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29 November 2005

Sentimental journey

Every airplane we produce is a sentimental favorite to someone. And I’ve taken the time to talk about some of those sentiments here from time to time.

So as production progresses on the last 717-200 - which will be delivered in 2006 - I wanted to share some thoughts, and a great new work of art commemorating the program.

Boeing 717-200 image

This limited-edition artwork of a 717 outside the Long Beach, California Commercial Airplanes plant is being presented to supplier partners as final 717 parts are shipped to Long Beach.

As you can imagine a lot of people are going to be sad to see the 717 go. It’s the last of the McDonnell Douglas-heritage commercial airplanes, and that’s a big deal for all airplane enthusiasts. And for the people of Southern California, as well. Commercial airplanes have been built in the region for more than 70 years - beginning with the DC-1 that made its maiden flight in July of 1933.

Unfortunately, the market for jets in the 100-seat category doesn’t support continued production. But there’s no question that during its run, the 717 has been highly profitable for its operators, and will continue to be for years to come.

It was first developed by McDonnell Douglas as the MD-95, then later renamed 717 after the merger with Boeing in 1997. And it’s a great example of how customers use our products for short range flying. Airlines such as AirTran and Midwest are thriving with the 717 because of its on-time reliability and low operating costs.

Boeing 717 moving line photo

Innovation in Long Beach: the 717 moving line.

There’s a lot of pride among the workforce in Long Beach. The economical 717 has been a money-maker for its customer airlines, and an innovator for commercial airplane production. From the outset back in the mid-1990s, the program introduced concepts that have since changed the way we do business throughout Commercial Airplanes - partnering with global suppliers, lean manufacturing, and the moving assembly line.

The final 717 airplane is in preliminary production right now, and will be finished in May of 2006. But the breakthroughs in production technologies and the spirit of continuous improvement demonstrated by our Long Beach team will live on long after that last airplane we deliver takes off into the sky.

21 November 2005

Sleepless in Dubai

Sleepless in Seattle has nothing on Sleepless in Dubai. That and other interesting tales in a minute, but first, the big news out of the air show.

Sunday was the first day of the 2005 Dubai Air Show, and as you might expect, Emirates, the home team airline so to speak, really kicked things off. Of course, the A380 made an appearance, flying over the beach in Emirates livery. But I think even more significant was Emirates' order for 42 Boeing 777s. It's the largest single firm order in the history of the 777. And when they take delivery of the aircraft, Emirates will become the largest operator of 777s in the world!

United Arab Emirates Boeing 777 image

The order announced in Dubai includes a mix of our three latest models - the 777-300 ER (24); the -200LR (10) and the 777 Freighter (8). It's a ringing endorsement of the strengths that make the 777 the leader in its twin-aisle category.

Hasn't this been an amazing year for the 777? With these 42 firm orders, we now have 106 orders for our long-range 777s (ERs, LRs, Freighters) so far in 2005. That's just one shy of the record of 107 long-range 777s ordered in 2000, the year Boeing launched the -300ER and -200LR. In terms of orders for the entire 777 line in one year, the record is 116, also in 2000.

And here's another fact I'll throw out there just for fun: the Emirates order included the 777th order for the 777. And when this order hits our orders Website, it will make it 779 total orders for the 777 since the program started.

My last trip to Dubai was for the 2003 air show. And I have to say that the growth here in just the past two years has been phenomenal. This town has evolved into a world-class center for business and tourism, and there is no sign of the growth slowing down. Besides the air show, there are conventions and meetings everywhere around town. It's clear how Emirates and the airline industry play a key role in the economic growth here as tourists and business people flock to this beautiful location.

While I'm here, I'm taking the opportunity to talk with reporters, airline officials and other groups about the market outlook for the global aviation industry and for the Middle East in particular. Obviously this is one of the major growing markets in the world. And that makes the Emirates order even more exciting for Boeing.

So I'm looking forward to seeing what Dubai looks like come air show time again in 2007, although maybe I won't wait that long to visit again. Especially since Dubai has all the comforts of home. Even some I never imagined, and wouldn't have even discovered had it not been for jet lag.

Now, I don't typically consider jet lag a benefit of air travel. For example, after my arrival in Dubai, I found myself staring into space in my hotel room, wide awake in the middle of the Arabian night. It was 3:00 in the morning on Sunday. Of course to my body clock it was the middle of the afternoon. And indeed it was 3:00 Saturday afternoon back home in Seattle. So I did what jet lagged travelers around the world do. I turned on the television. And this is where the previously unknown benefit of jet lag became known to me.

As I flipped through the channels with my remote, there it was - the Fox Sports channel and the Apple Cup football game broadcast live to my hotel room halfway around the world. But then I blinked at the score and it was Sleepless in Dubai meets Nightmare in Seattle. The fourth quarter had just started and my Washington State Cougars were losing to the Washington Huskies 22-19.

It didn't look good. But as I watched with my own bleary eyes, the Cougs scored a touchdown in the closing moments and pulled off a 26-22 victory to win the Apple Cup for the second year in a row.

So thank you Emirates. Thank you Dubai. And thank goodness for jet lag.

18 November 2005

Looking for a win

Tomorrow is going to be a big day in Seattle, for sure.

No, this has nothing to do with commercial aviation. It has to do with hometown, or at least home state, rivals. It's the big football game between the Washington State University Cougars and the University of Washington Huskies. We call it the Apple Cup. And it's happening at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Saturday.

So, why, you ask, is Randy Baseler blogging about this? Simple. Anyone who has to suffer me during football season here in the Northwest knows that I'm a die-hard WSU alum, and rabid Cougar fan.

Space Needle photo

In one way, the Cougars are finishing on top. Seattle's Space Needle is flying the WSU flag this weekend. That's because Cougars raised almost $98,000 for hurricane relief efforts in the southeastern U.S., exceeding the amount raised by Huskies. The competition raised a total of more than $164,000 to help rebuild homes.
(Photo courtesy of: Space Needle Corp., WSU)

Except, I'm the one who's had to suffer this year. Let me put it this way. After winning the first three games, the Cougars lost seven in a row, and now occupy the basement of the Pacific-10 Conference standings, without a single conference win.

Still, it warms my heart that the "Cougs" have been written up by sports writers as "the best losing team in the Pac-10." What more can you say about that?

So going against arch-rival University of Washington in our final game of the season is a shot at redemption. It's a rivalry for the ages. Reading this blog, you probably think Boeing and Airbus really go at each other. But that's nothing compared to what goes on when the Cougars and Huskies are in the same stadium.

There's always a lot of back and forth across the state of Washington this time of year. Pithy comparisons between the two teams and their fans. For example: Huskies think Rainier is a mountain. Cougars know it's a beer. It's all good clean fun. Oh, for those of you who don't live in this part of the world, Rainier is a large snow-capped volcano just south of Seattle, but it's also a local brew.

Anyway, this year I guess the most you can say about the annual Apple Cup game is it's a race for the bottom of the conference. Neither team has made much of their season.

Unfortunately, or luckily, depending on your point of view, I'll have to miss the game this year. I'm on my way to the Dubai Air Show. But missing the opportunity to watch the Apple Cup this year may not be such a bad thing since it's taking place here in Seattle in the home of the Dawgs.

In the meantime, I'll try to do some blogging from the Air Show. And beyond that, all I can say is: Go Cougs!

15 November 2005

"8" and still great

It's been a long time coming and we've gone through a number of phases where we thought it was just around the corner. But today I can tell you, with more than a little excitement, that we've officially launched a new era in the history of the Queen of the Skies.

We've talked about this as the 747X, or more recently the 747 Advanced. Today Boeing made it official, launching the 747-8 program. That's right, 747-8. That includes what we're calling the 747-8 Intercontinental (the passenger version of the airplane) and the 747-8 Freighter.

Boeing 747-8 Image

The new 747-8 Intercontinental. "The Shape of the Future."

So, why call it 747-8 and not 747-500, or  -600, or something like that? The simple answer is we decided on -8 because of the connection to so many of the 787 technologies that will be incorporated into this new airplane.

We're thrilled that our launch customers are Cargolux, based in Luxembourg, and Nippon Cargo Airlines, based in Japan. These initial orders are for the freighter version, by two industry-leading air freight providers, one in Europe, the other in Asia. I'm expecting strong interest in the passenger version as well. In fact, our estimate is that well over half of the orders for the new 747-8 will be for the passenger version!

Overall we think there's a market for about 900 airplanes - passengers and freighters - in the 400-plus-seat segment over the next 20 years. And clearly the 747-8 is an attractive airplane in that segment.

The 747-8 is a "stretched" version of our popular jumbo jet. The 747-8 Intercontinental will carry 450 passengers in three classes, compared to 416 in the 747-400. The new passenger version will be 3.6 meters (11.7 feet) longer than the 747-400, with slightly longer range. It's going to be 16% more fuel efficient than the 747-400 and 14% more fuel efficient than the A380.

One of the great things about the 747-8 Intercontinental is that with its improved fuel consumption and other efficiencies it will have the lowest seat-mile cost of any passenger airplane.

Boeing 747-8 Image

The new 747-8 Freighter. Continuing in a tradition of unmatched efficiency.

The 747-8 Freighter is stretched a bit more - 5.6 meters (18.3 feet), with about 16% more revenue cargo volume than the 747-400F, with slightly greater range. This 140 tonne (154 ton) total payload capacity freighter (including tare weight) will cost 20% less per trip, with 23% lower cost per ton than the A380.

Both versions will take advantage of the new advanced engines developed by GE for the 787 Dreamliner.

Firm configuration for the 747-8 is scheduled for late next year, with rollout sometime in 2008, and first flight later that year. The first new airplane - a Cargolux 747-8 Freighter - will enter service in September 2009.

We're dubbing the 747-8 program "The Shape of the Future." And it's certainly shaping up to be a bright one for the world's most popular airplane icon. I'm starting to really think it may be time to get out those shades soon.

10 November 2005

Into the record books

"Going the Distance" has seldom had greater meaning than at this moment. We've made aviation history today by setting a world record for distance traveled nonstop by a commercial jetliner.

It's a personally exciting milestone for me because I just happened to be in Hong Kong the night of the departure, after attending a conference there.

Flying eastbound "the wrong way" from Hong Kong to London is taking the concept of point-to-point to the max. But that's what we did over a time span of 22 hours and 42 minutes, flying over the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean to get there.

Boeing 777-200LR World record photo

The 777-200LR touching down in London on Nov. 10, 2005, after a long, long flight over two oceans and a continent.

All this year we've been saying that the 777-200LR is capable of connecting virtually any two cities in the world. But until today, you wouldn't be blamed for being a little skeptical.

After it took off from Hong Kong Wednesday night at 10:30 local time, the new airplane traveled 11,664 nautical miles (21,601 km) on this record-setting flight. It touched down at London Heathrow at about 1:15 p.m. GMT today. The flight smashes the previous record of 9,200 nautical miles set by a 747-400 in 1989, as well as the 10,823 nautical mile flight by a 777-200ER in 1997. This week's flight also easily exceeds the long-haul distances flown by the A340.

A representative from the U.S. National Aeronautics Association was on board to monitor the record flight. Official certification should come in the next several days. And the Guinness Book of World Records was also on hand to present a World Record certificate to our crew upon arrival in London.

This plane and our other flight test 777-200LR will be delivered to Pakistan International Airlines early next year. EVA Airways of Taiwan has ordered three of these airplanes. Earlier this year, Air India and Qatar Airways committed to ordering a number of 777-200LRs. And with their announcement yesterday, we can add Air Canada to the growing list of carriers planning to go the distance like never before.

03 November 2005

Double-take, single-aisle

A couple of months back I touched on the speculation in the industry about a future single-aisle product to replace the Boeing 737. I basically said don't believe the talk that a replacement is "just around the corner."

Well, some folks later told me they still think it's time for something new.

Fundamentally, today's 737 seems little different than the first 707. There has been innovation in aerodynamics, materials, engines, electronics, etc. but the basic design itself seems to be stuck in time. I was disappointed when Boeing chose not to do the Sonic Cruiser. At the very least it looked new as tomorrow. Where's Boeing's equivalent of Burt Rutan?

James K.
Honolulu, Hawaii

Well, believe me we have plenty of visionaries at Boeing, and they're working on amazing new stuff every day. And that includes looking down the road toward the next great thing in single-aisle aircraft.

But it's not going to happen in the immediate future. And the main reason is our Next-Generation 737 is in high demand. There's no pressure from airlines to find a successor to it. Unlike other industries, we don't replace our current products just for the sake of replacing them. A "new flavor" or a "fresh scent" don't work in our business.

Now, having said that, new airplanes are introduced only when we can demonstrate an improved "value proposition." In other words, some tangible reasons why a new airplane would fulfill an unmet need, or would lower costs and/or increase revenue vs. current products in the marketplace.

Boeing 737 moving line photo

737 final assembly takes just 11 days at the factory in Renton, Washington.

This is usually driven by a set of breakthrough technologies. A perfect example of this is the 787 Dreamliner, with its dramatic improvements in efficiency, operating costs, and range.

Of course we're continuously studying new technologies and future products. We involve our customers and suppliers in that work. And it may be possible that the technologies going into the Dreamliner could achieve the same breakthroughs in a future single-aisle product.

It's just a matter of timing. Market timing and our timing. And right now the market isn't calling for it and we have no firm schedule for replacing our single-aisle product line.

Even so, let's talk about it. Both Airbus and Boeing are seeing a significant increase in demand for their existing single-aisle products. And the fact is few airlines are calling for an all-new airplane type.

The 737NG, 10 years newer than the A320, was first delivered in December 1997, and it's going strong. In fact, Boeing has delivered more than 1,700 Next-Generation 737s to about 150 operators.

So far in 2005 we have more than 450 orders for 737s and have added 9 new customers. This is already the single biggest year in terms of orders in the history of the 737 program. And we have a backlog of more than 1,000 of these airplanes right now.

The 737NG is popular with airlines because it has lower fuel consumption and operating costs than the competition, along with higher reliability. So the question is, what kind of breakthroughs would we need in order to add value to our single-aisle product line? What would cause airlines to demand an all-new single-aisle airplane?

Boeing 737 Photo

Another delivery at Boeing Field. The Next-Generation 737 continues to be a best-seller with the world's airlines.

In the case of the Dreamliner, the 787 - compared with current airplanes in its segment - brings more than 20% lower fuel consumption and more than 10% lower operating cost. Strategically, those benefits are of huge value to airlines. The 787 also offers lower noise, faster speed, more comfort, and most importantly, more nonstop market access with its 2,000 nautical mile range improvement over current product offerings in its size.

So, it may boil down to breakthroughs in fuel consumption, operating costs, and other factors, along the lines of what we're seeing with the 787. Those breakthroughs would have to be so superior to today's airplanes that they would cause airlines to take on a new single-aisle airplane type along with the infrastructure cost associated with it.

Given all that, as is the case with all of our products, we're always looking toward the future. But the time for a new breed of single-aisle airplanes is still a ways off. Most likely you won't see a new single-aisle Boeing airplane enter into service for another ten years, give or take a few. The market will let us know when the time is right.