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29 September 2005

Poll position

I try to read a lot of industry-related periodicals to stay on top of various opinions about commercial airplanes and Boeing products. In particular, I always look forward to reading Airfinance Journal's annual poll. The 2005 Investors' and Operators' Poll just came out, and it really gives some insight into what people who finance and operate our airplanes are thinking about our products and services.

When you look at the poll results, you'll see that Boeing has the top overall ranking with investors and operators this year with the extremely capable 737-800. In fact, Boeing tops most of the other categories as well.

Polled separately, investors ranked the 737-800 best overall, and ranked the 777-300ER number one in the categories of operational success and value for the money. Investors also gave the 737-800 top marks for investor appeal, remarketing potential, and residual value.

The rankings among operators found the 777-200ER on top. In other categories, operators ranked the 747-400 number one in terms of operational success, and the 737-800 tops in residual value.

If you read through the entire Airfinance Journal piece, what you might find most interesting are some of the comments. "The creation of the A350 is a tacit admission from Airbus that Boeing got it right with the 777 and they completely screwed it up with the A340," one operator said.

And a last piece of the poll, although not part of the rankings, was apparently a surprise to the editors, but not to me. In terms of new aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner has strong support from investors and operators. 74% of the voters said they think the 787 will be the most successful new aircraft. That's compared with 11% who said it would be the A380, 8% for the ERJ-190, and only 6% for the A350.

21 September 2005

From the flight deck

"This is your captain speaking. We hope you're enjoying your flight as much as we are up here on the flight deck."

Maybe you won't hear those exact words from your pilot, but when you look at the recently released images of the 787 flight deck, you'll have to agree it looks like a pretty cool place to work. Truly, the future is here, now. Although we're not quite yet to the "dog and a pilot" stage. More on that later.

Yes, the 787 flight deck is going to look as distinctive as the passenger cabin does. Think: high-performance, cutting-edge sports car styling.

But the significance of this new flight deck is more than just how it looks. For all the technical improvements and advanced architecture, it's designed with significant "commonality" with other Boeing airplanes. That means an easy transition for pilots.

Boeing 787 Flight Deck image

The first image of the 787 flight deck. How would you like going to work here every day?

For instance, even though it may look a little different, the 787 flight deck operates just like the flight deck on a 777. It will take as few as five days of training for 777 pilots to qualify as 787 pilots. The pilot pool for operators of 777 / 787 mixed fleets will be the same. For an airline this is a significant cost savings. 787 pilots will spend less time training, and more time flying.

And the commonality extends to our other products as well. For pilots of 757s and 767s, it will require only eight days of training to become qualified on the 787. That's really significant, because there are more than 200 operators of 757s and 767s, flying nearly 2,000 airplanes. To put this into perspective, keep in mind that for these operators to re-train their pilots to fly an Airbus product would take in excess of 25 days of training.

At the same time, the 787's advanced technology will be compatible with future systems as they come along. That's a greater value than, say, the Airbus line, which is stuck with a flight deck created in the 1980s for the A320. Their flight decks just can't do the things ours can.

Now, let's talk about the visual design of the 787 flight deck. In our research we interviewed pilots to understand what's most important to them. Combining this with existing Boeing "flight deck philosophy," our designers looked for inspirational products from other industries. We looked at watches, automobiles, motorcycles, even designer sunglasses.

The result is a flight deck that maintains "commonality" while providing a new look. The archway into the flight deck provides a link to the Dreamliner passenger cabin. The new seat back design is streamlined and high-tech.

Boeing 787 Flight Deck image

A close-up image of the large screens and windows, and a head up display.

And you've probably noticed the large display screens. Much larger than we've seen on other airplanes. There will be five 12 x 9 inch displays in the 787 flight deck, providing twice the display space of the screens on the 777. The data will be easier to see, and there's more "real estate" on the screens to display more information.

Standard in the 787 flight deck will be dual head up displays (HUD). These clear screens are mounted at eye-level to allow pilots to look out the window and see an information display at the same time. Dual electronic flight bags (EFB) are also standard. These electronic equivalents of a pilot's flight bag contain up-to-date maps, charts, manuals, and other information.

From the outside of the airplane, as well as from the pilot's seat, the most noticeable feature of the flight deck is the larger windows. The 787's composite fuselage makes these windows possible, allowing pilots the necessary field of vision with fewer - but bigger - window panels.

It's all great "gee wiz" stuff. And I love that as much as the next guy. But from an airplane marketeer's point of view, the true benefit is the nearly seamless link between the Boeing flight deck of today and the futuristic look and operational capabilities of tomorrow.

It all reminds me of an old joke around the airplane industry, about the "flight deck of the future." As the joke goes, this future flight deck would be so advanced it would require just two things: a dog and a pilot. The pilot would be there to feed the dog. And the dog would be there to bite the pilot if he touches the controls!

As I said, we're not quite there yet. But you never know.

13 September 2005

Leg room

Recently I was talking about how airplane seat designers have come up with ways to give passengers more personal space without affecting an airline's bottom line. You'll be seeing this new generation of seats on the 787 Dreamliner.

But if you don't want to wait until then, you might want to check out what ANA has done in its new domestic economy class. Last week ANA unveiled some new seating that will go into their 767-300s. The new seats will actually allow for five centimeters (or about two inches) more leg room, without changing the seat pitch!

The new seats are going into ANA's 767s next month, and from what I understand, they'll be introduced later on the airline's entire fleet.

So how did they do it? For one thing, they moved the magazine pocket from knee level to an area behind the tray table. A pretty simple solution, really. They also trimmed down the seat back and cushion. It's a new ergonomic design that ANA says is going to ease pressure on a passenger's knees and lower back.

Another interesting thing about the seats: their carbon fiber-reinforced frame is lighter than aluminum frame seats. That's less weight for an airline to have to carry per flight. Less weight, of course, means burning less fuel. And that's a bottom line airlines can really appreciate, too.

09 September 2005

Orders and deliveries

Underscoring the progress we've made in 2005, another very significant airplane order came in this week. LOT Polish Airlines will purchase seven 787 Dreamliners.

In a head-to-head competition with the A350, LOT says it chose the Dreamliner after a careful analysis of which airplane represented the best cutting-edge solution for their needs. LOT will be the first European airline to take delivery of the 787, beginning in 2008.

It's some good news during a tough week.

As you may have read, we will continue to deliver airplanes that have been completed. But due to the strike, our production facilities are at a standstill at our Everett and Renton assembly plants.

We’ll get through this, and move on. In the meantime, we’ve updated our comments section with some of your thoughts.

02 September 2005

Nobody wins

Two things are certain at times like this. First, we greatly disappoint our customers. And second, we strengthen our competitors.

We've been through three previous strikes by machinists in my 31 years at Boeing. The most recent one was 10 years ago, and lasted about two months.

Eventually, we patch things up, and in the end we're still the greatest manufacturer of commercial airplanes in the world. But I find myself wondering how long it will take for the employees to recover. You never really get whole after a long strike.

There are a lot of issues involved. Some say it has to do with pensions. Some say wages, or health insurance. But the bottom line is, these are great jobs with great pay and benefits. At the end of the contract the average machinist would be making $62,500, plus receiving the best retirement package in the industry.

So, what's next? Ultimately, as I said, these things are resolved. It's just unfortunate that this is happening at a time when, for the first time that we've had a strike, Boeing is not the market leader in deliveries. In fact, Airbus has delivered more airplanes than Boeing the last two years, and will again this year.

This is a struggle. We've been working hard to regain the lead. We can hope this is only a temporary setback.

The fact is, we have Airbus on the ropes. We have a better product line. We're having great success in the marketplace. And now we have a strike. Which does nothing but really let down our customers.

I can't imagine anything the competition would like more than this.