By Scott Hamilton
Jan. 10, 2023, © Leeham News: An ex-chief executive officer of The Boeing Co. said Jan. 9 that the company needs to undertake “real honest-to-God” product development, or it will lose the skills required to do so.
Phil Condit, the CEO was named president of Boeing in 1992 and CEO in 1996. He retired in 2004 after a lifetime career at Boeing, with leadership roles in the 747, 757, 757, 767, and 777 programs. Speaking at the University of Washington aerospace school, Condit was asked about Boeing’s product development.
“I’ve got to be really careful,” Condit replied, choosing his words carefully. “I’ve been retired for almost two decades. I think there are some things that I have heard and observed that I agree with, like SAF as a place to go, is one of those. I think it’s important for Boeing to do some real honest-to-God important development because over time you lose skill. If you don’t do things, you lose your capability to do them. It’s important that skills get exercised.”
SAF is Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Boeing currently is placing its major bets in ecoAviation on SAF rather than hydrogen or battery-powered aircraft, although research and development of the latter two areas continue. Current CEO David Calhoun previously announced Boeing’s commercial airliners will be 100% SAF-capable by 2030. Airbus will, too, but it’s pursuing hydrogen as a major solution to some of aviation’s need to go “green.”
Calhoun expresses skepticism over hydrogen. Condit did, too. There are three kinds of hydrogen: Grey, blue and green. Green hydrogen is the “greenest,” but it needs lots of energy to process into fuel. Even so, Condit says hydrogen tends to leak. Once in the high-altitude atmosphere, Mother Nature attacks hydrogen first, leaving environmentally dangerous methane behind.
Condit also rejects batteries as an environmental solution. The weight and the power-density of batteries combine to be 45 times more disadvantageous than Jet A fuel for a 10% benefit.
Then there are the total life cycle factors to consider for hydrogen and batteries.
Responding to a question from a UW student, Condit said he would invest his money into SAF and autonomous development. These are the two areas Boeing currently has high on the research list.
Boeing is an investor in the development of the battery-powered WISK autonomous Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicle. Calhoun, during the Nov. 2 investors’ day, said the WISK research is about autonomous flight. Condit believes autonomous flight is in the future for commercial airliners. Going to a single pilot will be an interim step, he believes.
Boeing already is developing an autonomous vehicle, the military MQ-25. The MQ-25 is an autonomous aircraft carrier-based aerial tanker designed to refuel carrier-based airplanes. It’s still in testing but it has successfully flown off and landed on carriers.
Additional reporting from this event will be forthcoming.
Mr. Condit seems to be well-informed and up-to-date on eco-aviation issues for a man of his age (going on 82) — kudos !
Of course, there’s still the issue of suitable feedstocks for SAF — which is somewhat of a headache when thinking about truly large production scales. Still, innovations like the recent Honda Dreamo algae offer hope.
He’s right about the need for “real honest-to-God product development” at BA — but lack of funding means that that won’t be happening any time soon.
Reading the (free) intro of the paywall article below this one gives a good summary of some of the reasons why: hint — not enough production to start making sufficient margins to overcome debt servicing (and other) costs.
> He’s right about the need for “real honest-to-God product development” at BA <
I'd love to see it. Right now they seem headed for irrelevance.
As one of them thar older people, we stay tuned in if we have the interest, anyone that knows a range of older people will find some that are fully engaged.
And as my mom says, you may not get smarter but you get wisdom!
And, as chance would have it, this appeared today regarding the recently-announced collaboration between Airbus and CERN on (use of superconductivity in) LH2/hybrid aircraft:
“The joint initiative seeks to develop and test in laboratory conditions, an optimised generic superconductor cryogenic (~500 kW) powertrain by the end of 2025. SCALE will be designed, constructed and tested by CERN using Airbus UpNext specifications and CERN technology. It will consist of a DC link (cable and cryostat) with two current leads, and a cooling system based on gaseous helium.”
Sorry you are stuck outside the paywall. You add a lot of goodness to the discussion even when we get into it a bit too personally. Have a great year and don’t stop writing in the forum….
I always thought Boeing bought jet engines from outside suppliers? Do they have a division internally that produces jet engines? This really surprised me.
@Richard: No, Boeing doesn’t produce engines. It has a group that is dedicated to engines but it works with RR, PW and GE/CFM.
Given the supply chain issues and the need to vertically integrate I can foresee (amongst others areas) a time when either P&W or Rolls Royce is purchased by and integrated into one of the two airframers.
A quick beginning history of Boeing and United Aircraft in the 30’s, along with Government airmail.
The history of them buying up land and building a town that only whites could live in is left out.
Although Boeing buys engines from suppliers, Boeing plays an active role early in the engine development program by dictating requirements and interfacing with other systems onboard the airplane, e.g. the fuel system, ECS, and Electrical. That being said, The SAF challenge is really not an aircraft or engine-related challenge: all SAF standards require the fuel to have identical chemical, thermal, and rheologic properties to the current jet fuels (i.e. useful SAFs are a drop-in substitute, by design). Boeing has been making a lot of waves by buying and burning SAFs on test flights, as a cheap PR substitute for real innovation.
Actually a lot of entities have been working with SAF fuels from the engine mfgs to Boeing and Airbus.
Airbus has taken the Hydrogen bent because the EU has taken the Hydrogen bent.
Same with RISE, GE and Safran don’t believe in it, but its free research money and 70% of the engine would apply to a jet engine (gears, the engine core)
The bit about the red lining that “falling parts” brings up is pretty accurate, although it was the principles in the company, including Bill Boeing, that did that, and not the company itself. But maybe that’s splitting hairs.
Seattle has a bit of a quandary about its history, and it is tough to know how to think about it. It did not remain Balkanized to the extreme of many of the eastern cities, but for a long time, it was just like that, with various racial and ethnic communities. The red lining had one positive effect in that an African American neighborhood (a curious gerrymander looking thing) did grow up, and it had a very vibrant cultural history. Today, gentrification is pretty quickly obliterating what once was, much to the dismay of many. Part of that is just the cost issue, but it’s also the cultural thing. A more homogenous community a century ago might have precluded some of that cultural richness. So it’s really hard to know what good current policies look like.
I am drawn to the quip that flows back through Newton, to John of Salisbury, and thence to Bernard of Chartres, plus a little twist. We stand on the shoulders of giants (Newton’s take) and then beat them over their heads; and we too will get to take our turns having our heads beaten on by those who come after us.
Thanks for this comment.
All: Red-lining housing neighborhoods is NOT part of this post. Knock it off.
Phil Condit, the ex Boeing CEO who sold Boeing out to McDonnell Douglas stooges and began the long pathetic journey to where Boeing is today.
The same CEO who was forced to resign because of unethical tanker deals.
Condit touting Boeing needs product development….. just too funny. Unreal.
Ok Phil, you can go back to your golf game and 5 martini’s now.
BTW Richard, Boeing doesn’t produce, nor ever has, jet engines.
I thought at one time, Pratt was a part of Boeing and it was spun off…
@Sam: in the 1930s, yes.
So back when our friend from Douglas was in short pants, yes?
Yes, United Aircraft made up of Boeing, United Airlines and P&W. The tradition lives on with UAL launching new Boeing aircrafts with P&W engines. They were early takers of 767 with PW4000, 757 with PW2000, 777 with PW4000. We will see if it will take launch the 797 with a pair of bigger fan/nacelle PW1037G’s.
PW1037G? Speculation? Rumors?
Airframes, engines, airline.
forcefully broken up.
Same/Similar happened to Junkers in Germany.
in the twenties Junkers dominated the (passenger)airframe and airline domain.
largest network by far.
Agreed. Condit left Boeing amid a huge scandal 19 years ago. Did time wash away the reasons why he was forced to take such decision, so that now he is eligible to speak at an aerospace school? Do universities no longer stand for ethics?
People, you can question Condit’s ability as CEO but his expertise in engineering is unchallenged.
People, you can question Condit’s ability as CEO but his expertise in engineering is unchallenged.
I absolutely 100% agree. People who dismiss Condit as a CEO never remember how good he was on the technical aspects of the business. Stonecipher on the other hand couldn’t engineer his way out of a wet paper bag
Scott, I agree with you.
He was a brilliant engineer and father of the 777 moreover. However he was also responsible for the launch of the 737NG when he could have launched the 737 replacement alongside the development of the 777, as we saw a decade earlier (757/767).
This is the first opportunity for Boeing to replace the 737 at this time. It could also have integrated fly by wire and 777 cockpit, IMHO
The second occasion would have been a development alongside the 787 in 2003-2004 when the 757 FAL closed.
The Third opportunity was in 2011, preferring to launch the 737MAX but P. Condit had retired
B737 NG was a great succes, maybe the best SA airplane ever build.
The issue for Boeing was rather to quit the B757 in the aftermath of 9/11.
It`s easy to blame someone when you know what happend, and you can`t blame him on the Max issues that happend 2 decades after he left.
The main issue was that Boeing missed out on the NG replacement, so you can`t blame a father of the NG for his sucessors messing up the replacement of his sucessful product.
“B737 NG was a great succes, maybe the best SA airplane ever build. ”
Its success depended on not having to meet current ( at EIS ) design standards due to grandfathering all the way back on the 737 Jurassic.
i.e. NG and later the MAX where deficient designs in scope of current requirements.
Rumor has it that different Boeing “Yellowstone” Y1, Y2 planes went thru preliminary design but were stopped. You also had the twin aisle narrowbody PPP “passenger pleasing plane” project historically. Now we will see if Boeing moves fwd after building the Truss Brazed shortened MD-90 NASA project to design a new aircraft with new engines.
Scott, I agree with you. He was a brilliant engineer and father of the 777 moreover. However he was also responsible for the launch of the 737NG when he could have launched the 737 replacement alongside the development of the 777, as we saw a decade earlier (757/767). This is the first opportunity for Boeing to replace the 737 at this time. It could also have integrated fly by wire and 777 cockpit
The second occasion would have been a development alongside the 787 in 2003-2004 when the 757 FAL closed.
The Third occasion was in 2011, preferring to launch the 737MAX but. Condit was retired…
If memory serves me right, the tanker procurement scandal was really perpetrated by the CEO of the defense division, not by Condit.
The name of the individual may have been Mike Sears. I think that this corrupt executive came to Boeing from McD in the merger. (Just one more manifestation of the virus that infected Boeing from McD.)
If this correct, Condit appears little more than a fall guy, and his ouster could have been an opportunistic power play by Stonecipher and his ex-GE cash flow pals. Ironic, huh? Stonecipher brings the corrupt win-at-all cost culture with him, then when someone gets caught he uses it as an excuse to jettison Condit and strengthen the control of the rotten clique that’s the source of the troubles.
(I have not Google the procurement scandal, so not sure of the name of the exec at the center of it.)
@Mike Sears was the instigator. He went to jail. Condit resigned because the buck stopped with him. Read about it in my book, Air Wars.
For those who haven’t read Scotts Book “Air Wars”, do yourself a favor and read it. As a MacDac/BA career Airplane Guy, it layed out a completely different history of the merger as seen by an outside analyst. I needed to see WTF happened from a nonpartisan position, and this book did that in spades. I was so deeply invested in the technical side of things and so proud of what we got manufactured that I never stopped to look at the business side of things. For so long I heard that the management lost their way/minds, and Scotts book was the clarity I needed to see how bad it really was.
Yes, I bought your book some time ago and probably read about the procurement scandal there. But it was mostly a refresher for me, as I was working on the Tanker program at the time it all went down and got canceled.
(Thank you Sen. McCain, for getting me out of Wichita. )
Condit should be held accountable for opening the door to the destructive Cash-Flow gene that now threatens the future of commercial
Boeing never produced jet engines: absolutely not true. Granted, it’s probably been 60 years, and they were never used on commercial a/c, but Boeing did have it’s name on a small turbine. Also, Boeing does not procure the engines used on jetliners, that deal is done between the customer airlines and the engine makers; Boeing installs the option on the airftam
BTW Richard, Boeing doesn’t produce, nor ever has, jet engines.
Boeing produced turbine engines in commercial quantitys years ago
I said jet engines.
Turbines are similar but much different. None of these Boeing products were ever used on any airplane development. Touché
Airdoc wrote Touche!
And I write……Not!
Thank God Kaman Helicopters used the Boeing T60 in their 12 passenger helicopter. Among other users. Now we can get into the whole Helicopters arent airplanes deal, but the US Navy got 700 ish Dart 50 drone helicopters carrying torpedoes off ships in the nifty fifties….
Have a great day
That’s a bit rich coming Phil Condit…after he set Boeing on this path many years ago
Boeing launching an aircraft now will bring more problems than solve. They should at the very least finish with the max family before committing to what airlines will probably not buy.
Everybody agrees they should launch, no one can agree exactly what it should be, and nor are airlines particularly ready to pay for it, nor can they themselves agree on what it should be
As United confirmed recently that they don’t have much interest in an MOM.
Calhouns comments are irrelevant because he won’t be here to make the decision anyway
You have different teams working in preliminary design, aero design, structural prelimiary design, performance, manufacturing technologies long time before all stars line up and you know there is money to be made and once you move into full development/detailed analyses/ testing/manufacturing optimization/sourcing/software development the money flows out faster and faster. Boeing having several teams doing the preliminary design work all the time and I assume they are not totally tied to one business unit. They have to be really good not designing a flying Ford Edsel…
I think you should be very careful with the no one. There may well be a viable path product wise that Calhoun would not take if someone gold plated it for him as he is not about product development, he is about resource extraction (sometimes known as pillaging)
Boeing nailed the 787 as a viable product and in an area of high sales for a wide body. Management failed the 787, the 787 did not fail Boeing.
The fact that smoke and mirrors were used to get the 787 into production shows you what the
management issues were, if they could not do it for next to nothing they were not interested.
Calhoun gas decided that stock buybacks are a better use for profits than investing in a new airplane. Could this decision be colored by the fact that much of his own compensation is in stock?
Phil Condit is the individual most responsible for the current sad state of Boeing, and to hear him pontificate about what Boeing should be doing today just drips with irony. It was Condit who initiated the catastrophic merger with the failed airplane company from St Louis and Long Beach, and for whatever reason he was impotent to stop the cancerous spread of the MD takeover. The engineering culture which he indeed played a major part in sustaining began its rot under his (subservient to Stonecipher) “leadership”. But what a party for the shareholders. Until it wasn’t.
I am sadly but firmly convinced that there will never be a Boeing 797. Phil is right about “use it or lose it”, and 19 years since the launch of the last new airplane means Boeing is rapidly approaching the “lose it” era.
The 777X has new carbon fibre wings and empennage (tail, stabilisers) , new engines to integrate along with a next generation cockpit.
in other words all the hard bits -the ‘fuselage tube’ isnt that difficult. They also are building the wings at Boeings own plant, not something they did for the 787 ( MHI)
The 777X is BA’s shot at an A330neo-type revamp of an existing model — with the exception that the former is grossly over budget, several years late, and in a certification limbo.
I suspect that Bigfoot waa referring to cleansheet designs 😏
I watch the Boeing 777X situation with real interest.
Airbus didnt do a clean sheet design between the A320 ( first flight Feb 87) till the A380 ( April 2005). Thats 18 years !
in between was the A330/340 ‘makeover ‘ – which sold very very well.
Maybe theres a clue there
( its only about 13 years since 787 first flight)
AB’s hydrogen plane concepts are clean sheet designs…
All manufactuerers are doing preliminary design studies or concepts all the time
We are talking about the concept- detailed design-marketing-production design/build- certification- EIS stages.
The 777X is a mini version of all that as the changes are very extensive.
Keep me updated on the paper concepts of Airbus planes . The zero-e seem to be engines with hydrogen storage onboard planes.
“All manufactuerers are doing preliminary design studies or concepts all the time”
What are the ones at BA at present?
“Airbus didn’t do a clean sheet design between the A320 till the A380 …. in between was the A330/340 ‘makeover ‘ ”
Yeah, sure, dream on.
“The 777X is BA’s shot at an A330neo-type revamp of an existing model”
Oh give me a break, you are smart enough to see the folly in your comment.
The 330 Neo is a simple repower with a new set of wingtips replacing the old ones. Same fuselage lengths in the -200/-300 and the -800/-900. Simple changes, easily done.
Comparing those relatively simple A330 changes to the 777X changing from a metal wing to a completely new folding carbon wing along with a fuselage stretch and new landing gear is difficult to swallow……. The 330neo was a simple derivative, the fact that the 777X will get its own TCDS shows you are not quite factual here
Each OEM took a bestselling model, spruced it up, and tried to market it as a replacement for older frames of that same model.
My analogy is perfectly valid.
The fact that BA went “a bridge too far” and introduced modifications that it can’t easily get certified — that was its own choice. Regulators generally aren’t impressed by things such as fuselage blowouts and un-commanded pitch changes — BA would have done better to keep things simpler. Then again, it never imagined that self-cert would be taken off the table…
Your “alternatively” doesn’t pass muster. You are being intellectually dishonest in saying that the Trip7X, having a new fuselage 9.4 feet longer and incorporating a new centersection, replacing the metal wing with a completely new re-engined carbonfiber wing introducing folding wingtips to the industry, rolling on new landing gear and having a new carbon stab and vertical fin is a “spruce up” of its best selling model. Its not a modified 777, its being certified as a new model on its own TCDS.
Airbus spruced up the A330, no argument, they put new engines and wingtips on the A330 leaving the rest of the airplane unchanged and called it the New Engine Option. This very small scope change was allowed to be added on the existing A330 TCDS because there were virtually no changes of consequence to the aircraft. Your attempt to minimise the scope change of the Trip7X is laughable, intellectually dishonest and so beneath your dignity that I’m shaking my head in disbelief….. Try harder next time.
“Its not a modified 777, its being certified as a new model on its own TCDS”
(1) It certainly is a modified 777 — that’s why it’s called the “777”-8 and “777”-9.
(2) It’s not “being certified” at all — it doesn’t have a TIA.
(3) BA wants (or wanted) to get it certified as a derivative, but it looks like the FAA/EASA aren’t going to go along with that.
From the first link (and many more like it):
“Boeing currently plans to certify the 777X as a derivative of the 777-200, an aircraft that was certified in 1995.”
“Because the 777X is a derivative of the existing 777-300ER, it was not expected to be certified as a new plane type. Therefore, the certification process would only consider any items that have been substantially altered from the original type, making certification easier and faster for Boeing.”
“Boeing launched the MAX, and the 777X, as mere derivatives of the predecessor airplanes, the 737NG and the 777 Classic.”
“A new question arises: will the 777X be certified as a derivative of the 777 Classic—the path Boeing wants. Or will the FAA decide that enough changes are designed into the 777X that it needs an entirely new type certificate?”
Less drama, more reading
You are one of the leading critics of obsolete, inaccurate or just plain false links used to support posts. Yet here you are using a clearly obsolete data source in an attempt to explain yourself. I don’t know why I expected better but here we are, you quoting an obsolete source in the same manner you object to ot j ers
Your irrelevant mention of TIA is even worse as it is a minor step in any cert process. The Trip7X was envisioned as a derivative, until Congress forced a rewrite of the Major/Minor cert rules inside the same regulations that changed cockpit warning. The promulgation of those rules is newer than your so called authoritative source. Indeed, you need to do more reading to stay current on what is actually happening.
What is happening is that you, after we cut through all the smoke and mirrors, maintain that building a new model aircraft on its own TCDS incorporating new engines, a brand new carbon fiber wing with folding wingtips, a new fuselage 9 feet longer than the old model 777 with a brand new centersection connecting those wings, having completely new carbon fiber tail surfaces is a spruce up of a 777. The scope of work on the A320 neo was a re-engine and wingtip change.
If you would read more and stop twisting the truth unrecognizably, you wouldn’t look so intellectually dishonest
“If you would read more and stop twisting the truth unrecognizably, you wouldn’t look so intellectually dishonest”
The only “truth twisting” being done here is by the BA back office 😉
For those in the real world:
– BA wanted to pass off the 777X as a derivative, but that plan hit a wall.
– The OEM grossly over-estimated its design abilities, and is now stuck with multiple, very non-trivial problems that need to be solved.
– A TIA is not trivial –> no TIA, no certification.
“The FAA is unwilling to certify the Boeing 777X. The regulatory agency has informed Boeing that it won’t give Boeing Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) for the 777-9 unless the airframer provides evidence that it has conclusively solved a number of software and hardware issues. The FAA had signaled this in a letter to Boeing on May 13, The Seattle Times and Reuters have reported on June 27.”
“Citing a Serious Flight Test Incident and Lack of Design Maturity, FAA Slows Boeing 777X Certification”
The program is a miscalculated trainwreck from multiple perspectives — engineering, regulatory, marketing, sales, PR.
Bryce, lets try to get you back on point. I know thats hard, but try……..wta get back on point. You said the 777x is a spruce up of the 777 just like the 330neo was a spruce up of the 330. THAT is the point of this exchange. Everything you just posted clearly shows that there is a vast difference in the scope of work between these two projects….. Please address what was under discussion instead of using word count to confuse everybody with babel like prose.
The 777X *is* just a spruce-up of the 777 — an over-reached, un-certified, under-ordered, backfired derivative.
Just like the 787-8 w.r.t. the 747-400.
If you put a new dress on an old pig — it’s still just an old pig.
The A330neo also has a new wing — but the plane is still just a spruce-up of the A330ceo.
If you want to get all excited about the 777X, go ahead! But don’t expect much of a following 😉
“787-8” should, of course, read “747-8”.
Another old pig in a new dress.
The 747-8 was a good platform for freighters. Also, it may help to acknowledge a misspeak instead of doubling down. You’re now tangled in an overreached spruce up that doesn’t even have TIA but is already a failed derivative. The FAA’s reticence is understandable; it can take a while to get them up to speed sometimes. Besides, they seem to be pandering to a Congress with little competence but firm conviction that everything Boeing does is wrong and must be corrected by their decree—surely a dangerous stance. Although Congress thinks Boeing certifies its products and has thrown money at the perceived problem of FAA competence, expecting the FAA to hire engineers that are on the cutting edge of technology, they are guaranteed to be disappointed because they don’t understand that the FAA is not in the business of R & D for technology. The moment an engineer is hired by the FAA s/he begins to fall behind the industry—just as Condit fears will happen to Boeing. Whether Condit’s fears are valid or not has been the topic of most comments here but requires insider knowledge of Boeing’s R&D activities to resolve. I don’t know why any competent person would think such competitive information is or should be floating around on the internet.
P.S.: If a particular opinion expressed here doesn’t gain a “following”, I’ll cheer. The lack of a following is often due to an inability to comprehend the complex subject, whereas a popular following—especially of utterly invalid or illogical reasoning—often has as its basis a pretended understanding to avoid appearing ignorant because sadly, the absence of knowledge is equated to an inability to acquire it, which carries a stigma. The consequences of the latter are dreadful. Instead of mindless rah-rah, I’d rather see dissenting civilized discussion based on educated thinking—I usually learn something from it.
“The 747-8 was a good platform for freighters”
But the program made a loss for BA.
“…overreached spruce up that doesn’t even have TIA but is already a failed derivative.”
The 777X program already has a reach-forward loss.
As regards the term “spruce up” (which is a synonym for “upgrade”): perhaps an underlying problem here is that BA sees its products as being masterpieces — whereas the rest of the world looks on and says “is that it?”.
Bit transparent to be trying to pin the non-cert of the 777X on the FAA/Congress, isn’t it?
Most of what we know about the 777X screw-ups comes from published FAA letters to BA, in which the agency constantly has to prompt BA for input. The same is happening with the SSAs for the MAX-7/10.
“.. new centersection, replacing the metal wing with a completely new re-engined carbonfiber wing… ”
IMU the 777 Al center wing box persists into the upgrade ( obviously massively bulked up.)
again IMU that detail was used to argue the “just a minor 777 makeover”
Lovely technology going into 777X. Now then, about that certification paperwork…
It’s been, what, 12 years since 787 certification, and they still had problems afterwards. My fear is that between then and now, Boeing have completely underestimated what it takes to pass certification requirements (evidenced by the 737MAX debacle). You know, really pass, as in truly demonstrating to an independent third party that all relevant standards have been properly adhered to.
The FAA declined to give the 777X a TIA 2 years ago because the plane’s design wasn’t “mature enough”.
Think about that.
Just a step in the flight step program
777X test flying continues
Test flying is not the same as certification flying if a plane doesn’t have a TIA.
No TIA –> no certification process
19 years is a long, long time to not “use it”.
Japan wants to get back into nuclear power, but has effectively “lost it” all in only 10 years.
In practise, a company can “lose it” in an eye blink. If the people leave for whatever reason, they’re gone and probably aren’t coming back. If they leave and are angry, they’ll be telling all their best chums not to go work there too, so it can be hard to replace lost staff.
The ultimate job perk really is “a job for life”. Funnily enough, that’s exactly what a wise company would want to give to the best people it’s got.
My son was at Boeing for many years. An aeronautical engineer of note AND a maths wizard. He left Boeing after he was tasked with developing an algorithm essentially to screw suppliers. His social conscience interfered with his earlier commitment as an engineer to Boeing. The company misapplied his talents as part of its new McDDouglas corporate ethos.
I think it’s a bit disingenuous to always blame McDonnell Douglas for Boeing problems. Why? Because the majority of stock was owned by the original Boeing people! Essentially, they hired the McD folks to do their dirty work with this mandate: Increase share price anyway way you can. To this day, these Majority Stock holders hire these Calhouns, these McNernys, etc ,… with the same short term directive: MONEY. These passive shareholders have so much money, that all they care about is getting more. If people keep blaming Stonecipher, they are avoiding the problem.
@SamW. This simply is not true. Before the merger, Boeing shares outstanding varied between 65 and 70% institutionally owned most of the time. It never moved more than a few percentage points outside of that range. It is true that board membership was managed such that there was a set of values in place that permitted the company to routinely invest in FDED programs. The bigger ones on the commercial side typically required about 25% of the capitalized value of the company. Defense FFSED programs were typically covered by a government funded competitive prototype program.
At the time of the merger, Boeing got eight of the 12 director seats and on paper MD got four, but that was an illusion in two ways. First, John McDonnell was hodwinked into believing that his team was gaining control of the company, when in fact it was the folks Harry was bringing in from GE. The four MD directors were McDonnell, Harry, Ken Duberstein (Reagan’s former chief of staff and the fixer whose fingerprints were never on anything he did), and the real key, John Biggs. Biggs was the regional VP of TIAA/CREF at that time, and Harry had to get permission from the top brass at TIAA to put him on the MD board. That was the deal.
It made Biggs’ career at TIAA, eventually landing him the top job and moving from St. Louis to NYC. In return he provided Harry with the proxy votes he controlled, which was the institutional investment community, as he became their personal representative on the board. Harry did not explain what he had done to Condit until the summer board meeting the next year (1998) when because of Ron Woodard’s mismanagement of the production ramp-up for the huge sales they had booked the previous year, they managed to break both the 737 and 747 lines, shutting then down for the month of April to clean up the mess. When the loss from that turned out to be big enough to possibly wipe out all of the earnings for the whole company for that year, Harry seized the moment, and had Biggs fire Condit during the meeting. He got to keep his job and title, but Harry was made COO, at which point he started immediately giving orders to dismantle the company starting on the defense side. The liquidation didn’t become visible on the commercial side until it became clear he was not going to permit the supplier management plan for the 20xx program to be executed, which led to its failure to deliver. Instead of the needed army of several hundred embedded engineers in supplier management, he permitted exactly two. The third one was not hired until 2011. All by itself that would explain the disaster of the 20xx airplane #1 (aka 787).
So you are right in the sense that it was not MD’s fault, in that they were every bit as much of a victim of the harvesting scheme as Boeing was.
There is a website out there that has a lot more detail on the stuff I just outlined. But, to be clear here, it was the GE folks who did the deed, and they were enabled by the completely broken value system in the investment community. The victim was a good chunk of the American aerospace industry. More than a few generals have been complaining bitterly about the crap they have been getting for the past few decades. The tanker is just the most visible piece of non-performing junk that has been foisted off on them. If the commercial airplane business is a mess, the defense side is an absolute disaster.
@RTFellow. Wow. I read your post twice. Like they say: The devil is in the details. What you stated has a strong ring of truth. Ultimately, today, the company needs to find its way back… It would be interesting to read what other knowledgeable people have for insights into this history. It takes a long time to build a good organization, a long time to dismantle it, and a long time to rebuild it. When the stock price is going up, unfortunately people don’t look behind the curtain very often.
They already lost it!
The cash-flow executive management only wants to sell legacy models, and redirect all free cash flow to stock buybacks.
Boeing has abandoned the business of aircraft development. Why would they divert $15 billion from stock buybacks to design a new airplane? Especially when the CEO is paid largely in stock.
Big business here in the US is devouring itself.
Thanks SamW, and sorry about the typos. The acronym should be FSED, short for full scale engineering development. Another thing you have exactly right is that Boeing had huge leadership problems before the merger. The way Jim Blue put it to Bob Bogash, is that the leadership team had feet of clay. This was when Condit’s star was rising.
William Allen was probably an impossible act to follow by anyone. T Wilson was pretty good, but he routinely acknowledged that he struggled to keep his ego in check. Mulally was pretty open about the same issue. Condit was not. What T saw in him still has people scratching their heads. He was a brilliant engineer, but not much of a leader. That said, he knew how to cover it by leaning on Mulally. As for Shrontz, I think he is routinely underrated. I was a big fan of Frank.
It’s funny. Working on the internal communications systems as a senior engineer touching just about every program, you end up being treated a bit like the White House butler. People act as though you aren’t even there except when they want something. Couple that with previous experience as an auditor and CPA, and well you end up knowing quite a bit about the place. And that pretty much identifies me for anyone that’s interested.
> The ultimate job perk really is “a job for life”. Funnily enough, that’s exactly what a wise company would want to give to the best people it’s got. <
Hear, hear; and it's not like this is a new idea. Instead BCA
lets/ encourages/ requires its best talent to leave..
I wonder how their "hiring spree" is going; and of whom exactly it's comprised. The recent words from their Chief Diversity™ Officer (or whatever) were not encouraging.
It’s almost like “Get Woke – Go Broke!” is some kind of obscure [heh] business plan.
When do we let the CEO that was actually terminated for unethical behavior speak of high standards at universities.
Both Stocipherc and Conduit were asked to leave because they were playing with other women while married.
While Working there during that period, all employees were required to take training to be more ethical because the people at the top of the company didn’t perform ethically.
Philly and Harry still don’t understand when to just stop talking.
@Steve: Condit’s departure was not about an affair; it was about the tanker scandal.
It was H. Stonecipher who had a relationship not P. Condit. He had the chance to launch the 787 Dreamliner alongside A. Mullaly ex Commercial Airplanes CEO who had begged him because the ex Mc Donell Douglas CEO wanted after the departure of P. Condit, to focus on the military from 2003. .. I think the Boeing-McD Douglas merger was inevitable. It was a slow process that will bring Boeing to where it arrived in 2019. Mc Donnel Aircraft had merged with Douglas corp. end of the 1960s. The military part (McDonnel) did not include the commercial part (Douglas). Which killed Boeing’s competitor and left the field open for both Boeing and Airbus to emerge in the market over almost 30 years. Douglas was a formidable competitor until the merger with Mc Donnel, which made decisions for them. It is an astonishing destiny
It’s a little more complicated than that. I’ve never been able to find out exactly how the mistake happened, but Douglas got itself into trouble with the faulty design of the wing on the DC-9 Model 10, which was too critical for a commercial aviation application. If one were to rate the safety record of various plane designs, the percentage of that particular model that crashed full of people would almost certainly make it the most unsafe commercial airplane ever.
They redesigned the wing and fixed the problem, but it cost them time, money, and the engineering resources that they needed to apply to building a 1960s mid-market plane (i.e. something in the 727-200 class). It may also have been a factor in the corner cutting on the DC-10 program where the failure mode analysis was incomplete, which led to two pretty significant engineering failures. The cargo door latch sensors could indicate that the doors were properly closed when they weren’t, and the substitution of aluminum wiring for copper which was going through a super high cost cycle at the time, led to inadequate terminations in the assembly process, which in turn led to a disastrous in-flight fire.
Because of those two things, Douglas was about to go under, and it was actually the federal government that arranged the merger in an attempt to save the company. But the rest of what you say is spot on. At McDonnell, James McDonnell had just retired and his son John was simply not qualified to run the company, let alone a much bigger one that included Douglas. So things in Long Beach went from problematic in some areas to way under funded and really bad throughout.
@Retired: The only issue with the DC-9-10 was it didn’t have wing slats. These were added to the DC-9-20 and everything after.
Here’s a white paper about the death of MDC: https://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/leonard/Active%20Papers/What%20Killed%20Douglas%20Aircraft.pdf
“Overwhelmed by Success: What Killed Douglas Aircraft”
Scott and RetiredTechFellow,
Thks for details 👍
What is “troubling” is the turn of things and that the merger in the end with Boeing was inevitable…
The post-merger Boeing is not currently capable of producing a new air vehicle, and it has yet to demonstrate that it can do a derivative of an existing product on schedule. The simple fact is that not a single person currently on the Boeing payroll has leadership experience, either in management or in a technical role, in the development an all new air vehicle that has been successful. Successful is defined by three simple criteria: It was finished within a few months of the original program schedule. It met the customer mission requirements on day one. And, the company made money on the program. Not a single program for a new air vehicles in any division of the company has checked even one of those three boxes. On the two big losers (787 and KC-46) they can’t even bring themselves to tell the truth about simple things on stoplight charts or admit it when a concept just won’t work (e.g. RVS). The fault was Phil’s for two reasons. In the merger negotiations he failed to count the proxy votes, and thus lost control of the company, despite the 8/4 split on the new board. And, he initially went along with the gutting of the defense and space engineering teams in both the heritage Boeing and North American (Rockwell) parts of the company.
Boeing has lost the critical mass to design any kind of air vehicle.
The joke on the engineering floor (among the free thinkers) was that the Boeing company would fail in developing a refrigerator even if its life depended on doing so. I found that to be accurately illustrative back then (2013), and far more so today.
Mr. Condit said ” it will lose the skills required to do so.” My first response is too late.
The last new airplane was developed 20 years ago. Assuming a career is 40 years half those people are gone. Given Boeing’s 20 year business trajectory a lot of the remaining engineers are gone. This can be confirmed by Boeing hiring Engineers and Technical over the past year.
Those skills are changing all the time anyway.
The concept design to production design is almost completely different now.
The certification is massively different now too.
Theres reasons why clean sheet new planes that were a regular occurrence from the 50s-70s doesnt happen anymore.
The market demands 20% fuel efficiency gains that just arent there anymore
This simply is not true. Yes, the detailed technologies are different, but the process of starting with concept development, and then evaluating concepts against target customer missions, including adequate testing BEFORE committing to a full scale engineering development program, coupled with honest status reporting on a daily basis in a morning standup engineering meeting, with competent management moving resources to where they are needed, and measuring progress by schedule performance, not the initial budget estimate, and doing what it takes to make one’s delivery commitments – none of that has changed. Forgotten by the finance idiots – yes, but changed? No. It worked for the 247, the 307, the 299, the 314, the 345, the 377, the 707, the 727, the 737, the, 747, the 757, the 767, the 777, Minuteman, Apollo, Jetfoil, and countless other smaller programs. Incompetence is believing that it has changed.
Exactly right. Incompetence has become a systemic issue at Boeing (and truth be told, across the industrial sector, although aerospace is a particularly acute case).
Truss Barced Wing (TBW) is currently being assembled on an MD90 fuselage as a flying bench. An Ecodemotrator with SAF is currently in flight. P. Condit seems aware of things but may have forgotten about TBW. He’s old now…
It’s funny how old ideas come back. Truss Based Wing? Take a look at the inner structure of the DC-1, and Boeing 299 and 307.
We rather expect something like this.
Don’t put too much faith in TBW numbers to honestly represent the reality of the physics – those guys in So Cal Advanced Concepts have been talking about TBW for 20 years, prompted by a (misguided) tech fellow who thought if it works for his Cessna, why not a commercial airplane? The said tech fellow had no formal education in aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, or airplane structures (true story).
Agree 100%. There was very little useful stuff that ever came out of Boeing’s Advanced Concepts group, a small subset of the larger Product Development group, when it located in the Seattle area. After the great thinkers decided to move Advanced Concepts to SoCal, it became an ongoing joke. Free thinking is great. Ignoring physics is not.
There is a lot of back and forth here about the timing for launching new plane as opposed to an effort to help the customers a little bit by updating an existing model. Both companies go through similar engineering and market analysis processes, although the governance and decision making processes have always been a bit different. Occasionally, AB has done its thing based on political ego considerations more than what the financial analysis indicated was appropriate (e.g. Concorde – yes that was before the company took its current form, and A380). Boeing stopped executing new programs, including the one that was about to start (e.g. airplane #1 of the 20xx program aka 787) as the GE folks began the process of harvesting the wealth and capabilities of the company.
New models start with the customers’ needs. Is there a type of plane that simply does not exist and which is sorely needed by some carriers (e.g. a baby twin aisle at the moment), or does one of the existing models suffer too much from its age and the base design having been optimized for a very different world (e.g. the 737 with its short landing gear for underwing engines and terminals without jetways).
The finance guys will always be hard to convince of the need, and that’s a good thing. This gets offset by testing the market with the customers. It’s that old Juan Trippe and William Allen back and forth about building it and buying it. Then there are the risks associated with various options that should force your hand.
One is safety. If updating an existing model with features that simply should not be integrated into the old airframe is the situation, then you shouldn’t do it. Another is execution ability. The successful management of a full scale engineering development project is a very expensive learning experience if one hasn’t done it fairly recently. On top of that, the culture is critical. Without the right attitudes from top to bottom, the schedules simply cannot be met, and costs cannot be controlled. The GE culture that came into Boeing after 1997 demonstrated how critical the culture is to these things (e.g. 787 and two failed tanker efforts).
AB is in the better position right now because their internal culture is quite a bit better. It still has issues, but they seem to be aware of those and seem to be working on them. On the other hand, Boeing is still in deep denial about its issues, so they continue to dig their hole deeper. But, both of these can change, and change very quickly, given the right circumstances.
Let me add a bit about the advanced concepts part of the conversation. For it to produce good results it has to be targeted at satisfying a customer need. So it starts not by going into a room and having people suggest a bunch of ideas, that comes well downstream in the process. It needs to start by intensely studying the customers and getting a better understanding of their business than they have.
Customer tend to view their needs based on their perceptions of what is possible. They tend not to take the time to develop an expertise about the businesses of their suppliers such that their perceptions about what is possible are very refined. For whatever reason, in any supply chain, it is easier to become better informed about what is downstream from your place in it, as opposed to upstream.
There is a way to turn this around, but it is super rare. Arguably Bell Labs worked by focusing on upstream possibilities back in its heyday. It looks like the OpenAI foundation is working that way at the moment. But, I can’t think of a third company or organization that is very good at upstream analysis.
By studying the customers’ business, from the point of view of the deep expertise of a supplier, it is often the case that one can spot opportunities that the customers are thinking is pointless because some key aspect seems impossible to them. The pre-merger Boeing was pretty good at this. Since then, not so much. AB has done it well occasionally and seems to be getting better.
Much of my critique of Boeing is really just a hope that the company would get off the dime and actually do something. Pete P. you have some valid points. But what I am about to disclose is already “out there” and I just wish they would get off the dime and do it (repetitious – I know).
On the 747, it really was time to shut down the program for several reasons, but some of the tooling should be saved. First, depending on how you count, only about 80% (or much less) of the plane has been documented in digital drawings. The drawings that are still on Mylar sometimes contain dozens of update sheets, and to find out what is really going on, one had to go through each one sequentially. The cost to convert it to CAD was super high, because of the validation process, which was only getting more expensive as key people retired. But again, some of the tooling should be saved.
The other two big problems are closely related to each other. One is that it just wasn’t very fuel efficient any more, and needlessly so as you will see. The 747 situation is not as bad as the 464-xx (the B-52) but there are similarities. The wings on both planes just were not designed to be reworked for modern engines (i.e. fewer of them, mounted differently, etc.). Also, as a fuel hog with too many engines, they both make more noise than it should and it isn’t as green as it should be. The 464 is being reengined with still to many, but newer ones, because it is the least cost option by far for the missions that the Air Force has for it. But, there is another way forward for the needs that the 747 is uniquely capable of supporting.
There was a volunteer “save the whale” engineering program a few years back that did most of the preliminary work to put the forward sections of a 747 onto a 777, thus saving the nose-door cargo plane concept and possibly creating an alternate higher capacity passenger capability (that would be more up to what Emirates and Singapore want). This would be eminently doable, and the forward sections and systems are fully digital, which was done as a part of the -8 program.
Similarly, the 767 could be made significantly more fuel efficient now that the 747 line has been shut down. But running the line out of the front of the building, the much improved -400 wing could be put on all new planes (package freighters and military platforms. The -400 wing won’t fit around the back of the building in the current line configuration due to the site utilities at the south end of the 40-10 building.
Agreed on Condit as an engineer. The 727 flaps and slats, and the commonality of the 757 flight deck relative to the 767 were triumphs – definitely non-trivial.
On the Boeing breakup after the 1932 election, which had a huge impact within the company which still echoes today – the air mail contracts were used as the excuse, but what really drove it was the execs and American and Eastern being super angry about not getting access to the 247. This had other impacts as well. In addition to having the southern Dems in Congress (it’s ok to read into that other things as well) give Boeing a hard time, they also went to Douglas and asked him to design a better version of it. That led to the DC-1/2/3, and those innovations came back into Boeing in the form of the 299 (B-17) and 307. If it hadn’t been for the war, the 307 would have been the plane that drove the transformation that the DC-3 did.
As to whether or not the 777 is a complex or minor upgrade, it depends on what one is about. The fuse assembly technology changes were begun on the previous models, because it was well understood that there was going to be a learning curve and it would take some time to get the tooling and procedures to work right. So there is a tendency to not included that. The wing is all new, but then except for its size, it is quite similar to that of the 787 that JAI/Mitsubishi builds. But the big change is in the systems, and there is a very different problem there that has less to do with the plane than it does the overall structure of the world’s distribution of engineering talent.
For this, one needs to get a handle on the concept of the “least cost engineer” and where in the economy you want those folks versus the “highest cost engineer.” Now to really get a good feel for this question, it helps to be sitting in first class on a long flight over the Pacific. Then note that when a plane goes down, if there are any survivors, chances are that they are in the very last rows of coach seating. Ok, now that we have one’s frame of mind right, where do you want the least cost engineers in the economy? Do you want them doing complex systems integration on the plane you are in, or do you want them figuring out how to maximize ad click through rates at Facebook? Now where do you think they are at the moment and how did it get that way? At this point, it might help to pull out a mirror if you happen to be a fund manager.
The 777-X is and must absolutely be considered as a brand new aircraft so as not to fall into error. The empenages, the wings, and the central box are redesigned and are in CFRP. Deep enough change to consider 777-X as 777 “classic”..
The 777-X is and must absolutely be considered as a brand new aircraft so as not to fall into error. The empenages, the wings, and the central box are redesigned and are in CFRP. Deep enough change to consider 777-X as 777 “classic”..
They could have integrated the forward cockpit section and the tail cone of the 787, to gain in aerodynamic finesse over the other sections of the 777-X, but I had heard that CFRP and aluminum did not marry. It would have been interesting if an artist’s drawing showed us what the 777-X would look like with its two sections of 787.
Agreed, certainly from a cert point of view. But it did not start completely greenfield, which perhaps is a somewhat minor point, but an important one none-the-less.
In assessing unmet customer needs, one always starts with the question ‘can some upgrade to an existing product get us close enough to make it worthwhile?’ This is not a “how little can we get away with” question. That mindset will throw away leadership, pricing power, and ultimately, one’s ability to stay in business.
Yes it is a new plane, but it is also evolved from the existing one. This is quite different from what happened with the F-18 or what needs to happen in the “quick turns at the gate” markets.
Our points are not at odds with each other.
It was intended as a derivative, but BA went too far with its mods, thus prompting regulators to see it as a new plane.
Worst of both worlds: high costs (new plane) for low market impact (heavy derivative in the unloved VGA category)
They designed the bigger CFRP wing to obtain a lot less drag.
If they fold, it’s a trick to keep using the 777-300ER doors, and the large and heavy fuselage necessitated these changes.
We can’t say better for the A350-1000 which only sold -100 for changes in the wing, landing gear and engine.
In 2011 a “task force” was created for the design of the A350-1000 for very little thing…
“.. BA went too far with its mods, thus prompting regulators ”
screwing the pooch with MAX:MCAS and the exposed systemic subversion was the regulator prompt.
… and is it really a “new type” now?
then nobody currently knows what instances of little horrors were “designed” into the 777X.
The drive for convoluted contrived circumvention on the way to accommodate changes done is the same as on the MAX.
1..”The drive for convoluted contrived circumvention on the way to accommodate changes done is the same as on the MAX..”
It is very unconvincing
The 777-X is a fly-by-wire aircraft with EICAS like the 777. It is a modern aircraft unlike the 737MAX…
2…”then nobody currently knows what instances of little horrors were “designed” into the 777X…”
Nobody currently knows ?
But you (only you) know there’s a problem …?
Regarding the 777X, the whole world knows about:
– The fuselage blowout during the wing load test.
– The uncommanded pitch change event during a test flight.
In denying the 777X a TIA, the FAA reminded us that the plane’s design was not yet “mature enough”.
We also have reports (from industry insiders) of disruptive vortex effects associated with the engines, and a high-alpha problem / tail too small.
1…”Regarding the 777X, the whole world knows about:
– The fuselage blowout during the wing load test…”
– The uncommanded pitch change event during a test flight.
Yes. If memory serves, the cargo door would have broken at 148-149% when it should have broken at 150%. It’s not that serious. We also had problems with cracks on the A380s in 2009…
Anyway the problem will need to be corrected…
I’m sure the problem of the
“uncommanded pitch change” event during a test flight has been solved.
We’re hearing very little right now about the 777-X program. For Boeing and the FAA this is not yet the priority.
2…”We also have reports (from industry insiders) of disruptive vortex effects associated with the engines, and a high-alpha problem / tail too small..”
Tail too small??
Without sources, I’m afraid that claiming that industry insiders “would have claimed this” is not enough. The wind tunnel tests are very fair, and the aerodynamic tools are all the more reason today very accurate
Strange statement from you.
(!) Take with caution…
“If memory serves, the cargo door would have broken at 148-149% when it should have broken at 150%.”
The *wing* is allowed to break in a wind load test — not the *door*.
The fuselage is supposed to remain intact.
Further, wind tunnel tests don’t test the flight behavior of a plane — they only test fluidics behavior around the plane.
Looks like somebody needs to brush up on his aeronautical engineering knowledge 😉
“Strange statement from you.
(!) Take with caution…”
The specifics of the list of challenges on 777 will not all be known outside the program. Sometimes, a really huge problem can somehow manage to stay out of the press (e.g. the 787 V-stab a few years back). There are two huge challenges facing Boeing beyond the pretty well understood loss of leadership competency and the loss of a culture that understands the importance of schedule and status visibility. One deals with complexity and the other with talent, and the two are intertwined.
Joe Sutter was once asked about the complexity of the 747. In his response he mentioned that the smartest engineer he knew, only knew about 40% of the plane. Informed would have been a better word choice than smartest, but he made the point. Back then (late 70s), the number of people you would have to assemble in a room to have everyone you needed to know the whole plane would be about ten. Today such an assemblage of people would be impossible. The number would be several thousand and they are scattered around the globe, with many deep down in the supply chains.
The other problem is one I alluded to earlier, which is most easily understood with the concept of the least cost engineer. Fifty years ago aerospace was able to draw the very best talent on the planet. Aerospace companies had R&D teams doing pure research. Even in the early 1990s, the AR&T org at Boeing where I worked had some of the best math heads anywhere. I remember being called to our big presentation room only a couple hours after Andres Wiles had made his first presentation on a solution to Fermat’s Last Theorm, and our guys walking us through what he had done. Our department head left a couple years later to become the head of Lawrence Livermore.
Today the aerospace engineering talent pool is still pretty good, but it is several notches below what it was not that long ago, and this at the same time the systems complexity challenges have grown by several orders of magnitude. It gets worse.
There is actually a fairly simple way to handle such complexity when doing complex system integration work, and that is break things up and make sure individual control systems logic and functional chains are well isolated from each other at the physical level. The biggest problem with the MCAS is that it violated this principle and I have not seen any evidence that this underlying architectural issue was recognized. Rather, it appears that they “fixed” things by working through all manifestations of unwanted conditions that could be identified. That’s not clever. If the same approach is being taken with 777 systems, then the issue is not so much the individual problems as it is the way of thinking about them, which loops back into the whole talent challenge.
Now consider Stonecipher’s and McNerney’s attitudes and actions regarding engineering costs, and how they moved work around to reduce them. Again, I would ask that we consider the problem of the least cost engineer and where in the economy it is most desirable to have the highest cost engineers – designing the plane you are in out over the Pacific, or working on the next app on your phone that’s going to make a big splash? Two splashes for the price of one – I suppose that’s one way of looking at it and thinking that a bargain has been had.
Your thinking is defective.
the error source was in the design process ( as set by Boeing ).
( that process forced an unsuitable solution for the MAX environment. Sane design processes and somebody should have been running around screaming his head off in alarm!)
The same entity worked on the changes from 777 to 777X.
Thus the same potential for unsuitable solutions exists for the 777X.
MCAS was enabled to kill because nobody with a sane mind vetted the created solution.
i.e. the error made ( faulty concept for MCAS ) persisted because of an error in processes ( supervision, control, no full coverage testing.)
And that is the reason why I wrote:
“Nobody ( and that includes me) currently knows about traps placed in the 777X design”
exactly because observed processes at Boeing avoid looking for such traps. ( I like to call them Schroedinger Traps ) no lookee, no findee.)
…”Your thinking is defective…”
Please don’t take people for fools.
It is not by trying to intimidate them that this one will prove you right in your shaky arguments.
I know what the problem is with the 737MAX but for the 777-X you might be obviously wrong with your peremptory and straw man arguments.
To say that the 777-X is designed by the same antity (bordering on sarcasm) is not enough to convince me…
The 777X is engineered from the safest and most reliable aircraft ever built.
“The 777X is engineered from the safest and most reliable aircraft ever built.”
So was the MAX — supposedly 😉
But then the facade was peeled back and we saw all the rot.
“I know what the problem is with the 737MAX but for the 777-X you might be obviously wrong with your peremptory and straw man arguments.”
No. You apparently don’t.
MCAS as such is not much more than “fallout”.
At the core is current design metrics, processes and such at Boeing.
That is the same over all Boeing activities.
and more or less independent from starting with a dud to begin with or the alleged best airframe ever designed in the past.
IMU fanish tribalism and analytics don’t go well together.
“That is the same over all Boeing activities.”
Just look at the KC-46A fiasco.
And the Starliner fiasco.
And all the FOD issues — across multiple programs.
…”So was the MAX — supposedly 😉
But then the facade was peeled back and we saw all the rot…”
Never heard post 737MAX crash that this one was the safest. On the other hand, the 777 is the safest and most reliable aircraft ever built.
Before the MAX fiasco, the 737NG had a relatively good safety record — more than twice as safe as the 777.
Of course, that all got flushed when the MAX came along.
Part of being a good producer in a supply chain is developing deep expertise about your customers’ needs from the point of vie of your already deep expertise about what you can do for them. The goal is to know more about your customers’ business than they do, at least from that supplier perspective.
If you look at a typical large urban air terminal, it is setup to support three very different types of planes and routes: long haul, regional, and medium. Each has a unique set of requirement in terms of the terminal equipment, layout, staffing, and economics. The 737/A320 family market is in the medium area. It turns out that the economics of terminal operations can have a bigger impact on the carrier’s cost structure and profitability than the per seat mile cost performance of the plane. Gate turns looms very very large.
The A319, 320, 737-200, 300, 500, 600, and 700 were all quite good at delivering rapid gate turns. But, when these planes started being stretched, that quality was destroyed. The longer the plane, the longer it has to sit at the gate.
Southwest defined this part of the business when they set a goal for themselves of 20 minute gate turns. This enabled them to get fantastic efficiency out of their terminal costs. These advantages are totally destroyed by the stretched version of the planes, especially the longer variants.
Quite a bit of improvement in seat-mile costs can be had by using a modern composite wing and newer high bypass ratio engines, but we’ve gotten to the point where these gains are not enough to offset the losses from added time at the gate induced by the fact that the newer planes are too long. This is the business case for the baby twin aisle. It significantly whacks gate time for the same seating capacity as the stretched single aisle planes. Whoever builds it first is going to pull off the same coup that Boeing did in the 1960s with the 727.
It’s no surprise that the concept being floated to the customers prior to the NG launch was in fact a baby twin aisle airplane for many of the reasons you suggest. This airplane with the large entry door and 2 aisles would have gotten off the gate a lot quicker.
The Airlines said no thanks, the Capex scared them and they were making money with the 737. They wanted a more efficient 737 derivative instead to keep costs down and profits up. Understanding you can’t build what you can’t sell, BA launched the NG.
We should have done it anyway. The plane would have proved itself the same way the 737 did. The 737 has a very interesting history. If you ever visit the Museum of Flight in Seattle, the prototype is there, and it may be surprising to see that it is in a NASA livery. They paid for most of it’s development. There were exactly zero orders or commercial customers for it when the program was launched.
An interesting question was floating around as to whether a new small economic airframe could be developed by mostly using existing tooling and components. Essentially, leverage stuff that already existed for the 707 and 727 to produce a baby plane. A decision was made in the Boeing engineering organization and at NASA to do an IR&D project to find out. As a result, it is the only Boeing model that ever went ahead without first doing a board presentation and getting their authorization to do so.
That program had some success and found a customer or two after it was in the air. 🙂 That’s called leadership. Wasn’t there some post merger Boeing/MD/GE braggadocio about “One Company for Aerspace Leadership” or some such nonsense – nonsense in terms of performance?
Again, customers often fail to understand what is possible from the point of view of a supplier. If Boeing were to take a baby twin aisle demonstrator on a tour with 787 operators who also have fleets of smaller planes, and show that crew certification requires very minimal training (no simulator time for 787 certed folks), and it were to do a new small airplane at the same time with the same flight deck, it wouldn’t take a John Leahy or Dick Albrecht to sell it.
“The 737 has a very interesting history. If you ever visit the Museum of Flight in Seattle, the prototype is there, and it may be surprising to see that it is in a NASA livery.”
In my timeline Lufthansa was an early interested party long before the project was officially kicked off and had quite a bit of input to give.
… placed an official order for the first ~20 frames on Boeing’s assurance to not cancel the development.
These crash rate statistics have some validity issues. They aren’t totally wrong, but there are some issues. Some of the types that are lumped together should be separated a bit (e.g. the DC,9-10 should be in a category by itself). Also, they should be weighted a bit by how many cycles were on each plane involved in an incident. Planes with few cycles on them that are involved in an incident should be looked at more closely than one that is on it’s 5th owner and has more than 75,000 cycles on it. Worn out planes being pushed beyond their reasonable lives are just that. Also, incidents that were not the fault of the plane or the crew should not be counted at all (e.g. Tenerife and ValuJet). I’m not quite sure how Alaska 261 should be counted, but it sure wasn’t the fault of anything MD did or didn’t do.
The lists are good indicators of general tendencies — certainly for the purposes of the present discussion.
True, R & D is essential! A huge problem in the industry is a lack of hands on experience. Retirees are being replaced with Degrees who have no concept of hands on manufacturing and no clue of tribal knowledge which essentially go hand in hand.
True, they were a leader, and there was input. But the point remains, that the program was not started based on customer orders and interest the way all of the other Boeing 7 series planes were. It seems odd now, but one of the things that helped the 737 survive was the unimproved runway kit.
Anyway, in the spirit of this discussion, I thought that the quote from Condit that he said was the new company motto at the time of the merger seemed appropriate. It helps make the point about the loss of direction that happened at the same time they were saying other things. He should have spent less time wordsmithing and more time trying to figure out how Harry was going to steal his candy.
IMU LH came up at Boeing with “we want something in the direction of BAC1-11, DC9 but a little different.”
LH genes, Boeing as host mother so to speak.
use translation tool.
That NASA story is a rewrite of history. not uncommon in the US domain.
@claes The rumor about other designs for what was to become the 787 is true. This is well documented on my website (craigdupler.com). Briefly, by the mid-1990s it had become clear that Boeing’s entire commercial airplane product line needed to be replaced. There was a long list of significant advances in materials, systems, and manufacturing that needed to be implemented across the board. There were several ways of going about expressing those in the product. A top level program called 20xx was kicked off to serve as the umbrella to replace the planes. At that time, it looked like the plane in most urgent need of replacement was the 767, but the 737 was close behind it. It wasn’t clear if we were going to need three or four basic platforms, with a range of size options in each. It was clear that when the program was completed, the entire commercial aircraft assembly business would easily fit into just one site – Everett. For the lead plane three basic configurations were studied. Two of them were given code names (Yellowstone and Glacier). One of them, a go-faster concept code named Yellowstone, was taken in the form of a model to show a particularly friendly airline CEO to get his input. He in turned blabbed to a reporter at Aviation Week, which put out a story that we were up to something. So an internal decision was made to do a dog and pony show and pretend we had kicked off a program around that go-fast plane – hence the Sonic Cruiser. But the whole thing was a sham because the final configuration decision was still more than a year away. The story worked – too well in my book, as it even fooled a whole lot of our own people, including execs in other parts of the company. It’s always a good thing to have everyone on the team aligned with your direction. But it turned out to not matter anyway, because the merger happened, Stonecipher got control, and the process of harvesting the company’s wealth became the priority. The most critical part of the 787 program (20xx airplane #1) was never funded (the engineering team for supplier management). The rest is history, and this sell off of the company’s ability to do anything continues apace. The stock is treated like some sort of Bitcoin, even though the equity section of the balance sheet has been in negative territory for over five years. If there was any justice or even the tiniest shred of patriotism in the investment community, there would be a move to have the government seize the company, and replace the entire management team, get rid of that damn swoosh, and start over. The whole fiasco is disgusting.
“.. – hence the Sonic Cruiser. But the whole thing was a sham because the final configuration decision was still more than a year away. ..”
My impression after the battery fiasko was that a lot of detail design decissions seemed to have carried over from the Sonic Cruiser.
In my judgement the Sonic Cruiser precursor was essential on the path to effectively overhyping the Dreamliner.
( Airbus had zero chance to counter that piece of “fantastic plastic” with a real airplane.)
Not exactly, but there is a small grain of truth in that. The decision was made in 1995 to develop a 50 year plan for the commercial airplane part of Boeing. By early 1997 while the merger talks were well under way, the plan had come together enough to give it a name. It became the 20xx program, and was very tightly controlled inside the company – much like a need-to-know defense program. The program had many objectives, but the key was to transform the basic historical business model of that part of the company. Since the days of the 247, the basic formula for developing a new commercial airplane was to pour in 25% of the company’s net worth, and then 3-5 years later a shiny new wonder of aviation would take to the skies. Starting with the 707, this setup a requirement to believe that we could sell a minimum of 1,000 units of a basic design over the life of the program, and that we could sell around 400 in the first five years or so, hence the development of program accounting, and the notion of an accounting block. But, a strong belief had developed that by mid-century, that would no longer work, and that we needed to drastically cut both the time to develop and the minimum number of units required to make it work. Mulally coined the phrase “the 1 in 10 airplane” meaning from program kickoff, to first flight, it would take only 10 months and 1 billion 1997 dollars. The reason for such a push goal was to ensure that everyone in every discipline would agree that however they were doing things now, it wasn’t going to work in the future. We worked into it backward, by first asking everyone what was the longest they thought their current methods could last. The longest estimate was around 50 years, so that became the stake in the ground. The first three years of the program were filled with long lead R&D work trying to define what needed to happen to to make it so. The biggest item on the list was a transformation of the whole supply chain. We had to define the planes such that the major interfaces were dramatically more standardized, and then work with the suppliers to allow them to run ahead of us in doing advanced development of their pieces. This was going to require a rather large army of engineers in the supplier management organization, which would be embedded with the suppliers to help figure out how the transformation would work. This is where I think we went badly wrong, because we kept it very hush hush, and maybe only a couple hundred people in the company understood what was going on. Everyone else was treated to the cover stories. Once the merger happened., this made it trivially easy for Harry to setup his program to strip the company of its wealth, and thus destroy just about everything, which was done with that explicit intent. The supplier management organization on 20xx airplane #1 (i.e. the 787) instead of having hundreds of engineers, had exactly two. The third one was hired in 2011. I can provide her name, since she lived at our house for a couple months. Anyway, the whole program went into sham mode pretending that the plane was being designed and built, when the reality was that almost nothing was happening other than shoving billions out to the shareholders to provide cover for the salary grab in the C-suite. And, as Harry quite accurately predicted, investor greed would enable the whole scam.
So, yes the technologies that were being developed before the configuration down-select were going on at the same time we were doing the Sonic Cruiser dog and pony show, but they would have gone into whatever the final configuration was for airplane #1. It could have been Yellowstone (the Sonic Cruiser configuration), or Glacier (sorry – that one is still a Boeing secret), or the so-called baseline configuration, which is what we ended up going with after the big customer meeting on the topic at the Port of Seattle’s then new Terminal 66 conference center. But the whole thing was less about the specific configuration of the plane than the change in the way we would do business. Of course, having stripped the company of its money, and not actually started getting serious about building any kind of a plane until about 2008, that was never going to happen.
If you guys have any Boeing stock I would like someone to explain exactly how it is even a tiny bit different than buying Bitcoins. There is zero equity on the balance sheet. There isn’t any business that can change that, which would require paying down the debt first. There isn’t the caliber of talent required to build something that could change things. And there sure as heck isn’t a leadership team or management culture that has even the faintest clue as to how to go about such a product development program. Calhoun (and presumably he’s speaking for Kellner too) has openly admitted that he has no intention of doing anything in the way of a new program. So what is this game that is being played other than betting on the greater fool, just like crypto? If there is a real live example of investor insanity out there, Boeing stock has to be it.
I sure cannot figure out what jusifies Boeing’s present
stock valuation of over $200 per share.