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21 February 2007

Dream on

We just got a look at the first production forward section of the 787 Dreamliner. And I wanted to give you a chance to see it as well.

This photograph kind of makes you realize just how close we are to the first airplane rollout and first flight later this year. Production of this forward section is an important step, and an exciting milestone, too.

Boeing photo

This all-composite 787 section is 21 feet (6.4 m) in diameter, and 42 feet (12.8m) long. The photo, taken at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, gives a good sense of the size and scale of the airplane.

Spirit AeroSystems is a program partner on the Dreamliner program, and is not only producing the forward section in Wichita, but is designing and manufacturing the 787’s pylons – which hold the engines to the airplane. And in Tulsa, Spirit is designing and building the leading edges of the wings.

As I’m sure you know, we’re pioneering some new manufacturing techniques to build the composite fuselage sections of the 787. On this piece, Spirit employs state-of-the-art fiber placement equipment to apply composite “plies” over the complex contours of the airplane. Then the forward section is wrapped and prepared for curing in a giant autoclave. The heat of the autoclave transforms the composite material into an extremely strong and reliable structure.

The forward section has also successfully completed a non-destructive inspection process, using high-frequency sound waves to scan for imperfections in the composite skin. The tests confirmed the structural integrity of the section – and set the stage for delivery of the first forward sections for final assembly.

Before you know it, forward sections will be on their way from Wichita to Everett on the Dreamlifter. Like I said, we’re getting close.

15 February 2007

New pilot program

We’ve talked quite a bit lately - and especially around the Current Market Outlook - about the amazing growth we forecast in the world’s commercial aviation fleet over the next 20 years.

But what about all the pilots we’re going to need to fly those airplanes? It’s an angle that doesn’t get a lot of attention. By our estimates there’s a need for 17,000 new pilots a year to operate the aircraft entering the market - and even more will be needed to fill the seats of retiring pilots.

For example, more than 35,000 pilots will be needed in the huge growth market of China alone over the next 20 years - just to support new airplane deliveries.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner simulator photo

Coming soon to Alteon Training centers around the world: a 787 Dreamliner simulator.

So there’s a good deal of pressure right now to train more pilots. You may have read in the news last month that Alteon Training, a Boeing subsidiary and the world’s largest airline training company, has just opened a new training center in Singapore. We think this new center will greatly expand our ability to meet the demand for aviation training in the region.

At this new facility, and the other 22 centers in the world, Alteon’s staff of more than 400 instructors is going to be very busy training new pilots on Boeing models, and on Airbus and Fokker airplanes. The facility can train more than 6,000 pilot crews a year - as well as maintenance and cabin crews.

Another key piece of the story is the new pilot program (no pun intended) to provide jet-ready, airline qualified pilots to the airlines. In Australia we’re beginning tests on the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) program which is aimed at developing airline-qualified pilots more efficiently and effectively.

The Alteon MPL program focuses on developing the skills, knowledge, and competencies a crew member will need in order to perform their role at the airline. Cadets will learn in a multi-crew environment right from the start, integrating theory and practice in both aircraft and simulators. This helps prepare them for a First Officer position in about 15 months instead of the current two to three year process.

Now keep in mind, reduced training time doesn’t mean the program will be any less comprehensive or rigorous. The mandate of the program and the beta test is that training will achieve the same or better results than traditional training methods.

The time savings are actually the result of improvements in training techniques. The MPL program maximizes simulator training and minimizes the amount of “negative training” - the learning and unlearning found in some traditional training methods. And of course, safety is of utmost importance.

Airlines, regulators and flight schools are invited to participate throughout the program. Sharing lessons learned is an important part of developing and delivering this beta training to the industry.

What I like about the Alteon story overall is that it’s a good example of listening to customers. When airlines said they needed more training facilities closer to where they operate, Alteon took note - and now operates more than 80 simulators in 13 countries.

This kind of working together saves our customers time and money. And that’s always a good thing.

09 February 2007

Dashing -8

We've just made available a neat 90-second program about the interior of the 747-8 Intercontinental. It was filmed inside our remarkable new -8 sales display here in Renton.

My colleague Blake Emery, who has the unique title of Director, Differentiation Strategy, is your host on the audio/visual tour.

You might also want to revisit the 747-8 Website. We've refreshed this site with new imagery on the home page and a "Step Onboard the 747-8" interactive video. The video has "hotspot" links, that when you click on them, take you further inside the airplane - including a look at the upper deck, the entry stairway, views out the windows, and an interactive peek inside the new overhead luggage spaces.

The -8 Website also has been updated with new photos and other multimedia. You might have seen some of the images recently because the new interior has gotten quite of bit of media attention in the past few weeks.

What's coming up for the Intercontinental? Well, we're working on a few podcasts, which promise to provide even more insight into this "dashing" new airplane.

01 February 2007

Gaining altitude

Almost exactly a year ago I was musing about some very encouraging financial results for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and about the guidance for strong growth - and optimism - in the years ahead.

Well, here we are, having just released our performance report for the fourth quarter and full-year 2006, and I'd say a lot of the "measures for success" we talked about last year have borne fruit.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Section 43 photo

Speaking of "gaining altitude," 787 Dreamliner major assembly is well underway as we work toward rollout and first flight later this year. Here, section 43, built by our partner KHI, waits to be shipped to Global Aeronautica in Charleston, South Carolina. The first shipment arrived in Charleston on January 15.

And 2007 promises to be another exciting year. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We've already talked here a bit about the many accomplishments of 2006. As CEO Jim McNerney put it very succinctly yesterday, "2006 was a very good year for Boeing." Indeed the company set records in revenue, cash flow and backlog. We also overcame some meaningful challenges.

Some of the highlights:

  • BCA deliveries rose 37% to 398 airplanes
  • BCA revenue rose 33% to $28.5 billion
  • Net orders for 2006 were a record 1,044 airplanes
  • The 737 program achieved a another record tally - 729 net orders
  • 787 Dreamliner now has 452 firm orders from 36 customers

And thanks to a second straight year of record commercial airplane orders, BCA's contractual backlog rose to a record $174 billion. So obviously things are looking up.

Last January I noted that 2005 was a "great ride." And as I've said before, who knew at that time that 2006 would be an even greater ride?

But as each year becomes an even tougher act to follow, it just means we have to concentrate all the more on developing and providing the products and services that our customers and the market demand.

Good results don't let us off the hook for our obligations for tomorrow. We all have to continue to work hard - and meet our commitments to our customers, and also to our employees, investors, and communities.

And as you might expect, we've set the bar high for 2007 and 2008. BCA's 2007 delivery guidance remains 440 - 445 airplanes and is completely sold out. Airplane deliveries in 2008 are expected to rise to between 515 and 520 airplanes and are essentially sold out. And we foresee deliveries to be higher still in 2009.

What else is ahead? The first deliveries for the 737-700ER and 737-900ER later this year; continued orders and deliveries of the 767; the 787 rollout and first flight - leading up to first delivery in 2008; four customers taking their first 777 deliveries this year; firm configuration of the 747-8 Intercontinental; and of course the Air Force tanker competition.

Yes, it's going to be very busy. A lot to accomplish. It's all about keeping our focus as we continue gaining altitude.