Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Boeing's War Of Attrition Against 787 Glitches

Boeing's constant war of attrition is paying aircraft dividends for its 787. First there were Boeing mouth pieces proclaiming the early launch in the fall of 2007 after its semi paper aircraft on 7/7/07. The egg shell then cracked showing no yoke. Then there were 3 plus years, actually closer to four years before it delivered one to ANA. The war of attrition against bad publicity had begun. Right time of year but in wrong year issue was dealt with a celebration from Boeing. The introductory speech began with an "oops, we bad" opening  omission.  However,  Boeing's PR ninja's were launched at that time with a plethora of techno wizards, all talking about everything 787. The war had begun against bad press clippings who would rely on incidences, as if money were to be made in the press each time it quoted "7late7", or in every news paragraph about the 787. Boeing generals went for the pink soothing stomach medicine as they agreed that somehow we need to attrite the enemy by,  making the ("7late7") verbiage cut and paste disappear.

Then there was build pains (delaminating, shims and fasteners during 2008-2010), and late in the period testing woes for the 787, where the a test airplane caught fire in the electrical panels, then Boeing selected its own panel of engineers to solve that problem as well. Just between panels, Boeing won round two. As many more woes appeared, Boeing was quick to try and respond in an ever increasing flat spin downward on the 787 reputation. When Boeing started to gain momentum, where it was exampled by the press who dropped the the 7late7 routine and  moved forward with a "troubled battery problem".  Boeing then took down and disbanded the electrical panel people, and went after "The Battery" with its battery of people squad.

The attrition was not going to let Boeing down, because they now have flying copies in both ANA and Japan Airlines in early 2013, over 50 787's were with customers by February 2013 when Boeing raised the white flag in front of the FAA cadre of nay Sayers. Grounding is like saying to your children, "its not going to happen on my watch". More attrition beset Boeing.

However, a board member does read its financial sheets, "Holy Comstock Load" was screamed in the Boeing hallways as the board meetings were about to transpire in accordance with the quarterly calender. Boeing now found its $20 billion hole in the report, the 787. A solution was contrived by mid 2013, Boeing needs to build 10 a month to "infinity and beyond" so it can ratchet itself out of the problematic cost losing black hole. A round of back slapping for everybody in the board meeting, "here-here" was the cheer.

Now comes the hard facts of attrition and glitches piled at Boeing's front door, what to do in 2014. "Let's make this pig fly" became the Boeing chant, and make anything wrong disappear. That was a turning point in this war of attrition. Boeing now has 146 flying copies at this moment with 98.8 percent reliability. They want to eliminate one more percent and make it 99.8 percent reliable like the the 777-300er. What has been accomplished is a fire line built against the battery compartment. Press convincing statements about the quieter use of the in-flight battery systems, where its primary function is placed on the ground after passengers go look for lost luggage. Landing gears that don't flub up. Engine solutions for any in flight events that it had. Lean production and elimination of work area flaws. The general maturity of the most technological airplane ever built has occurred in 2014, even so much more so than the A350, A380, and far more than an improbable A330 Neo. Boeing's war against attrition for the 787 is close to the end. Its like 8 months after D-Day in WWII. How fast can General Patton Move was the question then? Boeing is moving at an accelerated pace that it did not have in years previous, 2011-2013. Finding a glitch now in the news cycle, is so much harder, that I am reduced to reflective ideas such as this. I can't wait for the next big airshow, order announcement or testing bench mark. If that is the case, then Boeing has pushed back the Glitch Gremlin even though the causal battery problem has not been identified for the battery fix, only its fire dampening solution. The continuous improvement strategy is working. Within the next two years, the 787 will become the top operational dog of the fleet depending its systems computer detection, charting and other system problem solving tools making the aircraft a continuously safe airplane. The manufacturing and design imperfections are just about retired so that the any system recording and checking 787 analysis can operate an envisioned. Not reading about any glitch found on a 787 during the week is a slow blog week for me.

Therefore, out of slowness of failure I get to turn my attention towards other things Boeing is doing. Like for instance; its military arm where my first love of flight resides ever since my Uncles unique participation on the SR-71 began in 1964 or earlier. His information remains Top secret today after so many years, back when he began the project, even though he is at rest today. He shared a wealth of history with me, not secrets about the SR-71. All Super sonic flights today share the SR-71 lessons learned from the old fashioned way of design theory and performance limits. The Aurora project and ram jet technology learned the limits of the Jet engine and hull design from that project. Yes, lake Washington, near Seattle, makes a great spot using liquid wind tunnel dynamics for super sonic speed testing from  boat/hydroplanes across the water, where aviation developed SR-71 hull design.