Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Boeing 797 Strategic Concept

Boeing has for many a year, in the last decade considered a middle of the market aircraft replacing its long beloved 757-767 aircraft line. The day it stopped building the 757 is the day "strategic planning" arose from Boeing's nomenclature. The strategic airplane would be built as an untouchable from its competitor. Long has the A321 become an Airbus sweet spot for orders. Boeing was too late to the market with a competitive product. Boeing has the 787 X's 3 to build and the 737 Max X's 4, coupled with the 777X X's 2 models in the game plan.

Strategic Points:

  • Boeing needed a family of Aircraft First
  • Boeing needed a technological quantum leap Second
  • Finally, Boeing needed Airbus chasing its program rainbow 
The only thing in the way of Boeing starting its New Medium Aircraft (NMA) is program completion for an unleashing of its combined resources on a NMA program. The 777X is stopping an NMA try for Boeing. Resources have shifted to its 737-10, 777-8X and 777-9X programs. There is residual work to be done  on the Max 8 and Max 9 starting with production capability and its testing regimen. The 777X program starts in earnest next year. All this conflagration at Boeing R&D leaves the NMA program playing a guessing game with its Airbus competitor and Boeing's customers. 

Boeing must contend with strategic inputs for the NMA program such as telling its customers they will build a 220-270 seat aircraft going 5,200 miles. If Boeing's customers are given detailed information then Airbus will get the same detailed Boeing information. It takes five years from forming launch customers, on a clean sheet design, to first delivery. Airbus is certainly talking to prospective Boeing NMA launch customers for any details.

If Boeing lets the cat out of the bag too soon then it will be another 787-A350 dogfight. Boeing can shorten the time to market by developing a NMA on the "QT" for three years before launching/announcing at a "Show". 

NMA strategic plan:
  • It needs to line up die hard Boeing customers using sketchy information.
  • It needs to develop NMA technology and design from proven accomplishment from prior programs.
  • It needs to complete the 737-10, 787-10 and 777X programs before launching the NMA.

Boeing can build a new medium airplane before launching while Airbus watches and looses ground against the clock on a shrewd Boeing move. This is the strategic importance coming from lessons learned both current and prior programs. Announcing early makes expectations wait far too long giving customers angst and the competition time for a rebuttal. 

Boeing needs to go secret with its aspirations while working with customers somewhat like Lockheed's "Skunk-Works". The 787 was announced clear back in 2003 with full details of what it would be made of and then Airbus complained it couldn't be done while forming its own composite A350 aircraft. Boeing came to Market in 2011 and Airbus answered in late 2015. The going-to-market time gap could of decreased with less Boeing fanfare from  2003 to 2011, if Boeing had announced the 787 in the year 2007 after it had completed a successful prototype. Doing so would have put Boeing ahead of Airbus by almost ten years. 

Instead Boeing announced often from 2003, the 787, for drumming up sales for what it proposed down the road thus causing customer angst from waiting and allowing its competitor a response during the interim period of time of announcement to its first delivery, after which Boeing fumbled through new technology and production issues.

The NMA approach seems to take some of those timing issues as Boeing is dodging detection of what it really is going to build while it begins a NMA program currently. 

  • It will want a first delivery of its NMA within three years of announcing a launch. 
  • The program will be already mature at the announcement time.
  • All risks are retired before first assembly is completed except the flying testing.
The whole strategy is to lengthen any competitor response time to what Boeing has already shown to its die hard customers on paper. 

In order to do that, it will have to rely on what it has made before an NMA concept is approved. An all plastic body and wings become a quick solution on the production process. The design is an all new body fitting customers comfort first. The engine selection is based on reliable engine builders. The technology is off the Boeing shelf going forward. No new moon shots. Management plays for time allowing all this going on at the Boeing Skunk Works. Area 797 is activated for testing in Montana for secrecy. 

Just having fun by seeing how much falls into place from this idea and why Boeing stalls on the 797.