Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do not fly on a Boeing 787!

So, this past summer, my father in law had a family reunion in Wisconsin. At the reunion was an engineer, he works at Boeing. I asked him what he did at Boeing and he was actually a Structural Manager on the Boeing 787. So I asked him straight up, what the hell happened. He said the biggest issue was the design being done partly in India, partly in Italy, japan, etc. just like it says below. 
He said, many regions just did not care and just did the minimum to get paid and go home, none had a sense of pride or a sense that this was "their" design. He said that things did not come together, analysis were done wrong, mistakes were rampant, they had to redesign and redesign. It was a joke. Then they put this Frankenstein thing together and started to run structural testing. Get this, one of the tests, and this is a biggie, is to put a simple upward load on the wing. I am talking the static test, not the dynamic test. They wanted to go to 160% of maximum load but did not make it past 90% and the joint of the wing to the body fractured!! 
The major structural joint, the main one fractured!!!!! I was stunned, how can they get such a basic thing like the load at this joint and the needed structure wrong? He said, you think you were stunned, you should have seen all the managers and directors and the crowd of a couple hundred people just gasp. They had to act fast to come up with a "band aid" so the dang wings did not fall off.

This was but one of the more spectacular failures but there are many more. Sad, sad, sad, what are we doing as a country.

The guy who wrote the following is retired from Boeing. Thought you might find it interesting...... sorta "insider stuff"... but revealing nothing proprietary.

For one thing the problem may not be with the batteries themselves, but with the control system that keeps the charge on them at a given level. And the 'battery problem" is just one problem in many. Last week I had my regular monthly lunch with 5 fellow Boeing engineers (all but one retired) and we talked at length about what we call the "nightmare liner". We all agreed we will not book a flight on one. The one engineer still working (at age 74) says the news from inside is not good, and that there are no quick fixes for the multitude of problems that the 787 has.
 
The disaster began with the merger with McDonnell-Douglas in the mid 90s. The M-D people completely took over the Board and installed their own people. They had no experience with commercial airplanes, having done only"cost-plus" military contracting; and there are worlds of difference between military and commercial airplane design.
 
Alan Mulally, a life-long Boeing guy and President of Boeing Commercial Division was against outsourcing. But instead of making him CEO after he almost single-handedly saved the company in the early 90s, the Board brought in Harry Stonecipher from McDonnell-Douglas, who was big on outsourcing. 
Stonecipher was later fired for ethics violations. Then the Board brought in Jim McNerney, a glorified scotch tape salesman from 3M and big proponent of outsourcing, to develop the 787. (Alan Mulally left to become CEO of Ford and completely rejuvenated that company.)
 
McNerney and his bean-counting MBAs thought that instead of developing the 787 in-house for about $11 billion, they could outsource the design and building of the airplane for about $6 billion. Right now they are at $23 billion and counting, three years behind in deliveries, with a grounded fleet. 
That's typical for military contracting, so McNerney and the Board probably think they are doing just fine. But it will destroy Boeing's commercial business in the same way McDonnell wrecked Douglas when they took over that company decades ago.
 
Boeing had a wonderfully experienced team of designers and builders who had successfully created the 707, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, and 777 in-house, always on-time, and mostly within budget, and with few problems at introduction. That team is gone, either retired or employed elsewhere. (I took early retirement after the McD takeover of Boeing because I knew the new upper management team was clueless.)
 
The 787 was designed in Russia, India, Japan, and Italy. The majority of the airplane is built outside the US in parts and shipped to Seattle or Charleston for assembly.
 
Gee, what could possibly go wrong? Answer: just about everything. Because the M-D people that now run Boeing don't believe in R&D, the structure of the airplane will be tested in service.
 
Commercial airplanes in their lifetime typically make ten times as many flights and fly ten times as many flight hours as military airplanes, so the argument that composite structure has been "tested" because of the experience of composite military airplanes is just so much BS. So structure is a big issue. The 787 is very overweight. The all-electric controls have the same lack-of-experience issue that the structure has.
 
The good news for me is that the Boeing pension plan is currently fully funded, although it may not stay that way as the 787 catastrophe develops.
Jim Garrow  
 
 

1 comment:

  1. How is it that the failed at Douglas took over the success at Boeing?? The DC10 - was a disaster & turned into the MD11 ( not so bad)

    Hope things are better now as I flew on one & did notice many cosmetic flaws in the cabin !!

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