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2000 Speeches
Phil Condit portrait

Phil Condit

Chairman and CEO

The Boeing Company

"Living in a Changing, Mobile World"

World Affairs Council of Orange County

November 20, 2000

Thank you, Ambassador Malott.

It's great to be here. When Sir Eldon (Griffiths) invited me, he said I'd be the first speaker after the election of a new I'm really not sure that I should be here! But I am certain that I am your last speaker before Thanksgiving.

Tonight, I want to share my vision of a world that is being linked by greater mobility and greater connectivity. We are a civilization that learned to manage fire, invent the plow, and create the abacus and written languages. A civilization that grew with Gutenberg's printing press, public banking, and the clock.

A civilization that changed dramatically from an agrarian, rural society to an urban, industrial society with the Industrial Revolution. Changed in the last century alone by the airplane, TV, the transistor, battery, laser, and computer. And we are a civilization changed by credit cards, fast food, e-mail, transplants, PCs, ATMs, and GPS. Most important, our civilization has grown by continuously finding better, more productive methods, and this has allowed us to raise the standard of living.

Today we are changing again, into a society linked by both mobility and connectivity. Technology advances will allow us to stay in contact as never before. As leaders, we must adapt to survive in this changing, mobile world.

This is very true in aviation. Orville and Wilbur Wright first flew for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet - 70 feet less than the 777 wing span. The early challenge was to fly higher, faster, and further.

Bill Boeing took on that challenge after watching the "First in America" Aviation Meet here in 1910. The novelty of flying a few people a day has grown to some 3 million people boarding more than 42,000 flights on Boeing jetliners every day to virtually every country in the world.

Air travel is now common and affordable. Overnight delivery is popular and growing. Both allow us to be connected. We have ventured into space as well. Last month, the Space Shuttle program completed its 100th mission, and now people are setting up a home on the International Space Station, the newest star in the night sky. We have grown in telecommunications too -- from local news to the global reach of CNN, MSNBC, Discovery, and others. We are moving from an urban, industrial society to a connected, mobile world.

The Information Revolution is changing us dramatically once again. Two decades ago, productivity gains were lagging. Another Bill in Seattle had a "bright idea" to put a computer on every desktop from office to home. Then the popularity and connectivity of the Internet opened a productivity floodgate. Today many of us "live" on line. We communicate with each other via e-mail and provide news to employees on web sites, and I can send an e-mail letter to over 160,000 Boeing people with a single mouse click. We buy airline e-tickets on line. We trade stocks there. We buy gifts there. We read the latest new about punch cards and chads on Yahoo.

At Boeing, the Information Revolution is allowing us to radically change the cost of transaction, just as the machine changed the cost of making things in the Industrial Revolution. We designed our Joint Striker Fighter demonstrator airplane in St. Louis, Seattle, and Gloucester and Bristol, England. All the pieces were fit together and assembled with dramatically fewer hours in Palmdale, Calif.

To stay connected today, business people are constantly on the move, lugging their laptops along. We need instant data wherever we go: in hotel rooms, boarding lounges, and even on board a long flight. Mobile computer users have for the last decade asked each other, "Were you able to get on line last night?" Now we are approaching a time when you can plug in anywhere and be connected. That will be true not just for home or hotel, but aboard a nonstop flight from LAX to Sydney.

No one can make this happen better than Boeing. We know commercial and military airplanes. We know satellites and space-based communication. The combination of broadband capabilities and knowledge of airplanes and satellites looks pretty exciting to us.

Today you have few choices in commercial air travel. You can read a book, listen to preprogrammed music, or watch a movie. Soon, you will be able to see the Superbowl "live," watch a sitcom, or trade e-mail with your family; shop on line or keep an eye on the Dow or NASDAQ. Then the airplane will begin to feel like your home or office. And the experience of air travel will change forever. Our satellite-based system, Connexion by Boeing, is going to do just that for those on the go. It will allow people to stay in contact, stay connected.

Mobile communications will have a dramatic impact on business productivity. Let me share a personal example. Right now, I'm seven days into a 22-day trip that spans three continents, five countries, and 15 cities. So far, I've gone from Seattle to St. Louis to Washington, D.C., Palo Alto, and Seal Beach, with Asia and Australia still ahead.

I can be away that long because I can be connected. Our Boeing Business Jet acts as my office and hotel in the air. Each hotel is also an office. This allows me to stay in contact, connected with Boeing's many sites and leaders while accomplishing important business worldwide. Being mobile and connected allows me to cross boundaries to meet more often with customers, government, and industry leaders; with our suppliers and in person with employees.

This is what living in a changing, mobile, connected world will be like.

These technologies will also allow us to change the way we control air traffic. Our current system has literally grown over time from bonfires on hills to radio beacons to radio navigation aids with radar surveillance. It has produced narrow one-lane highways in the sky.

Today airlines carry 1.5 billion people a year, more than the population of China. By 2016, when Boeing turns 100 years old, airlines will carry about 3 billion people each year. That is a huge increase both on air traffic and the system that supports it. However, with satellite-based communication, navigation, and surveillance, we can build a safer, higher capacity air traffic management system. A system that will know where every airplane is, accurately predict conflicts and resolve them, and dramatically reduce the probability of accidentally hitting a mountain or hill, the largest cause of fatal accidents.

This will not only reduce congestion, but also allow more direct point-to-point, nonstop routes such as New York to Hong Kong or LAX to Singapore. Today, many people travel through places they don't want to go. For example, two out of three passengers travelling from the United States to Asia are destined for places other than Japan, and yet 80 percent of trans-Pacific flights stop there.

The future holds more and more direct flight. Flights that go from where people are to where they want to go, without stops in crowded spots they don't want to visit. This reduces congestion and increases customer satisfaction, and that sounds like the right idea.

We are on the real eve of the 21st century, and we can build a 21st century air transportation system. A system with direct flights, more capacity and greater safety. It is a system that uses the power of the Information Revolution to build a world with more convenient mobility.

We are living on a radically changing planet. We are moving into a civilization linked by mobility and connectivity. And there will be resistance as we work across national boundaries, because this involves great change. But I believe we can grow this new world if we work together more and make the right choices. We can choose to meet the demands of new times, or we can choose to fight the inevitable advance of the tide. We can recognize that constant change is here to stay, or we can wish for the "good old days" that really weren't so good. What many want is progress, but without change, an improved standard of living for all, but without the challenge of global trade -- and that won't happen.

I believe we must pay careful attention to the words of Darwin, who said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change."

Now I'd be happy to take your questions.