How Boeing is Rebuilding Engineering Excellence

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

June 9, 2022, © Leeham News: As described in our Monday article, Boeing is preparing for its Next Boeing Airplane (NBA). At the same time, the company is hard at work to ensure this will be no repeat of the 787 and 737 MAX program debacles.

The 2022 Chief Aerospace Safety Officer Report was issued two weeks ago. It gives insight into the work that shall ensure such failures won’t happen again. Here is what the report says about how Boeing is rebuilding its Engineering Excellence.

Summary

  • The 787 and 737 MAX failures came from a company culture where engineering excellence played second fiddle to short-term business objectives.
  • Boeing has now made changes from the board level to how it organizes its engineers. These changes go in the right direction, but will they be enough?

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Boeing’s hiring spree points to progress toward Next Boeing Airplane

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By the Leeham News Team

May 30, 2022, © Leeham News:  Boeing is hiring again.

Boeing’s hiring spree is aimed at replacing engineers, technicians, retirees and jobs lost in Russia and Ukraine. But an analysis also points to gearing up for the Next Boeing Airplane. Photo Credit: Leeham News.

The pendulum of staffing swings back and forth in the aerospace industry.

Today’s hiring events are one of several steps beyond the highly visible need to deliver airplanes required to rebuild Boeing. Rebuilding its brain drain and positioning itself for its next new airplane is another required step. Repairing the damage to its once-gold standard safety reputation is another. Boeing also is moving to fix this issue.

Historically, companies chase the proper mix of employees and never get it right.  The reason for the personnel churn is the nature of the skills needed and the timing of their need.

In an attempt to get ahead of this problem, Boeing spent millions of dollars last year to retain SPEEA-represented engineers and technical employees at the Everett final assembly site. This reverses a decades-long trend to downsize the employed workforce through outsourcing or shifting union jobs from Washington State to out-of-state locations.

To understand why this happens, we need to look at the cascading of work through the Commercial Airplanes division starting with a single product.

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HOTR: Consensus that Boeing must launch new airplane in 2023 or 2024

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 15, 2022, © Leeham News: There is a belief that when Boeing clears out much of its 737 MAX inventory, resumes delivery of the 787, and reduces a good portion of its debt that it will launch a new airplane program.

The Next Boeing Airplane (NBA), as LNA calls it, could be launched in 2023 or 2024, which seems to be a growing consensus.

Consultant Michel Merluzeau, who does work for Boeing on occasion, predicted last week that the NBA could be launched late next year or early the following year. The airplane would be a 225-240 passenger aircraft (two-class) and a single aisle. This is like the Boeing 757—which largely has exited passenger service—and the upper limits of the A321neo. Merluzeau made his predictions at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference.

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Boeing’s apparent shifting product strategy

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

Aug. 2, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing last week reiterated it believes the 777-9 will be certified and delivered in late 2023. CEO David Calhoun also said, “I’m confident that might be the next of our programs.”

Let’s set aside for the moment whether the EIS prediction becomes reality and assume Boeing will be correct. Let’s assume the 777-XF will be the next program launched. The larger question then becomes, what does this mean for the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA)? And what are the implications for Airbus?

Summary
  • The NBA launch seems unlikely in 2022; 2023 may be the target.
  • But with the 777-XF moving up in priorities, will the NBA continue to slide to the right?
  • What is the Airbus response to an NBA?
  • Or, should Airbus move first to further preempt the NBA?

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Pontifications: The reshaped commercial aviation sector

By Scott Hamilton

July 12, 2021, © Leeham News: With Washington State and the US open for business following nearly 18 months of COVID-pandemic shut-down, there is a lot of optimism in commercial aviation.

In the US, airline passenger traffic headcounts are matching or exceeding pre-pandemic TSA screening numbers. Airlines are placing orders with Airbus, Boeing and even Embraer in slowly increasing frequency.

The supply chain to these three OEMs looks forward to a return to previous production rates.

It’s great to see and even feel this optimism. But the recovery will nevertheless be a slow if steady incline.

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The conundrum of a new airplane design vs a derivative

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By Scott Hamilton

Introduction

April 19, 2020, © Leeham News: When it comes to a decision by an aircraft manufacturer whether to develop an entirely new airplane or a derivative, these multi-billion dollar decisions involve hundreds of thousands of considerations.

Airbus missed with its first A350 design, but has a winner with the A350 XWB. Source: Airbus.

Sometimes derivatives will do the job. Sometimes a new airplane is the better choice.

Given that Boeing faces a decision whether to launch the Next Boeing Airplane (NBA) and Airbus must decide how to respond, all within the next few years, looking at the considerations and some history is timely.

Today’s examination is going to focus at the 40,000 ft level. We’re not going to delve down into the decisions over suppliers or the minutiae into production. Rather, we’re going to look at general strategy.

Summary
  • Airbus wins big gamble with A320neo decision.
  • Boeing was victor with 787, while Airbus missed with first A350 design.
  • Boeing missed with 747-8I and, it appears so far, with 777X.
  • Next airplane decision by Boeing will drive Airbus response. Read more

Aviation Writers Bloc: Calhoun’s Countdown

April 15, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing CEO David Calhoun turns 64 on April 18. This means he is in his final year on Boeing’s Board of Directors and as an employee, unless the Board extends his contract beyond the mandatory retirement age of 65.

In a new feature, the Aviation Writers Bloc, LNA’s panel discusses Calhoun’s legacy, whether he’ll launch a new airplane program and whether Boeing Commercial Airplanes will remain headquartered in Puget Sound.

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Analyzing the trades between a single- and twin-aisle NMA

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Now open to all readers.

By the Leeham News Team

Introduction

April 8, 2021, © Leeham News: Some people believe Boeing should launch a new single-aisle airplane about the size of the 757-200/300 to compete with the Airbus 321neo.

Others believe the new airplane should be a twin-aisle aircraft. A few, including LNA, believe the new airplane must be a three-member family and must be a twin-aisle.

The largest member of a single-aisle Boeing NMA would be longer than the Boeing 757-300. Photo: Delta Air Lines.

Whatever the new airplane is, the general specifications are aircraft up to 250 passengers in two classes and a range of up to 5,000nm.

There is also agreement the airplane must start across from the A321neo. Configurations vary widely, but 190-200 seats in two classes are common.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said on an earnings call that the next new airplane will compete with the A321 and cover the Middle of the Market.

Summary
  • A single-aisle, 250-passenger airplane would be longer than the 757-300.
  • Technical build challenges, while not insurmountable, exist with long, thin airplane.
  • Gate and ramp space constraints accompany a long airplane.
  • Other trades exist for a twin-aisle design.

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Differentiation in the marketplace and the time for the open rotor

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By the Leeham News Team

Introduction

Feb. 22, 2021, © Leeham News: Airliners are now so efficient, one challenge facing Airbus and Boeing in competing is overcoming the laws of diminishing returns.

The time may finally have come for an Open Rotor airliner. Source: Safran.

LNA described this challenge Feb. 8. Additionally, airport infrastructure erects a vast number of design roadblocks.

We focused on the creation of the 737 replacement and how difficult it will be to make meaningful performance upgrades to the economics of the vehicle. We outlined the next battle in product differentiation most likely will occur in optimizing non-flying time operations, focusing on ground operations as the next efficiency battleground. Since then, it was reported that Boeing indicated that a new aircraft sized between the 737 and the 767/NMA was a front runner in their future planning.

Summary
  • NMA Lite needed for 737-9/10 to 787-8 sector.
  • Replacement for 737-7 and 737-8 best suited for Open Rotor design.
  • What an Open Rotor plane might look like

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Pontifications: Boeing’s right direction, but don’t get ahead of reality

By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 8, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing appears to be heading in the right direction: launch a new airplane program to take care of its 737 MAX product weakness. And do something different by pursuing the “NMA Lite” concept: a twin-aisle, three-member family starting at ~185 seats through ~250 seat and up to 5,000nm in range.

But don’t get ahead of ourselves on the NMA Lite. There are a lot of Ts to cross and i’s to dot.

And anything can change between now and a concerted effort to survey customers, prepare the supply chain and ask the Boeing Board for Authority to Offer the NMA Lite for sale.

Importantly, a three member family dramatically expands the potential market. Publicly, Boeing said the market for the NMA is about 4,000. Internally, officials knew it was more like 2,100—with Airbus capturing perhaps half.

With a third member, demand increases by roughly 7,000.

It’s tough to make a business case for 1,050 airplanes. It’s much easier for 4,550.

Still, this is the best news I’ve seen come out of Boeing in years. Even pre-dating the MAX ground. And pre-dating the COVID pandemic.

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