May 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 1 
Special Features



All Boeing business units pay attention to the long term. But Phantom Works, the company’s advanced research and development arm, is specifically charged with imagining the future.

Some of these longer-term possibilities, said Dick Paul, vice president of Strategic Development & Analysis, include uninhabited vehicles—an area both Integrated Defense Systems and Phantom Works are exploring. Near-term applications will benefit U.S. homeland security efforts, while those more far out likely will involve uninhabited vehicle systems for pipeline surveillance and port security. Both fit Boeing’s emphasis on large-scale systems integration.

One concept Phantom Works is studying is straight out of “The Jetsons,” the 1960s-era American cartoon that featured a space-age family. The concept: a personal transportation system consisting of, among other things, a “flying car.” While Boeing isn’t in the automobile business, this seemingly out-there concept would require the company’s large-systems integration expertise, as well as advances in autonomous and ultrareliability technology, and air traffic management systems.

Technology“It’s the ultimate point-to-point transportation system,” said Paul, who added that such a vehicle in its long-term manifestation might take off from a driveway, fly to work, and get folded up and packed inside an office. Nearer-term applications might include military and civil use, he said.

When it comes to jetliners, the shift from aluminum to super-efficient composites will likely accelerate. These will be of lighter weights and will be less expensive to maintain—and that benefits airlines. Sherry Carbary, Commercial Airplanes’ vice president of Strategic Management, said Boeing is learning not only from the new technologies it’s applying, but also from the new business model of global partnerships being used to produce the technologically advanced airplane.

Speaking of new methods, Carbary said the future could someday involve Boeing offering end-to-end services for its airline customers by providing solutions that include ownership, training, maintenance and scheduling of their modernized, e-enabled fleets. These systems would ultimately help make airlines more efficient and productive, which could help lower ticket prices and stimulate passenger and cargo traffic worldwide, she said.

Also helping airlines boost efficiency: Boeing systems that pinpoint maintenance needs while airplanes are in flight. These systems would relay information to the ground, which helps maintenance crews get jets back into the air sooner. “In 25 years’ time, we’ll look back and say, ‘Do you remember when we had to take these things apart before they were broken?’” said Sean Schwinn, head of business development and strategy for Connexion by Boeing. “In order to manage the airplane, you have to connect to the way you manage.”

It’s all about the exchange of information—and this is an arena Boeing knows well.

“On the military side, we own the future,” said Craig Johnstone, Boeing International Relations vice president for Europe, referring to groundbreaking network-centric programs such as Future Combat Systems, a networked “family of systems” designed to use advanced technologies to integrate ground and air platforms and sensors. In fact, he sees these applications moving far beyond the military realm. Managing, prioritizing and communicating vast amounts of data could help address complex issues such as traffic management.

In the meantime, Phantom Works engineers are dreaming up the future, whether it’ll be manifested in military, commercial or space applications.

Paul realizes Phantom Works has no monopoly on great ideas within Boeing. Still, the enterprise’s “ability to think about these concepts and opportunities from a systems perspective gives us a leg up on the hundreds of other companies out there that are innovative.”


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