More of the usual Boeing 787 news…

(emphasis added to quotes below)

Flashback to April 26, 2005: Orders fly in for Boeing 787

Currently the 787, due to enter service in 2008, has a two-year head start on the A350.

November 7, 2006: “Good, steady progress” on 787 as Boeing works to lighten up

Boeing’s 787 is on schedule. Early practice production is going smoothly. A plan to take off extra weight is in place. And the new jet’s boost to airline operating economics will be significantly better than originally projected.

That was the vigorously upbeat status report Monday from 787 program chief Mike Bair.

With the airplane less than a year from its first flight, the program is under intense scrutiny for early signs of the kind of disastrous stumbles that have led to two-year delays on the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

But if Bair is feeling the pressure, it isn’t showing.

July 8, 2007 (7-8-7): A Dreamliner comes true: Boeing’s 787 debuts today:

The Dreamliner has been elevated to a worldwide stage because it uses parts produced around the world and shipped to Everett for assembly. It’s also the first Boeing plane built extensively with composite plastic parts.

And while today is devoted to a celebration, the plane’s real test will come in August or September when it’s scheduled to make its maiden flight.

Fast-forward to July 22, 2009: Boeing 787 may not fly this year:

The structural flaw that delayed the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner is more complex than originally described by the company, and the plane’s inaugural takeoff is likely at least four to six months away, say two engineers with knowledge of Boeing’s problem.

“It’s got to take at least three to four months just to get something installed on an airplane,” said a structures engineer who has been briefed on the issue. “It’s definitely a costly fix to go and do this work.”

A second engineer, who is familiar with the details of Boeing’s construction method, said the fix must first be made on the nonflying test airplane in the Everett factory. Assuming that’s successful, it will take another month or two to install the fix on the first airplane to fly.

If Boeing’s initial fix fails to divert enough of the load away from the stress points, the delay in first flight could extend beyond six months, pushing the date out into 2010.

“There’s no guarantee that what (Boeing) is doing will work,” the second engineer said. “If the testing or analysis shows it doesn’t get rid of the load, then the engineers are back to square one.”

Doh. On the up side, maybe the recession will be over by the time the 787 is actually ready to ship to customers.

Also, I’m curious… How many people here really believe that the 787 was truly on schedule from 2005 through 2007? Having worked in engineering at a company whose primary business is manufacturing, I am well aware of the marketing and politics that goes on behind the scene. I wouldn’t be surprised if the original “timeline” was driven largely by marketing, with the engineers insisting that they needed much more time, but ultimately being ignored.

(Dominic Gates, Seattle Times, 04.26.2005)
(Dominic Gates, Seattle Times, 11.07.2006)
(Kirsten Orsini-Meinhard, Seattle Times, 07.08.2007)
(Dominic Gates, Seattle Times, 07.22.2009)

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.

32 comments:

  1. 1

    SPEEA IN THE NEWS

    I stumbled on this Boeing engineering union news article on the 787, it states in part:

    “…”Boeing outsourced everything it could to lower costs and it’s
    hurting this program and the company,” said Ray Goforth, executive
    director of SPEEA. “Employees are performing heroic efforts to get the
    787 back on track and they are getting no help from corporate leaders
    in Chicago who consistently ignored the truth coming from employees in
    engineering offices and factory floor.”…”

    The rest of the URL:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS196190+09-Apr-2008+BW20080409

    Can’t remember this on KING or KOMO lately? I wonder why? LOL

    Globalism is starting to remind me of cod liver oil, they say its good for you, but it tastes like s_it.

  2. 2
    Scotsman says:

    “On the up side, maybe the recession will be over by the time the 787 is actually ready to ship to customers”

    Beyond harsh. Brutal. But funny.

  3. 3
    SeattleMoose says:

    ” I wouldn’t be surprised if the original “timeline” was driven largely by marketing, with the engineers insisting that they needed much more time, but ultimately being ignored.”

    Bingo. As an engineer for 30 years I have seen a shift from making good quality products to “getting the stock up tomorrow”.

    Predictably the results of this paradigm shift are:
    1) Unrealistic schedules out of the gate
    2) Unrealistic staffing out of the gate
    3) Skipping key developmental activities (e.g. system engineering/requirements) simply to adhere to the “fake” schedule
    4) Skipping key testing/analysis that was always part of “good engineering” but are now seen as “unnecessary cost”

    Other negative factors include:
    1) “Microsoftization” where “good enough” is ok and half baked products get out the door
    2) “Word processor mentality” seeping into Aerospace SW development results in non-deterministic timing behavior with unknown latencies/jitters and ultimately…inability to perform/prove/guarantee time critical functionality
    3) Diversity at all costs (which is reverse discrimination itself) resulting in people being lofted into positions of authority who are incompetent.
    4) Loss of accountability for poor decision making

    All this results in:
    1) Traveling risk to later integration phases when it is VERY expensive to fix things
    2) Systems that when fully assembled do not work correctly because there was no overall system engineering
    3) Delays
    4) Incompetent management who have no clue how to get out of the predicament that they helped create and worse…are never held accountable…worse still….promoted and sent to “seed” new programs
    5) Loss of confidence in company’s ability to build quality products

    So in the end the “short term profit” mentality that has poisoned corporate America has the end result of exactly the opposite of what the “money boys” anticipated:
    1) Stock goes down
    2) Costs go up
    3) Things don’t work
    4) Customers are lost
    5) Reputation (which is everything) is tarnished for a long time

    Hope this doesn’t sound like your company…

  4. 4
    PhinneyDawg says:

    The outsourcing of parts production has been a huge failure to date. Much of the delay is due to parts suppliers unable or slow to conform to Boeing’s standards for its parts. Lots of time is spent in the field by Boeing engineers going to plants in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Texas for example fixing the problems in the production of the parts. The lack of immediate oversight (which was present when parts were made by Boeing in Puget Sound) has slowed everything down to a snail’s pace and left the company unable to adapt to changing specs from engineers.

    Now we see Boeing buying companies and facilities in South Carolina just to speed up the process and have more oversight over the production of the parts (besides the obvious move to union un-friendly South Carolina).

  5. 5
  6. 6
    what goes up must come down says:

    okay so what does this have to do with RE specifically?

  7. 7

    RE: what goes up must come down @ 6

    WITHOUT BOEING, A GOOD CHUNK OF HIGH PAID WORKERS LEAVES SEATTLE RE

    Or perhaps you’re from the camp that believes more uncontrolled growth with less Seattle job base means the RE market has bottomed out and the Pink Ponies are piling up at the gates?

  8. 8
    Lamont says:

    “3) Diversity at all costs (which is reverse discrimination itself) resulting in people being lofted into positions of authority who are incompetent.”

    In IT I see plenty of white males being lofted into positions of authority who are incompetent. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of many women or minorities who I work with at all. There’s the indian and asian guys, of course, but the incompetency of the indians, asians and whites that are in management positions seems pretty equal, and i don’t see them getting promoted preferentially over whites.

  9. 9

    RE: Lamont @ 8

    YES LAMONT

    If you’re good at your job, the last thing they want to do is promote you out of it….LOL…the incompetence naturally rises to the top?

    The serious problem though, now, assuming that the incompetent managment becomes the hiring authority and wouldn’t know good from bad….i.e., outsourcing gets implemented and insourcing too; because incompetents can measure lower wage rates, but they’re basically incapable to rate skill abilities and/or the ability to pick new employees to train quickly into them too.

    Hence, today’s overpopulated mess, with economic disaster.

  10. 10
    deejayoh says:

    Blame the marketers! I love it. Who runs Boeing Commercial Airgroup again?

    interestingly, it is a finance guy…

  11. 11
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I have a solution. Fire all the management that moved with the company back to Illinois, hire all the ones that left the company when it required they move to Illinois, and move the headquarters back here.

    I really wonder why they bought that Vaugn plant back in S.C. If they can’t even get the first plane off the ground, you’d think the employees and management of that S.C. plant would be able to supply enough parts for no planes.

  12. 12
    Acerun says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 11

    The people running the show are not going to admit defeat and head back to Seattle. They are going to stay the course and shift more and more work to a more business friendly environment. Luckily for Boeing they really only have one competitor. (for now)

  13. 13
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By Acerun @ 12:

    The people running the show are not going to admit defeat and head back to Seattle.

    My point was, we don’t want them to head back to Seattle. Boeing should just get rid of them.

  14. 14

    “Globalism is starting to remind me of cod liver oil, they say its good for you, but it tastes like s_it. ”

    The main difference being that cod liver oil actually is good for you…..Globalism is good for you too if you own the corporation.

  15. 15
    Acerun says:

    RE: Ira sacharoff @ 14 – Or you want good prices on consumer goods!

  16. 16
    Slumlord says:

    “The main difference being that cod liver oil actually is good for you…..Globalism is good for you too if you own the corporation.”

    I would add that it is only good for those business owners who expect to retire and die within the next few years. Global trade does build wealth; but as practiced, it is also leading to massive economic and political instability that will be bad for everyone. As people are discussing here, there is nothing wrong with a local manufacturer selling planes around the world. What is wrong is the pursuit of a near-term bottom line that will ultimately destroy the company.

  17. 17
    deejayoh says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 13:

    By Acerun @ 12:

    The people running the show are not going to admit defeat and head back to Seattle.

    My point was, we don’t want them to head back to Seattle. Boeing should just get rid of them.

    Except for I think the problem here is with the people who are still IN seattle. Corporate HQ moved, but AFAIK the Commerical Airplanes group is still run out of Seattle.

    from their site:

    Boeing Commercial Airplanes employs about 65,400 people under the leadership of President and CEO Scott E. Carson. The business unit brought in revenues exceeding $28 billion in 2008.

    With headquarters in Renton, Wash., Boeing Commercial Airplanes has operations in more than a dozen cities and countries. The business unit comprises five airplane programs, VIP-derivative airplanes, extensive fabrication and assembly facilities, and a global customer support organization.

    I think that Chicago has the umbrella HQ that covers across commercial/defense/space

  18. 18
    dydx says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 1

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

    – Richard Feynman, in his Appendix F to the official report on the Challenger space shuttle disaster

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman#Challenger_disaster

  19. 19
    Lamont says:

    There’s another problem in Engineering where it seems like people have entirely abandoned simplicity.

    Sounds like the 787 may be chasing this problem:

    “There’s no guarantee that what (Boeing) is doing will work,” the second engineer said. “If the testing or analysis shows it doesn’t get rid of the load, then the engineers are back to square one.”

    The solution to a lot of Engineering problems seems to be to throw more Engineering at the problem, rather than trying to reduce and simplify.

    The high space shuttle failure rate also speaks to this problem. Instead of trying to solve the basic problem of keeping astronauts safe when they’re sitting on top of a huge pile of explosives, they focused on all this complicated reusability and turned the vehicle into a plane, with all the associated aerodynamic problems, and the heat tiles and everything else, and then tacked on triply redundant systems and voting logic in order to get their 5 9’s of reliability. Instead of 1-in-10000 failure rate, however, they’ve got 1-in-50 to 1-in-100 failure rate.

    I see this at work as well, when all these expensive 99.999% availability enterprise-class storage and clustering hardware/software platforms with all the bells and whistles routinely shit the bed and the response of the company that sold it to us is that there’s some bug and you need to upgrade.

  20. 20
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: dydx @ 18

    And he played the bongo’s too! Truly a “Curious Character”. I still pull out “Lectures on Physics” once in a while when I want to figure something out.

  21. 21
    Sniggy says:

    “The solution to a lot of Engineering problems seems to be to throw more Engineering at the problem, rather than trying to reduce and simplify.”

    It’s like lawmakers, once all the laws are made what else can they do, but screw it all up and start over.

  22. 22

    RE: Acerun @ 15

    But horrible for you if you want to keep working in Seattle at a decent wage and buy RE.

    But cheer up, at least you can buy those cheap throw away laptops with S/W that doesn’t work and have your perfectly working cheap toxic waste CRT TVs thrown in an 3rd world Asian country’s river for a $20 deposal fee, so you can buy a another throw away cheap plasma big screen….etc, etc….

  23. 23

    RE: Sniggy @ 21

    LOL….LIKE GO BACK TO REAL METAL AGAIN?

  24. 24
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 17 – Well defense hasn’t been doing terribly well either. Losing a certain tanker project because of some shenanigans by those at Boeing comes to mind. It’s making money, but it could be making more.

    Also, I don’t agree with just stopping with responsibility at a certain point. The people in IL are responsible for the management in WA.

  25. 25
    Acerun says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 22

    That is the American way!

  26. 26
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 22 – I don’t usually buy cheap crap, but I’ve had good luck buying cheap laptops–specifically cheap Toshibas. I did have to replace the fan on the first one, however. The design got dust clogged in the heat sink, and caused the fan to overheat. I’m not sure buying a more expensive Toshiba would have changed that.

    But yes, Americans tend to like shiny and new, regardless of quality. That’s how I explain most of the new SFR construction in King and Snohomish counties.

  27. 27
    shawn says:

    RE: SeattleMoose @ 3 – nice one, blame Microsoft, what ill have they not caused? I guess you did not get the memo: Microsoftization was actually a paradigm that was adopted from Boeingization.

  28. 28
    User says:

    Boeing should approach planes like Google does software: keep everything in “Beta” for a few years to work out the bugs, and then release the final version. I mean, who WOULDN’T want to fly on the New Boeing 787 Dreamliner Beta 1.72??

  29. 29

    RE: User @ 28
    Terrific idea! A beta version of a Google product goes awry and the screen might disappear or you hit the keyboard and nothing happens. The Boeing 787 beta might fall out of the sky.

    In WWll the Italians built Breda aircraft. Breda later became famous for building really bad buses. The Germans refused to fly those planes because too many of them fell out of the sky without being shot down.

  30. 30
    aerojd says:

    Wow, this is an interesting post. As a long time Boeing engineer who works on 787 wing structure, I’m not in a position to discuss technical matters on this blog, obviously, but it’s always interesting to read how others percieve the program and the company. Sometimes working for Boeing is like working in a bubble. The world knows all of your business, sometimes before you do. Airplanes are fun to work on but they tend to attract huge amounts of attention, not always a good thing.

  31. 31
    Sniggy says:

    By softwarengineer @ 22:

    RE: Acerun @ 15

    But horrible for you if you want to keep working in Seattle at a decent wage and buy RE.

    But cheer up, at least you can buy those cheap throw away laptops with S/W that doesn’t work and have your perfectly working cheap toxic waste CRT TVs thrown in an 3rd world Asian country’s river for a $20 deposal fee, so you can buy a another throw away cheap plasma big screen….etc, etc….

    Huh?

    I dumped my CRT off on my sister who lives near a river does that count? And my CRT Mitsu HD on someone
    who you have to cross a river to get to their house.

    I have to have my on wall HDTV’s and since I can afford to upgrade everyone in my family gets an upgrade when I do.

    Who puts working tv’s into landfills someone out there will take it for free.

    And I assume that when you say s/w that doesn’t work you are an apple fanboi. What about all of their electronics with non user replacable battery and battery replacements that cost more than the upgraded replacement.

  32. 32
    Esker says:

    As an engineer who used to work on the 787 program, everything I can think of on that program was wrong. The way the middle managers treated their people, selling a wholly aggressive schedule that not a single seasoned engineer held any faith in, with a brand new production method, with brand new technology.

    On the one hand, selling upper management a rosy picture is easy. But it is even easier when the upper managers were basically telling people they needed a HUGE leap in efficiency to start up a new program, and by golly, the marketers smelled blood in the water and since credit was easy, why not make a new airplane?

    A guy I work with now, who also worked the 787, and got out after 5 months working it since he knew it was f*cked, showed me a comparison between the development schedule for the 777 and that of the 787. Back then, the technological jump from 747 / 757 / 767 to the 777 wasn’t as great as that of 777 to 787. On top of that, we would still manufacture the critical components of the airplane (does Boeing taking over the Vought facility and taking major stakes in other companies ring a bell to them trying to get this under control?). On top of that, we reused much of the internal components.

    Well on the 787 nearly everything is new. And they tried to say it would take LESS time than the 777. Yeah. Right. Pass whatever it is you’re smoking, I want some. It’s playing out to be about how I expected it to … around 7 years from concept to reality.

    I also remember people telling me that working 777 was fun, and it was hard, challenging, and occassionally maddening of course, but still you were treated with respect, the suppliers worked WITH you, not AGAINST you and trying to sell shit and dress it up like gold, and people got to actually take vacations. On the 787 it was very high stress, very competitive, very “it’s us or them”, and very confrontational with suppliers.

    If I do not survive the round of layoffs (I survived the first round) I won’t look back and leave Boeing for good, if the 787 is how Boeing will make planes “for the next 75 years” like McNerny said in a telecon with investors.

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