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27 September 2006

Good Hope

I had always heard that Cape Town was a beautiful place to visit. Last week, I had the opportunity to go there and see for myself. I was in South Africa for the African Aerospace & Defense exhibition at Ysterplaat Air Base just outside Cape Town.

During my visit, I was honored to speak at the African Aviation Air Finance Conference, where many of the continent's leading airline executives were in attendance. And I got the chance to talk about Boeing's Current Market Outlook and the outlook for commercial airplanes in Africa in particular.

This forecast drives our product strategy, of course. A strategy that's being validated by some key airlines in Africa which have already ordered the 787 Dreamliner.

It's always interesting to take an up close look at the "influencers" in a regional market. So I thought I'd share some of what I found out when I looked into how commercial aviation has been evolving in Africa.

Not surprisingly, many of the trends we've seen across the globe also apply to Africa.

Nonstop long-hall service from Johannesburg SA - 1990

In 1990 only a few cities had nonstop long-haul service from Johannesburg.

For example, in 1990, all nonstop, long-haul service out of Johannesburg was to Europe, with 28 frequencies to just six cities. And at that time 100% of those departures from Johannesburg Airport were on Boeing 747s.

Now, looking at Johannesburg today, there are six times as many frequencies, and three times as many city-pairs.

Nonstop long-hall service from Johannesburg SA - 2006

By 2006, you can see a striking difference in the number of choices from Johannesburg. The long-haul city-pairs served increased over three times, with six times the frequencies.

In 2006 you can fly from Johannesburg directly to multiple cities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and South America.

As you would expect, these flights are being served with smaller airplane types that can now fly long distances point-to-point, such as the 777 and 767, A330 and A340. In fact, only about a third of the scheduled international flights from Johannesburg today are served by the 747.

And since 1990 the average airplane seating size per departure for long-hauls from JNB has dropped from 365 to 318 seats.

As for the overall forecast for Africa, we think that over the next 20 years passenger growth is going to exceed the world average growth rate of 4.9%. Boeing forecasts Africa to grow at 5.7%. That means some 430 new airplanes will be needed on the continent over the next 20 years.

The biggest demand will be for single-aisle airplanes. Similar to what we forecast globally, some 60% of the aircraft needed in Africa will be in the single-aisle category. The market for very large airplanes is quite small - very little demand for 747 and larger size aircraft. That is why I think you'll see the overwhelming majority of long range service to and from Africa will be with smaller twin-aisle aircraft.

Randy at the Cape of Good Hope photo

As a resident of the northwestern-most corner of the U.S., it was fun to journey to the southwestern-most corner of Africa.

Now that we've summed up the future for African aviation, I can also vouch for the beautiful scenery I got to experience during my visit. Typically I don't get much time on my business trips to look around. But I did get to journey to the Cape of Good Hope.

What a spectacular spot. I can understand why tourism travel is on the rise in Africa. It truly is a wondrous place.

Thinking of Africa and point-to-point travel, I'm sure ancient mariners, after a long, difficult journey, must have felt more confident as they finally sighted Cape Point. Likewise I get the impression that there's significant confidence and good hope among Africa's commercial aviation leaders today as they continue to grow a successful and profitable industry.

22 September 2006

A-maze-ing airplanes

I've been accused of being corny before. And that's okay. But I would not be doing my duty as a Boeing blogger if I didn't share with you a couple of a-maze-ing photos.

Large Cargo Freighter interior photo

Like a flying cathedral, the Large Cargo Freighter has a most majestic interior space. The 787's wings and large fuselage sections will be ferried inside here starting next year.

First of all, the Large Cargo Freighter (LCF) has touched down at Seattle's Boeing Field. As those of you who've been following the 787 program know, this is a significant event which gets us one step closer to the final assembly process next year. This airplane is the first of three specially-modified 747-400 passenger jets which will be integral elements of the 787 production process.

Probably the most striking thing about the LCF is the sheer size of the cargo hold as seen from inside. And it has to be large because it will be carrying full-size composite fuselage sections and wings for the Dreamliner between the various assembly facilities around the world.

The other completely different, but also fascinating, image is of a corn field north of Seattle. Boeing has teamed up with Stocker Farms in Snohomish, Washington for this occasion. Why is Boeing teaming up with a farm? In order to create a really cool corn maze, what else?

Dreamliner corn maze photo

This aerial image gives you an idea of the full scope of the Dreamliner corn maze. And it also allows you to figure your way out of the maze should you get lost.

But seriously, this is a way to create an attraction spotlighting our new airplane - that also brings the community together celebrating the accomplishments of our local employees.

A corn maze - for those of you unfamiliar with the concept - is something they do in rural America to help pass the time between summer and winter! This one features the Dreamliner, of course. Set in a 10-acre field, this depiction of the 787 is so large - with two miles of trails - it can only be truly appreciated from the air. The wing span on this corny airplane, for example, is 400 feet.

Wish I could be there, but I'm on the road this week. And I'll have more to report on my travels later. But I'll leave you with one last amazing but true image here. Plastic airplane indeed.

13 September 2006

Taking flight

A first flight is always something to see. It’s the “moment of truth” in an airplane’s early life. It says, “Yeah, we designed this thing, and now we’ll show you that it can actually take to the air.”

We’ve had two opportunities to experience such a moment this month.

Just a few days ago the Boeing Large Cargo Freighter (LCF) took flight for the first time over Taiwan. It was a flight of just over two hours. The first of what we think will be about 250 flight test hours for this unique freighter, a modified 747-400.

We’ve put together a great short video about the LCF and its first flight. You can view it here with Windows Media Player (smaller size).

After some initial tests in Taiwan, the first LCF will cross the Pacific and arrive at Seattle’s Boeing Field for the remainder of its flight test program.

Earlier this month, we had another great first, as many of us in the Seattle area got to see the newest member of the Next-Generation 737 family fly.

Boeing 737-900ER flies over the Olympic Mountains photo

The 737-900ER flies over the Olympic Mountains on its maiden flight, after departing from Renton Municipal Airport. This is the beginning of a flight test program to obtain certification of the airplane from the FAA and EASA by early next year.

The 737-900ER rolled out of the Renton factory, as you may recall, a little over a month ago. It’s painted in the distinctive Boeing livery, with the logo of launch customer Lion Air adorning the vertical stabilizer.

Then, on September 1, Boeing flight test pilots took off from Renton and headed off to the west and then south toward Oregon before soaring over the Olympic Peninsula on the way back to Seattle. The idea behind this first flight was to test the -900ER’s performance in terms of airworthiness, aerodynamics, and other factors.

You can view a short clip of the flight here.

The five-month 737-900ER flight test program also involves a second test airplane. And both of the airplanes will be delivered to Lion Air next year.

newairplane home page image

The 737-900ER has a new Website. Click on the image to go directly to it.

If you want to find out more, it turns out Boeing has just launched a new Website focused on our newest airplane. Those of you who have visited our “newairplane.com” Website for the 787 Dreamliner will definitely want to check out the just-launched 737-900ER new airplane site.

There’s a pretty cool video on the 737 site that you can watch by clicking on “Watch the 737 being built in real time.” In just a couple of minutes you go from the first arrival in Renton of the fuselage “cigars” from Wichita, to major assembly, rollout and flyaway. This video has been a big hit around the world.

Kind of like the Next-Generation 737 itself!

07 September 2006

Change at the top

By now you've read or heard about the big changes here at Commercial Airplanes. Our new president and CEO is Scott Carson. Alan Mulally has joined Ford Motor Company as president and CEO there.

I know Scott and work with him on a regular basis. As has been pointed out in the news coverage this week, he is a natural choice to lead BCA. He's been around the company for 34 years, and he knows Commercial Airplanes inside and out. Those of you who follow us closely know that Scott Carson led the Sales team that delivered record airplane orders for BCA last year, and has continued to add to the backlog in 2006.

As you may have also read, Jim Jamieson is coming back to Seattle to assume a new position at BCA - chief operating officer - and will report to Scott. Jim had been senior vice president for Engineering, Operations, and Technology at our corporate offices. His move to BCA will definitely help keep the focus on executing our business plans.

For Boeing employees, and even for those who follow our industry closely, it seems like a lot of change all at once. But the bottom line is that this will not change our strategy and direction. Both Scott and Jim have been members of the BCA Leadership Team during Alan's tenure.

A personal note about Alan Mulally. He's left a legacy of working together to accomplish some amazing tasks over the years. He's made a tremendous mark not only on Boeing but on our industry. I join all of us here in wishing him the best as he takes his talents to the job at Ford.

I also know that Scott Carson is going to lead Commercial Airplanes with the same energy, enthusiasm, and confidence. Scott told employees on Tuesday: "We have a sound strategy that has been validated in the marketplace, and our financial performance is strong. We have a world-class team that has been built upon our Working Together principles and is taking our organization to new levels of growth and productivity with our Initiatives and Leadership Attributes."

What this means to me is, we're moving forward. We'll never quit listening to our customers. And we'll continue to improve efficiencies in our factories and our products and services - because, as Scott told one news reporter this week, the market never stands still.