Last year Boeing produced enough paper documents to reach into the stratosphere. If stacked flat, one on top of the other, the pages from our maintenance and operations manuals and other support documents would have created a column almost 20 miles (32 km) high. That's roughly 253 million pages.

The statistics for microfilm are also staggering. We shipped enough microfilm cartridges containing maintenance information to create a stack nearly 14 miles (22 km) high. That doesn't even take into account the 1.7 million aperture cards (microfilm-based storage media for drawings) that we also processed last year.

Aside from the considerable environmental impact of producing all that paper and film, the airlines who continue to rely on these traditional media for information retrieval experience huge productivity losses. By one estimate, 25 percent of a line mechanic's time is spent searching for the right information.

But the cost goes way beyond that. The longer it takes to return an airplane to service, the greater the impact on schedule reliability and--getting right to the bottom line--the bigger the potential for lost revenue.

Paper and microfilm documents not only are cumbersome to use and difficult to update, they're just plain ill-suited to meet the demands of today's competitive operating environment. It simply doesn't make sense to rely on information retrieval systems that are several decades old to maintain the world's most sophisticated mode of transportation. It's time for the maintenance and operations side of our industry to move fully into the digital age, and Boeing has committed significant resources toward that objective.

As you'll read in the next edition of AERO, which will be delivered Jan. 1, 1999, our Technical Data Products & Services organization already has a number of mature digital offerings up and running, with more on the way. The Boeing On-Line Data system, for example, provides real-time access to the very latest maintenance information and includes time-saving search capabilities. Another time saver is our Portable Maintenance Aid. Loaded into a laptop computer, it enables technicians to bring an entire library of troubleshooting documents right to the airplane for quicker problem solving.

For our customers who may not yet be ready to step fully into the digital world, our new Portable Document Query System is an easy way to make that transition while still retaining the look of familiar paper documents. We believe we offer something for everyone and invite all of our customers to join us as we move closer to the digital standard. If you're already there, we invite you to work with us as we develop the next level of digital tools to support the Boeing jet fleet in the 21st century.

Rich Higgins
Vice President - Maintenance Engineering & Publishing
Boeing Commercial
Airplane Group

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