Monday, April 29, 2013

April, A Month Where Fools Fear To Tread

April closes in a rush with the Boeing call of: "Pilots start your engines". It started out with the FAA and Boeing in a holding pattern, waiting for a preponderance of evidence for installing a new battery solution. The Blog topics were chosen to follow a variety of important Boeing issues going forward. Blog features in chronological order month of April.

Topical List in Chronological order:

April 10 - 787  Progressions to Profit

"Boeing is at that crossroad on the 787 gamble. It will stay all in and ride it out, because that is the only way it can win. The investors know it and have responded as Boeing’s stock has elevated during the last three months. Airbus has backed off of Lithium-ion where it will add some weight, lose some battery performance and avoid a timetable crunch to get the A350 airborne."

By End of Month, all-in on the Battery, where the company has delayed 787 profitability some months. But barring any further battery mishaps, Boeing will catch back up by end of year. What they lose will be the public level of interest and trust from the ticket counter to the boardroom. Secondly it loses momentum and delays profitability from added cost to the program. This condition pushes out the break even point in units, affecting the date it takes for reaching break even in additional months. Break even cost are up and units needed to meet those cost increase because of total Battery fix costs. Making it a break even date an additional year. I would now suggest 2017 for Break even instead of late  2015.

Example if this mishap cost Boeing another billion dollars to fix how many airplanes extra must they now produce before making a profit and how long will that take in the profitability progression?  Also not lost is the idea this cost will be spread out over follow-on models not yet flying such as the 787-9,10 and 777X. Depending how accountants want to retire this fail will show up on future bottom lines.

April 14-Boeing Double Downs On The Battery

“Boeing has to identify and properly mitigate the risks to the FAA’s satisfaction,” Hersman said. Lifting the grounding “really is up to the FAA.”

Boeing stands pat on its battery bet with the FAA, and raises the chip pot by putting "All of Boeing", in on that bet. It is confident, that a solution is before the FAA, and will let it ride. Many meetings from the Board of Directors, Engineering and suppliers were held to reach this point. Everyone assented yes, on the all-in call and didn't blink. The FAA was handed this position. They agreed eventually, and didn't blink.  Airbus Blinked and changed its battery package.

April 16th, ETOPS, The Wick On Boeings Lamp.

"The battery issue is tied to FAA ETOPS evaluation, in that ETOPS is an intermediate control mechanism for the 787 long route service for which it was designed. The FAA can turn that wick back from 330 minutes, 180, or 120 minutes."

It now looks like that FAA will cautiously move the goalpost to 330 minutes, since it has now approved the battery fix. By the end of the month FAA, will essentially focus on validating 180 minutes. 180 minutes is the status quo and 330 is the brave new limit. New Zealand Air needs this 330 minute ETOPs when receiving its first 787-9.  The Boeing Co. needs the FAA completing this certification before the 787 -9's delivery into service, which would help New Zealand routes, and fulfill the 787-9's purpose.  This has rapidly become a non issue of Boeing's current barriers, but they still must go through the ETOP certification, before they are out of the woods.

Just because I said so doesn't make it right. It was April 19th after-all. FAA was busy keeping the hounds off its backs answering questions of why they went along with Boeing's sophistry in the workplace.  Boeing, the leading expert in Lithium-ion aircraft batteries did not have a standard for the unknown and did not foresee a battery meltdown not unlike the computer battery meltdowns that happened ten years earlier with Lithium-ion Battery technology. So, during 2007, FAA and Boeing signed off on the unknown together in a symbolic gesture towards battery failure. However, since then we now have: a fireproof box; A toxic exhaust system, and lower voltage regulation. Because only two of the 787 batteries smoked and burned out of fifty, Boeing removed this threat of smoking and burning. The did not remove the threat of battery failure because they could ever find the root cause. However (one more time for the pause), that is a moot point, because the airplane can fly sufficiently, no matter where its found on Google Maps or whenever a battery microwaves itself on the planet. It guarantees the 787 lands at its scheduled destination when it comes to battery problems. That is why the FAA signed off. The 330 minutes ETOP needs to go through an FAA procedure of certification, before everyone else will know all is well, when flying to New Zealand. The Fire department of Boeing clears the Battery with FAA. They say, "The fire can't happen, but battery failure could. Fire and smoking is far worse than battery failure." FAA agrees!

Program Generally 
Stable but 
Improvements in 
Managing Schedule 
Are Needed

Omission Statement: 

Ever had a writers block with some really good stuff out there for a blog but no ambition for writing about it. The battery stuff really gets old, so I posted (not wrote about it) about my favorite "Boeing Step Child". The KC-46, the project nobody writes about (Omission font.) 

Blurred Vision Statement: Convoluted Version of Vision Staetment

"Never forget, keep the eye on the military and Be Boeing", So, I had to go back to December of 2012 and reach into the GAO playbook. After all I'm keeping the main thing, the main thing, the main thing, with the blurred Vision Statement. 

The White Space Filler On Demand Agency(WSFODA) represents the Federal Government on numerical data, processes, procedures and metrics. Its a good read for people sick about aerospace. I actually read it, since it filled time up, before the next battery failure posting came along, and besides it refreshed me how government is spending money during the sequestration."

The KC-46 GAO review reached out and touched my auditing genes. They found Boeing spending too much rainy day money, way before the Boeing project can start building an airframe, and they spent this amount,before its meeting with a Government scheduled July 2013 block point review.

However (again), the GAO found Boeing executing the low cost method of using, an existing airframe with new technology in a military application (AEAWNTIAMA), well on course as expected. This is a new way that military spending is controlled, by the government implementing its new methodology on projects that is unnecessarily susceptible for having cost runaways, as compared to its old method when using a clean sheet on every project with unproven design points and deep government pockets. This method is supposed to mitigate the dreaded cost over run and place the risk on the contractor , like Boeing. But what if the DOD changes need during the contract. There is always a plan B, and Boeing has just spent its way through plan B before July. The GAO is patting itself on the back saying it works and Boeing is doing well on this project, except it has exhausted its mad money or Plan B, way too soon, spending it on technology change items at the recommendations from DOD and putting it in Boeing's never mind trash can. The KC-46 is on track early and is expected to meet its benchmarks with no surprises. Boeings fixed cost, so far is doing fine, and it should come in on time and under Boeing's costs proposal. Don't expect tinted windows in the cargo area.

30 teams and 84 fixes on the battery. It will happen and the Boeing 787 will fly once again because these AOG teams will make it so! After all, it's not GAO!

Are you going as a fly or fly swatter? The 2013 airshow very few are talking about in the news but its coming up in July. Time to buy tickets get  travel authorization, and all those busy items finalized through some administrative assistant's help while you concentrate on how stuff a bag that fits in an overhead bin.

Don't forget these items.

  • Cell phone/camera and a small hand held computer type device
  • Fly swatter
  • A Friend tag along, for not looking stupid like you are when talking to yourself. 

Be the Fly on the wall.                                  Swat at those pesky Neophytes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is skipped, since the whimsical department has not come back from its office party and they couldn't write a summary even if over-served coffee.

April Summary: It's been a soap opera for Boeing where the FAA finally came out and said, "Scarlet, Frankly my dear, I don't give a...". 

And Al Boeing Gore replied, "It's in a lock box and the key is thrown away."

LiftnDrag Battery research articles

Wired Feature