Boeing Frontiers
July 2003
Volume 02, Issue 03
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Letters to the Editor

Talking to the customer

June FrontiersWhen I travel, whether for Boeing or for myself, I always try to visit with the airline people about their jobs, about how the planes fit in. I ask if we are doing a good job and if we are getting better or worse. I act as if I presume the airplanes are just another tool they use, like the computers and airports. They seem to appreciate the non-arrogance of this line of questioning, so I tend to believe the feedback they give me. A number of items stand out that need to be passed on, although I have a hard time believing these are not well-known already.

Pilots, more than anyone, prefer Boeing cockpits for their quietness compared to Airbus and other cockpits. They do acknowledge that the common cockpit approach of Airbus is a big deal and that it gives each of them a bit of hope that it is cheaper to train them "up the ladder."

Cabin steward personnel roundly hate Airbus aircraft for two reasons. The aisles are often two inches narrower, and they are full of electronic spooks (lights that go off in empty seats, masks dropping for no reason).

Most wonder why Boeing seems to spend so much press time looking like they are letting the airlines help design the next generation of airplanes. The initial idea of airline input into airplane design is a good one. But if it can be overdone, we are the textbook case. Pilots, procurement agents, etc., are people who still believe we are much smarter than them on designing airplanes.

In the end, they still want us to put up a leapfrog-great design and have them applaud. It's the old "build it and they will come" perspective. That's how you leverage underdog status. It's our turn to do just that.

—Tim Chavez, Wichita, Kansas

Keeping the symbol

The Boeing name to me was always "the gateway to heaven": the beautiful planes racing upward into the sky and touching the earth again many miles from where they began. I worry we are losing focus on what has enabled our move to more military and network-centric work. Looks like a nice fit, but how do we keep the symbol I remember as a youth of that beautiful plane taking off.

—Jack Nicklas, Arlington, Va.

Boeing absence?

In the June issue of Boeing Frontiers an article was written regarding Boeing's participation in the Wright Brother's centennial celebration this year. While this list is interesting, what is more telling is what I found out when I recently flew to the small airfield at Kitty Hawk from Seattle to visit the site of the original first flight. The yearlong centennial events are well underway and a list of contributors is prominently displayed. Conspicuous by its absence was Boeing, whereas Airbus was at the top of the list. I understand there literally are hundreds of commemorations across the country celebrating this event, and Boeing cannot contribute to all of them. However, the center of the commemoration is focused at Kitty Hawk, and no amount of self-congratulation in an internal publication can replace the impression being made to the public of an apparent lack of interest for the birth of our industry. The significance of the occasion and its location was not lost on our competitor.

—Michael Sievers, Tukwila, Wash.

PUBLISHER'S REPLY: Thanks for your thoughts. You're absolutely right, we evaluated dozens of appropriate and meaningful Centennial of Flight commemorations. As part of our approach, we looked for activities that would promote Boeing's leadership role in defining the next 100 years, reflect the Boeing brand and showcase the strength and breadth of Boeing ingenuity and technology. The majority of activities to which Boeing has commited—such as the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center, the U.S. Air Force Museum, the Museum of Flight, the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the AIAA's Evolution of Flight campaign—have reach and impact well beyond the Centennial celebration and will deliver strong messages to a wide audience about our commitment to both the past and the future of aerospace.

We are still working with Kitty Hawk organizers to see if there is an opportunity that fits within both our strategy and our budget. We expect to make a decision soon.

—Larry McCracken, Vice President, Communications

Boeing 707 redux

the Boeing 707 going to the Reagan LibraryA letter to the editor in the May Frontiers about moving the Boeing 707 to the Reagan Library reminded me of a rather unique experience I had in Pennsylvania in 1976.

In 1974 I worked in the AOG (Airplanes on Ground) Spares Group in Renton, Wash. One of the programs I worked on was helping to put together necessary parts to aid the Spares AOG Repair Team reassemble a Boeing 707 that was being given to the Ben Franklin Museum in Philadelphia. In 1976, while on a tour of the country to see the various 200-year centennial programs, my wife and I were in Philadelphia just after July 4, and were given a private tour of the mounted 707 by the then museum director/curator. He sincerely thanked me and The Boeing Company for providing such a visible piece of aviation history. As an unauthorized representative of the company and the AOG support team, I was very proud of the effort everyone had put into getting that aircraft from England to Philadelphia. That was pride and dedication in action.

—J. Edward Boyce, Maple Valley, Wash.

More CribMaster

You have run a couple of small articles about the Boeing Enterprise CribMaster project, but there is so much more to be told. This is a mammoth project destined to save The Boeing Company a lot of time. Also, along with this new computing system there is a huge paradigm shift going on within Boeing and the tool crib business. This may sound like small potatoes, but tools touch thousands of Boeing employees every day. I think this deserves more press.

—Randy Miller, Everett, Wash.

Target ads to public

In this time of economic downturn, Boeing should increase its marketing. I recently took a marketing class and I feel that Boeing should aim its advertising dollars directly at the flying public. I remember a great ad after 9/11/01 that spoke about the freedom to fly. It touched my heart. No matter who sells us a car, the automaker's name is always left on the product. But when our customers buy an airplane, the Boeing name is hard to find on the product. If the flying public insists on flying Boeing products, then sales will increase. We should advertise our quality advantage over our competition. I've spoken to people who say they don't care what airplane they fly as long as the price is right. But perhaps if more people knew about the reasons they should care what airplane they fly, then more people would insist or at least inquire if they are flying a Boeing product.

—Samuel Feldman, Everett, Wash.

Too much fluff

I just read this article ("The right Connexion") in the June issue of Frontiers and I must say I was very disappointed. It was two pages of fluff and sales brochure. Nothing on how it works, what it might cost to use.

—Phil Whatley, St. Louis

Silence not golden

We all heard sometime or other that "speech is silver and silence is gold." At least I have been advised to practice silence unless someone asks me for my opinion or advice. But a recent study by two Harvard researchers found the price of silence is much greater than we realize to both the firm and the individual. They have published an article on their findings in the recent issue of Harvard Business Review (May 2003) titled, "Is Silence Killing Your Company?"

Harvard researchers Perlow and Williams assert that, faced with organizational or interpersonal problems at work, people often decide not to speak up. "It's not worth it," they say, and soldier on. But the research shows silence is not only ubiquitous and expected in organizations but also extremely costly to both the firm and the individual. They add that silence can exact a high psychological price on individuals, generating feelings of humiliation, pernicious anger, resentment, and the like that, if unexpressed, contaminate every interaction, shut down creativity, and undermine productivity.

There are also times when it is necessary to "zip it," particularly when small differences of opinion get turned into broad conflicts. One should rely on his/her best judgment on such occasions.

So how do we get ourselves and others to speak up or replace the vicious spirals of silence with virtuous spirals of communication? We need to create the context in which people will value the expressions. Breaking the silence can bring an outpouring of fresh ideas from all levels of the organization that might just raise the organization's performance to a whole new level. All of us, particularly managers, have a great responsibility here.

So "silence is stupid," in my view.

—Sowmyan Raman, Everett, Wash.

'Luv' is in the air

I enjoyed the "32 Years of Luv" article in the June issue of Frontiers explaining the strong relationship between Southwest Airlines and Boeing.

I found one statement in particular very interesting: "With no history of furloughs, positive union relationships, and 26-percent annual returns, the Southwest formula appears to be working."

So, apparently a company can avoid layoffs, can maintain a positive relationship with its unions and still make a profit? That sounds like a business model that actually does profit all "stakeholders"; the customer, the shareholder, the community, and the employees.

—Kevin Corson, Everett, Wash.

Letters guidelines

Boeing Frontiers provides the letters page for readers to state their opinions. The page is intended to encourage an exchange of ideas and information that stimulates dialogue on issues or events in the company or the aerospace industry. The opinions may not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company. Letters must include name, organization and a telephone number for verification purposes. Frontiers may edit letters for grammar, syntax and size.


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