Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Boeing Goes Toe To Toe With Airbus

For the last ten years Boeing has assembled an effort to over-match its giant competitor, Airbus. Just as found in tennis, the serve and volley is rapidly reaching final deciding set, of who has the best game in this match duopoly. As of August 31, 2013, the game has tightened with momentum climbing high for Boeing. First-up is the brief recap of how the airline industry has come to this point in this match of
serve and volley.

  • Boeing announces the 7E7 project on December 16, 2003
  • Airbus  returns service with shrug of shoulders, and a "Meah"
  • Airbus trips and falls out of Bounds orders redesign of just announced project
  • Boeing punches Back in 2005,  naming it the 787 as a family of aircraft
  • Airbus scrambles to the corner with a desperation return announcing the A-350
  • Boeing Rolls Out plastic not paper on July 7, 2007
  • Boeing 787-8 first flight December 15,, 2009
  • Boeing starts flying product off the shelf September 2011
  • Airbus first flight of A-350-9 in Paris 7-2013
  • Boeing is fine with the dash-9 in September 2013

The devil is in the details

  • Fire and mayhem beset the 787-8
  • Glitching and more glitching 787
  • All Quiet in the French trenches, no bragging here at this time

The main point at this time, is that Boeing is pacing the building of aircraft.
Airbus stays quiet on purpose not advertising every little fix or problem, since they don't need to do that. The Boeing first campaign came to ground from mishaps is working for Airbus.

Boeing fell into a prideful marketing pit of announcing everything about the 787 million parts assembled. When a problem occurs with any one part the press now auto paste the headlines. What has gone wrong with the A-350 project, we don't know, it just doesn't seem to gain press traction. Airbus, clearly stayed within the technological  envelope of proven systems taking the most conservative approach on the new design. They have advanced working with plastics and modified proven systems and   staying safe within that proven techno world of lower risk. Meanwhile, Boeing went way beyond that envelope and is paying for it in public perception of glitching aircraft. The good girl reputation of the 787 is now smudged  with hiccups and a fiery past. Airbus is keeping its girls in finishing school until at least 2014.

Here is the prior mentioned  pacing.

Lead service is the 787-8 followed by Airbus flinching I can do better with a less technology response. They were behind at this point and had to do better with less to catch Boeing. The A-350-8,-9,-1000 hit the papers with  a play by ear approach, based on what Boeing was going to do. Next Airbus turned and moved closer to the net with the NEO in its short game. Boeing was caught flat footed and the Airbus Customers stood up and cheered. The Boeing team called time out and discuss "how are we going to to deal with this in the bigger picture". Answer: "A strategy change is the only way we can beat Airbus with the short game."  So, Boeing getting clobbered with the NEO offering, needed not just a way to the net, but a way to ultimately defeat Airbus. Note here that the 787 was already launched and flying by 2010 when the short game started to beat Boeing.

The bigger picture offense came on board. Boeing said to its engineers, "that Airbus has a one year lead on us. What can we do to mitigate the NEO problem?" Good question and key to the strategy. The generals from the Boeing board of directors were brought in to the battle. The shortest distances between two  points is a straight line and Airbus has launch its NEO missile at our markets. This is a serious business as 2000 orders stacked up for the NEO.  So Boeing not ducking the Airbus Missiles proposed that straight line of defense. They called it the MAX line of offense. Boeing used what they had spent billions on maturing the 787 (flying aircraft) and infused into the Max where possible. The 737 already had some good points over the A-321 as in more seats than the NEO version looking at the 737-800 NG.  Those seats come across to the Max. Boeing needed an engine upgrade comparable to the advances made during the 787 project. A new 68 inch diameter engine came forward. The Max needed plastic where it would modernize losing weight. It would take on new wings from the lessons learned 787 workshop. Engineering would also move engine placements and adjust center of gravity on the aircraft and add Advanced Wing Technology on flight surfaces from its wing tips inward. I like to call them "Dual Flight Feathers".

Structurally, they will extend the nose gear to gain clearance off the ground for its new engines. The strengthen wing box of a composite nature, and an abundant use of plastic used in concert with the latest generation of high tech low weight aluminum will make this aircraft build-able, sooner than later,, with the affect of beating the NEO is the short game Dogfight, in airspace and gate assignment at all airports. The 737-7,-8,-9 will compete , and will demonstrate out of Airbus' own play book it can build it better with less.

The final straw from the 737's flight bag, is in its systems and the new flight deck. Finally, Boeing got the memo from its customers, when it started the 787 project. Build something great and give it to every Aircraft that follows from this day forward. The Max flight deck, and its maintenance points will operate similar to the the 787 and 777-X in feel and nature but remain uniquely different for its mission.  In fact, there should be some flight deck points and similarities found on the 747-8i with the Max. Airbus does observe these types of moves that Boeing is completing, and it worries its own sales staff. Airlines  like the concept of the operation suite. Microsoft explored the commonality of its suite of programs, from Excel to Word and continuing on with PowerPoint, and its data base programs. Now Boeing is striving that same recognition from airline's flight crews and ground teams for recognizing key functions in the operation of the aircraft. One example is the 777 feels like flying the 787 and vise verse. The Max will come forward with its 787 like yoke and flight systems, matching the flight panels and operational procedures of the 787. If you fly the Max as a pilot then at least under 30 days later you are able to fly the 787.

Boeing's, strategy is not a secret, its embedded into every aircraft it builds. The technological benchmarks set by the 787 program will now embed into the 737, 777, and the 747-8i. Here is the ploy, that Boeing is using at this time. Airbus launches the A-350 and the A-321 NEO, Boeing comes back with the MAX. Airbus flies at Paris sealing the Billions in development and the commitments it has received.  Boeing comes back with the 777-8X and 777-9X in Dubai. The A-350 -1000 is trapped by Boeing's 777 plan and the A-350-9 becomes a marginal aircraft by both the 787-9 and -10. Boeing truly achieves its goal of commonality with its customers and upgrade its aircraft that will beat the competition.

Set 1 Boeing 787 Announcement
Set 2  Airbus NEO Annoncement
Set 3 Boeing 777-X at Dubai

Game, Set, and MAX  goes to Boeing