Thursday, June 13, 2013

Juggernauts, Jugheads, and Juggling

I like alliterations to make a point. It summarizes  where you want go with a topic in a provoking manner. The big ideas are now on the table with two roads traveled. The Boeing 787 program and Airbus A350 who has thrusted into plastic airplane building. There are three categories up for grabs in this winner's take all contest of aircraft orders, production and performance. Each idea has an overarching approach, defined constraints, and challenges that temper the product. "A test of fire makes the product, oh so fine". So each manufacturer has employed the risk and reward approach from the boardroom down to the factory floors and its suppliers.  Keep that in mind as you proceed through this gauntlet found in a tale of two aircraft giants.

The Boeing Journey From The Start
Boeing's overarching mission, accept risks as the game changing element needed to supersede all competitors. Clear back in "003", Boeing began a revolution in commercial aviation by embarking on an all new way to build the highest efficient aircraft of the century. Called, "The Game Changer"(GC), or simply the 787.  These risks not yet proven or mitigated or retired simply made the GC a wild bet for winner-takes-all, kind of change management approach of beating its main competitor, Airbus, who had not figured on going in that direction at all.  They blinked and they are about to fly its first rendering of an all plastic airline, the A350 this Friday. Boeing's game changing big picture altered aviation's direction in a big way. It took Airbus about 4 more years to respond and I'll explain that direction in the next paragraph. However, Boeing went after it without holding back on ultimate technology and change. The only constraints were time, sensible progress, and money. The big picture was really big, and Boeing has now waded through ten years of time to get to this point. Even though Airbus was in the denial phase of planning, they secretly pushed in Boeing's direction to counter.

The Airbus Journey From The Finish
Airbus did not take an overarching mission approach, since it had time to make up, and strategically used more off-the-shelf technology to bridge that time gap.  Its mission was defined by Boeing. If Boeing goes off the deep end, don't follow suit, build a plastic airplane and build it bigger. They proceeded to "borrow" technology  with lower risks as they went for panel fabrications with CFRP, and used Rolls advanced engine building progress from both of Rolls Royce and Boeing's engine programs. They will have good engines and efficiencies but with lower program risks. The theme here: is to build on the fly with proven advance technologies, and run down Boeing quickly, as they were grabbing market share on plastic airplanes. Don't over arch on advances, let Boeing struggle with innovation and catch Boeing at the finish line. Is this year's Paris Air Show the finish line? Airbus stayed with hydraulics technology, that had weight adding fluids, pumps and pressurized lines. They stayed with a more conventional looking airframe that would accommodate plastic panels, not barrels. Airbus built bigger, and it stuffs the airplane with customer comforts giving the traveler the feel of the latest and greatest in aircraft travel. This is done through the illusion of new features over laying conventional  aerospace architecture not including the  all new plastic parts.

Boeing's Millstone  Of Risks: Marshalls Its Resources, Uses Time And Exhausts PR With Delays.

Boeing high risk penalty has caused a bumpy halting journey to deliver almost 60 airplanes. That weighs  customer patience and caused Boeing to use extended political capital, as well as money to arrive at this years Paris. The high risk road has brought Boeing within Airbus's sights, what Boeing is counting on is that its state of the aviation advantages will out perform Airbus for many years. The recent electrical problems clearly state this strategy that it must not lose any technical ground  to Airbus less energetic advances with  the A350, hence staying with the Lithium Ion battery at all cost.  The battery is the high risk/high cost example of exceeding Airbus. Where Airbus sought the old version of the Nickel-Cadmium battery solution
that weighs more and is lower performing with lower risks. Boeing's all electric design has not been tried before, which is another aviation innovation which Airbus refused to travel down. Boeing used electrical wires to electrical motors without using bleed air by-pass to move flight surfaces during and before flight. All this computer operated systems allows Boeing to fly the most sophisticated and highest performing airline today, in the world. Airbus brings a plastic counter part that it say it can fly better with hydraulics, Rolls Royce Engines, and an all plastic body. The Friday test flight will start to answer many questions of who is right. Many believe the long road belongs to Boeing and the short road pulls Airbus just several hills back on the journey. That is why Boeing can't, and won't fall back on any of its newly formed risks through its innovation.


Airbus Shorter Shorter Way Strategy Will Fall Short 

Airbus as mentioned above, illustrates lower innovation and lower risks, promising no Boeing like delays or problems. That is true for the most part. The testing phase is just beginning for Airbus. If one could measure all the differences for the aircraft in a comparison you would see two completely different models and strategies on building Airplanes. Boeing started with a overly optimistic pulse and Airbus came in with an anemic blood type. The race will be decided by the longest endurance stamina.

Airbus's hopes to  become the juggernaut.