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1998 Speeches

Phil Condit

The Boeing Company

"Working Together: An Opportunity to Discover"

1998 Americas Conference on Aviation

Miami, Fla.

September 01, 1998

Thank you, Joan, for that kind introduction you gave me.

Tonight I would like to spend a few moments talking about discovery and opportunity. I believe that when we push into the unknown, we discover wonderful things. And that often leads to amazing opportunity.

To illustrate, let's go back in history. It's August 3, 1492. Explorer Christopher Columbus sets sail from Spain, aboard the Santa Maria, and with her attendant ships, the Pinta and the Nina, to find Asia. This was not a random journey. Columbus, along with many others believed that the earth was round. He had calculated the diameter of the earth and, in fact, he was accurate and only missed by 20 percent. Not bad.

He also calculated the distance from Spain to China "going eastbound," based on Marco Polo's journey from Venice to China. But he missed by 300 percent. So when Columbus calculated the distance from Spain to China "going west," he came up with 3,900 nautical miles. This was far short of the actual distance of 13,000 nautical miles. For Columbus, this was a fortunate mistake. Had he known the truth, he never would have left Spain.

The other fortunate mistake was the Americas, he would have perished since he had only provisioned the ships with water for 5,000 nautical miles. But, then came October 12. The 70th day at sea. And Columbus and his crew, who were near mutiny, spot land they would name San Salvador, or "Holy Savior." Columbus sailed around the Caribbean until the Santa Maria was wrecked on a reef off Haiti on Christmas day, forcing him to go back to Spain.

And the age of the Americas began ... with a discovery, aboard a ship named the Santa Maria. A trip that began -- and ended -- with a significant navigation error.

Now let's jump ahead about 400 years. The weather is cold, wet. The year is 1903. It's Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, with lots of imagination. You probably figured out who they are already. Orville and Wilbur (Wright) are about to discover powered flight. It's Orville's turn at the controls Wilbur had blown his chance; he bent airplane 3 days earlier. Then at 10:30 a.m., 12-horse handbuilt engine sputtered to life. Again, these were things unknown, or uncommonly known.

At full power, Wilbur releases restraining wire, the craft slides 40 feet, and powered flight becomes airborne reality. That flight lasted 12 seconds covered almost .02 nautical mile. Later, Wilbur -- like all good test pilots -- and not to be outdone by Orville flew the airplane that same day for almost a minute and covered 0.135 nautical miles.

That night the two brothers sent the following telegram home to their father, Reverend Milton Wright: "Success. Four flights Thursday morning. All against twenty-one mile wind. Started from level with engine power alone. Average speed through air thirty-one miles. Longest fifty-nine seconds. Inform press. Home Christmas."

What happened that day was one of the most spectacular performance increases in aviation history. In one day, range was boosted more than 700 percent. And time aloft by 500 percent. Now those of you who understand mathematics know, of course, high percentages start with small numbers.

The age of commercial aviation began ... with discovery, and an airplane dubbed the Wright Flyer.

The opportunities that followed that day is what has brought us where we are today. In fact, I will cover more miles today than Christopher Columbus did in his 70 days at sea. I will fly 21,200 times as far, non-stop as Orville did on his original flight. We have come a very long way.

We have great opportunity. To change. To imagine. To innovate. To work together. To create even better things. I believe there's a lot to be gained by accepting change, by tapping into discovery, by working together to take advantage of the opportunities it creates. No change is risk-free, but there's a lot to be gained.

Growth over the next 20 years will place new demands on global aviation, and, therefore, provide everyone of us an opportunity to change and work together to find new solutions. We need to increase the efficient use of limited air space. We need to provide: new routes, new terminal approaches, new precision approaches, and free flight, with an absolute requirement to always maintain and improve aviation safety. This system will require seamless, global interoperability. You will need to be able to fly from Madrid to Mexico City to China with one set of avionics and one set of procedures.

I believe one of the exciting things in our future as an opportunity is satellite-based navigation. We have gone from hilltop bonfires, to beacons, to NDB's (non-directional beacons), to VOR's (VHF omni-directional ranges) and DME's (distance measuring equipment), and now to GPS (global positioning satellite). A seamless, global, satellite-based navigation system. Columbus would have loved it!

A satellite-based future airspace management system can be used to dramatically improve air transport system safety, capacity and efficiency on a global scale. We are working together today with Alaska Airlines, for example, to enable airplanes to fly more efficiently and with greater safety. Their system allows an airplane to fly a more reliable schedule and more direct routes, which reduces fuel consumption and operational costs.

Using GPS, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, and a Flight Management Computer, Alaska is now flying RNP flights into Juneau, and realizing a significant saving and reduction in the number of delayed or canceled flights. I think that GPS could allow this industry to implement stabilized, precision approaches at every airport in the world. When you think about that, it could be the most significant factor in reducing controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and landing accidents. Those accidents occur four to eight times more often when precision approach guidance isn't available.

The aviation industry can take advantage of opportunities such as GPS. But it will not be easy. GPS is much like ETOPS (extended-range twin-engines operations) and two-person crew concepts. Both of those were ideas that were initially resisted. But by "working together," they were embraced.

I believe that same "working together" spirit and foundation can move us to the next level in aviation history. I believe that, we, like Christopher Columbus and Orville and Wilbur Wright, can be part of discovery and opportunity. We can take advantage of the opportunity and "work together" for global aviation. If we share a lot, we can do a lot better. I believe this conference is a great place to start.

Thank you.