That’s simply not how Boeing works.
from the article linked… “Boeing confirmed it has no firm plans for the scope or design of the Sonic Cruiser, nor its price”
If you believe VS “ordered” an airplane for which Boeing had “no firm plans for the scope or design of the Sonic Cruiser, nor its price”, then you truly are very naive about how this business works. I can guarantee you there was never any “order” for the Sonic Cruiser, as stated in the article.
Since the early days of commercial aviation airlines have always demanded more economical airplanes. In this context, to offer an airplane that burns 20% more fuel can only be seen as an aberration.
I will always remember this episode as being part of one of the darkest period in Boeing’s history. The Boeing management was obviously distracted at the time by something that was shaking the very foundations of the company: The McDonnell-Douglass “reverse take-over” of Boeing.
If Phil Condit had let go of his ferocious ambition to merge with MD the minds would have remained in a more insightful state, and the idea of a Sonic Cruiser would have remained just that: an idea. But a ver bad one I will add.