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29 July 2005

Worldliner on Broadway

The 777-200LR World Tour has been around the globe and back again. The world's longest-range airliner has been to Beijing, Dubai, Paris, Taipei, Karachi, Singapore, Mexico City, and a bunch of other cities and countries since the tour began back in June.

Last weekend the Worldliner returned to the U.S. for a stopover in the New York City area. And on Monday, Boeing and Continental Airlines hosted the 777-200LR, or WD002, as the airplane is designated during its Flight Test program. The event took place at a hangar at Newark Liberty International Airport.

You can read an interesting account of the media activity surrounding the Newark tour stop on Boeing's Flight Test blog.

My boss, Nicole Piasecki, our vice president of business strategy and marketing, got a chance to talk with a bunch of New York and New Jersey reporters during the stop, including a live interview on the business news channel, CNBC.

And there's still more media attention to come. Next week the Worldliner visits India, and then returns to Seattle later in August for something of a homecoming.


28 July 2005

Shark fins and bullet trains

Recently, Boeing finalized the exterior look of the 787 Dreamliner. And we sure heard about it after we released the new images.

I'm so glad the 787 success is going to put Boeing back on top with recent key wins in the market. However I'm disappointed with the final exterior look compared to what the original renditions were. Gone is the shark-like fin of the horizontal stabilizer. Gone is the sleek, elongated "bullet train like" nose. Gone are the swept back, curved wings. Now it looks just a like the old plane it replaces. Is it just me, or are others just as disappointed?

Todd H.
Everett, Washington

I can understand what people are saying. But actually, the airplane's look hasn't changed as much as you might think. Take a look at the banner at the top of this page. It's a new image of the Dreamliner. Can you tell a difference?

The fact is the final design of the Dreamliner remains very distinctive. You're definitely going to know a 787 when you see it.

787 Dreamliner image

A final design image of the 787 Dreamliner.

As we said when we first shared our 787 design image with the world, it represented a concept. It wasn't an engineering-based image. But our engineers definitely used that image as inspiration for creating the final 787 that we see today.

In fact, the concept image has been very useful in helping our designers take the 787 beyond the typical airplane exterior appearance.

Airplane designers are limited by the requirements of performance - fuel and aerodynamic efficiency. But even so, they've managed to achieve a dramatic look for the Dreamliner.

For instance, the nose still comes very close to the original concept. The change there is minor. But you might notice that the front windshield looks different. That's because the windshield braces changed a bit.

As for the wings, you may notice that in some images we've started showing the wings in the "deflected" position of flight. All wings - regardless of what they're made of - deflect in flight as air pushes up on the wing tips. But the actual shape of the wing is unchanged from the earlier images.

787 Dreamliner image

Yes, the 787's composite wings will actually look like that in flight.

Then there's the tail. A lot of people have talked about this. As the comment above put it, the original concept tail was "shark-like." People thought it was pretty "cool."

Well, yes, this has changed. We knew the tail was going to be the most difficult to make work. And we'd been saying for some time that the tail might change, as our engineers took a close look at the aerodynamic performance of the 787.

We liked the shark tail too, but we had to reduce some of the "sculpting" in the name of performance and efficiency. No question about it, when you look at the 787 tail now, it has a more traditional look. But it still has more of a swept look than any of our current models. And what we've got now is a design that is both efficient and distinctive.

All in all, the 787's nose, wings, tail, as well as the size of the windows, and even the look of the engine cowl, will make this a very recognizable airplane.

Shark fins look great in the water, and bullet trains are excellent on the rails. But we still think the Dreamliner will be the sleekest thing in the air.


By the way there's a great piece about the 787 Dreamliner in the June issue of Boeing Frontiers online.


19 July 2005

More passengers, more range, no more X

You may have heard talk about the proposed 737-900X. Well, it's talk no longer, and it has a new designation: Boeing 737-900ER (Extended Range).

Back in May, Lion Air, the Indonesian low-cost carrier, said it intended to purchase up to 60 737s, including the 737-900X. Yesterday, with a firm order for 30 of the newly-named 737-900ERs, and purchase rights for 30 more, Lion Air and Boeing launched the latest member of the Next-Generation 737 family.

So, let's talk about what's new about the 737-900ER. First, the -900ER allows airlines to carry more passengers and fly farther. That means more seats and more range than any other single-aisle jet in its class. It has lower operating costs than the A321, for example.

Lion Air 737-900ER image

Lion Air is the launch customer for the 737-900ER.

Now, the -900ER is actually the same size as today's 737-900, but with some important differences. The 737-900ER has two additional exit doors and has a flat rear pressure bulkhead. These features allow for 26 additional passengers, raising the capacity from 189 to a maximum of 215 in a single-class layout. And for those airlines that are single-class operators, being able to use all the real estate on the airplane means more revenue.

Several improvements to the wings and flap systems and optional Blended Winglets and auxiliary fuel tanks allow the 737-900ER to have a range of 3,200 nautical miles (5,900 km). So, for dual-class operators, while they weren't going past 189 passengers, they now have an extra amount of range.

As you probably know by now, I tend to get excited about improvements to our product line.

But this launch is also kind of a big deal for me because I was the head of 737 / 757 marketing in the early 1990s. This was back when we first developed the market requirements for the 737X, which became the Next-Generation 737.

I was very much involved in the launch of the 737NG in 1993. So, there's a personal connection for me in seeing these latest innovations become reality. This is the world's best-selling commercial airplane, and it just keeps getting better.


13 July 2005

The magic is back

A recent poll of readers of "Conde Nast Traveler" magazine found that 87% of the seasoned travelers who make up their readership listed airplane seating quality as the feature they would most like to see improved.

I mention this because it's just one interesting aspect of an excellent feature in the June issue of the magazine. You can read the text of the article, "Cabin Fever," online but you'll have to pick up a copy of the actual magazine to see the detailed illustrations that go along with it.

787 interior photo

The 787 interior, as described in the Conde Nast Traveler article, is "a preemptive strike in favor of passengers."

The piece quotes extensively from my colleague Blake Emery, who led the team which had a lot to do with planning and designing the interior of the 787 Dreamliner. They researched the desires of the flying public around the world to understand people's deep, unarticulated needs while inside an airplane.

Emery's basic job is to help Boeing create products that people prefer, including the interior look and feel of an airplane, the external appearance, flight deck design, and anything that will make the people who experience our products prefer Boeing.

I think that's what we've achieved with the 787. It comes through clearly in this excerpt from the Conde Nast Traveler article.

"Even though the 787 is not a jumbo-it will carry about two hundred fifty passengers, three hundred fewer than the A380-it appears to have the spatial qualities of one. The door opens onto a vaulted lobby rather than a cramped vestibule. And there is a surprising amount of light, thanks to the single most revolutionary feature of the 787: its huge windows. Wider and notably taller-extending from the armrest to above the top of the seat-they instantly erase that sense of walking into a claustrophobic tube. Moreover, they invite us to revisit the idea of flying as an ever-changing spectacle of earth and sky-like having an IMAX of one's own."

As Blake Emery points out in the story, flying is a magical way to travel. What we're trying to do with the Dreamliner is bring back a little of that magic we lost along the way.


07 July 2005

It's in our hands

We had a little bit of news at Boeing just before the Independence Day holiday. You may have heard that a new CEO took the reins of the company.

And he's already paid a visit to us here in Puget Sound. Less than a week after he was named chairman, president and CEO, Jim McNerney visited with Boeing Commercial Airplanes employees in Everett and Renton.

In Everett, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney and BCA president Alan Mulally enjoy some interaction with employees during a visit to the 777 final assembly area

In Everett, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney (left) and BCA president Alan Mulally enjoy some interaction with employees during a visit to the 777 final assembly area.

We got our first chance to meet the new CEO Wednesday morning inside the Everett facility where we build the 747, 767, 777, and will soon build the 787. About 2,000 employees filled the factory floor for a talk and a brief Q & A session with McNerney and BCA President Alan Mulally.

The backdrop, appropriately enough, was a Japan Airlines 777-300ER, powered by a GE engine, the most powerful commercial jet engine in the world. I say appropriately, because McNerney's a guy who really understands the concept of nonstop, point-to-point flying that this airplane represents. Before heading the 3M Company, he led GE Aircraft Engines in its development of the powerful pair of engines makes the long-range 777 possible.

McNerney told employees that the 777 embodies the Boeing strategy. Customers want it, he said, and people who fly want to be on these airplanes.

On the factory floor in Renton, Mulally and McNerney greet employees

On the factory floor in Renton, Mulally and McNerney greet employees.

At the Renton factory in the afternoon, McNerney acknowledged the "mind-boggling" manufacturing improvements that have taken place on the Boeing 737 line, and how the production changes in Renton have become a source of learning for other areas of the company.

Our new CEO said that the strategy for Boeing is growth, but that a big execution challenge lies ahead as we ramp up production. "We are going to convert commercial success to business success like it's never been done before," he said. "It's right here. It's in our hands."

I think he hit all the right notes with the employees as we head into a crucial turning point in the commercial aviation business, summing it all up, "I am proud to be a Boeing employee, working at one of the most important companies in the world."

That really hit home for me, because I feel the same way.