Boeing Frontiers
June 2003
Volume 02, Issue 02
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
My View

Commercial airplanes & connectivity

Phil Condit
Chairman and CEO

Phil ConditAround the end of the year, Boeing will decide whether to formally offer a major new commercial aircraft, currently called the 7E7. As with any new Boeing product or service introduction, the go-ahead decision will be based on a solid business case, forecast market conditions and the input we've gathered by working closely with our customers.

As typical with Boeing's airplane development process, we continually adjust our designs based on this key customer input. This has triggered speculation by some journalists that Boeing is not committed to the commercial airplane business.

While nothing is absolutely certain, I believe the probability is very high Boeing will build the 7E7. I think we have found a market need that is real and significant. We have the technology to reduce design, tooling, and manufacturing costs significantly; and if we can do that, it will give us a tremendous competitive advantage.

Whatever the final decision on the 7E7, Boeing remains committed to the commercial airplane market. We are investing—and continue to invest—significantly in this business. We're here to stay, and we intend to stay.

Another of the things we're doing to gain a competitive advantage is defining the 7E7 as an E-enabled airplane. We are headed towards a networked world in many different dimensions. The 7E7 mirrors that future with its planned abilities to communicate with an advanced Air Traffic Management system, to communicate its health to an advanced maintenance management system, and to keep passengers connected for business reasons and entertainment. Its electronic cockpit will supply pilots with the most recent data updates, automatically and electronically, from sources such as Boeing's Jeppesen organization.

The E in 7E7 can stand for a lot of things. It can stand for Efficiency. It can mean Environmentally friendly or even just Exceptional. But most important, it will mean E-enabled.

With the 7E7, Boeing will offer breakthrough capabilities to airline customers by taking advantage of computer power and networks. Imagine thousands of airplanes automatically and constantly talking to the ground about their precise location, speed, course, health and other parameters.

From a safety standpoint, knowing exactly where an airplane is and its flight path, and constantly comparing that to the local digital terrain database, could help eliminate controlled-flight-into-terrain accidents. CFIT, as it's called, has been responsible for about 23 percent of all commercial jet airplane accidents over the past decade.

From a security standpoint, air traffic control centers will instantly know when and where an aircraft departs from its flight plan. That's one of the powerful things about networked systems. We can manage by exception.

An E-enabled aircraft also would offer significantly lower maintenance costs. Automatic systems would constantly monitor the health of each 7E7 in the fleet, identifying and correcting issues when they need to be taken care of and eliminating unneeded maintenance, but missing nothing. The result: higher dispatch reliability, better on-time performance, and less time spent in maintenance.

The fleet of airplanes can also act as mobile weather sensors, all constantly gathering and transmitting local meteorological data. When this information is combined with powerful, networked computers, a highly accurate worldwide weather picture can be assembled; and air traffic managers can assign aircraft optimal routings and altitudes, avoiding weather and turbulence while maximizing fuel efficiency.

I am proud of Boeing's ability to lead the industry with the E-enabled 7E7. We're already leading the way to provide similar capabilities, known as network-centric operations, to our military customers. At the same time, we have to recognize that our competitors are going to move aggressively toward the same goals.

We at Boeing have to lead, for while we're the leaders, we can set the standards and we have an advantage. There isn't anybody better positioned to lead than we are. We also have to work hard to keep that lead, because in today's world there isn't an advantage that others can't catch up with.


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