Feb 20, 2011

The 787 runs out of time and lies

There has been a noticeable change in media tactics being used by Boeing in relation to the 787 program, with the emphasis on managing the messages about a program in which the risk of

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

There has been a noticeable change in media tactics being used by Boeing in relation to the 787 program, with the emphasis on managing the messages about a program in which the risk of failure is becoming painfully obvious. Candor has replaced evasion in the articles appearing in the US media. "Sources" have been replaced by quoted Boeing executives. It's almost March 2011 and the latest word from within Boeing is that the first of its 787 Dreamliners will be delivered to All Nippon Airways by the end of November, this year. Last September the same claim was made officially except that first delivery was going to be by the end of November last year, almost three months ago. That was two months before non-existent foreign object damage was invented as the probable cause of a very serious fire under the floor of the rear cabin of test fleet 787 ZA002 near, fortunately very near, Laredo in Texas. The fact that the official guidance from Boeing remains that first delivery will be sometime between July 1 and October 31 of this year, (and with full ETOPS 180 certification)  shows that candor hasn't yet replaced evasion in the same old tired wheeling out of the truth in tiny doses, one delay after another. But in terms of the bigger picture for the Dreamliners there is something else going on in Boeing media manipulation. In recent weeks the mainstream US media has started running very detailed reports quoting Boeing executives as how they bungled the outsourcing of much of Dreamliner project to partners who not only took over much of the manufacturing, but also the designing of sections of the 787, and a proportionate share of the profits. Some examples of this include a Reuters feature, and another feature in the LA Times. Other similarly detailed and officially sourced articles have appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, while The Seattle Times has been all over the 787 issues for the last year as the gap between the company commentary and the reality confronting many of its readers in their working lives widened. This is not the result of widely scattered reporters suddenly going 'ding' and writing the same story. It is the result of Boeing seeking to place a rather different message in the media than the lies and evasions that were shamelessly promulgated by the company from 2005 about both the progress and performance characteristics of the 787 family. Boeing's mea cupas over outsourcing stop short of calling  this for what is was, the deliberate non-Americanisation of the most important and technologically ambitious airliner it has ever launched.  Boeing wraps itself in the US flag in its rhetoric when it needs to get attention on Capitol Hill, but somehow believed that its real role would become one of gluing together the foreign made, designed and owned parts of the plastic fantastic 787 like a giant kit plane in Seattle, and get away with it. Or as the LA Times article puts it:
Boeing executives now admit that the company's aggressive outsourcing put it in partnership with suppliers that weren't up to the job. They say Boeing didn't recognize that sending so much work abroad would demand more intensive management from the home plant, not less. "We gave work to people that had never really done this kind of technology before, and then we didn't provide the oversight that was necessary," Jim Albaugh, the company's commercial aviation chief, told business students at Seattle University last month.
Consider Boeing's words, and actions to date, very carefully. This is a Boeing management that cannot deliver new airliner projects on time or to specification.  It is a management that enunciated the hyperbole of the Dreamliner to perfection , including the myth that the particular pathway it was following in the design of a high composite airliner using carbon fibre reinforced plastics would result in a lighter, stronger, more easily maintained and repaired airliner, none of which appears to be true. The media and the airline customers are being set up to accept further delays in the certification of the Dreamliner, a jet in which the very notion of less metal has been turned on its head by the need to strengthen and render lightning proof most of the design with extra metal , and in which the promise of more humid cabin air has become a nightmare in which moisture retention is an issue for its electrical systems as well as passengers drenched in their own sweat. While Boeing may well have been forced by the continued delays to the program to come clean about the failings of management in relation to outsourcing, it has inevitably set the stage for serious questions about the actual performance and operational viability of the 'plastic fantastic.'

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

16 thoughts on “The 787 runs out of time and lies

  1. Tweets that mention The 787 runs out of time and lies – Plane Talking -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ben Sandilands and Ben Sandilands, Ben Sandilands. Ben Sandilands said: The 787 runs out of time and lies http://bit.ly/hflQY1 […]

  2. stophostyhate

    So now we know where Air New Zealand got it’s Inflight Services Department management skills from

  3. Rainer

    This looks like an organised campaign to try and shift the blame from Boeing to the “oh so bad” suppliers.

    The problem of oversight is one which american companies which outsourced work of any kind have never got their heads around, then they wondered why it went wrong and then the blame shifting began.

  4. RocketScientist

    When highly negative reporting regarding the 787 first surfaced, Boeing cheerleaders kept repeating such comments as: “Give them time to get it right.”
    “New airplane programmes are always behind.”
    You don’t hear that kind of thing so often now.
    I would like to know how much they are overweight with this design.
    I would like to know if Boeing will abandon the use of carbon fibre in future aircraft primary structure, particularly the fuselage, now that we know the weight-savings so highly touted were imaginary.
    Boeing is a great American icon. There’s no pleasure in seeing it stumble.
    I travel a lot.
    But if it’s a 787, I aint going.

  5. TomTom

    As usual, Plane Talking is out in front on an important story. Boeing management incompetence is starting to bubble up to the surface, yet they are still a darling of the business media and Wall Street analysts.

    I wonder what these jackasses’ bonuses will be for the job they are doing – in the millions, right? When will this merit the scandal it so well deserves?

  6. LongTimeObserver

    With these stories, and as the tide of 787 program cash flow, earnings damage and official misrepresentation continues to rise, it is now only a matter of time before Wall Street, investors and perhaps even the SEC come after management with torches and pitchforks.

  7. wordfactory

    If you want a job done properly, do it yourself – clearly a discredited, old-fashioned idea that has no place in a modern world overseen by screen jockeys in Wall Street.

  8. shan

    95 percent of Boeing management needs to be replaced, from the top on down to 1st line.
    When an employee is proven to be worthless, they are promoted to management to prevent them from damaging airplanes in production. Sad but true….
    A logic based company would terminate these incompetents, but Boeing promotes them.
    Then management sticks together to protect their own, even when they routinely break federal laws and abuse employees.
    Internally, HR and EEO will only take action against these unethical liars when it looks like a lawsuit is probable.
    Quality and safety of the airplane is secondary to a Manager’s quest for a high number of completed jobs.
    Time to clean house.

  9. johnb78

    “I would like to know if Boeing will abandon the use of carbon fibre in future aircraft primary structure, particularly the fuselage, now that we know the weight-savings so highly touted were imaginary”

    Very unlikely. The weight savings were partly cancelled out in the early 787s because the plane had to be patched up late in the process. We know that carbon fibre *can* save weight, we know that Airbus are proceeding with the XWB – it’d be silly to conflate “Boeing made a disastrous outsourcing fail on the 787” with “carbon fibre planes aren’t going to happen”.

    “I travel a lot. But if it’s a 787, I aint going.”

    That’s just silly. Being a Boeing stockholder is a painful experience at the moment, and the 787s may well end up costing their airline customers more than anticipated in fuel payments due to the weight problems – but as a passenger, you can stake your life (literally) that the plane won’t be launched until it’s safe to do so. Hell, that’s *why* it’s overweight and late.

  10. icarus

    No amount of blaming the litany of mistakes made on outsourcing will absolve the Boeing management from ignoring the metrication elephant in this sorry saga. Isn’t it so much easier to blame everybody else for mistakes made, but the company that still works in medieval inches and expects metric trained engineers to use that cumbersome anachronism without hitches. Airbus out sources a lot of its work and seems to do fine because most of its producers/suppliers speak the same measurement language. Even American companies are able to work in simple mm, something one cannot not say of cumbersome inches, decimal or otherwise.

  11. RocketScientist

    To johnb78: You sound like an expert on the subject, so tell me, how much overweight is the airplane now?
    Yes, carbon fibre can save weight, in the right places. But for a fuselage? Doubtful.
    Even Airbus announced a couple of years ago that the weight-savings for smaller airplanes, say, A320-size, just aren’t there, by going fully-composite.
    I hope Boeing stay away from it for the eventual 737 replacement.
    Airbus did not want to go fully-composite on the A350. They were dragged into it by airline executives who had been seduced by Boeing’s unrealistic promises for the 787.
    I take exception to your comment that the plane is late and overweight because it’s been delayed until it’s safe. No, it’s been delayed because of incompetence.
    I’ll admit I did change topic, somewhat.
    Silly, I may be. But I stand by my comments.

  12. boeingworker

    I along with others in my shop voiced how the 787 would be a failure.
    The foremost would be Hart-Smith.
    The post by shan is 100% true.

    Finally , (from my experience) BOEING does not have the supplier / customer
    relationship correct “in house” even when you CAN SEE YOUR SUPPLIER a stones
    throw away…it’s all about job sell!

    Shove it out the door “Quick and crude” <– Quote from management.

    If they can't get it right "in house" ..How about a supplier from Italy?

    The FAA needs to "Clean house". Stop the insanity

  13. Barry 09

    icarus , could you see the USA change over to metric measurements ???? The Far right would have kittens , and would take the govt about 10 years to educate the masses to the” socialism” metric measurements. The Tea Party would explode.

  14. icarus

    Re:Barry 09
    True, there are simply too many miserably educated Yanks that haven’t got a clue that there is a world beyond their borders, hence the success of the tea party -GOP . Those gun toting loonies are also of the navel gazing variety that hasn’t got a clue that America is only a shadow of the 50’s now. You are lenient, it is more often described as a Communist invention.

  15. Uwe

    completely lost on these guys: the ideas behind the “General Staff” concept.

    Now if someone admits in public that he has slightly soyled himself
    after a long time of telling nothing is wayward WHAT ARE THEY HIDING ?

    Is it an imminent total failure or is there some other sinister objective hidden?

  16. links for 2011-02-23 - c0t0d0s0.org

    […] | ZEIT ONLINE Incident: Etihad A320 near Muscat on Oct 24th 2010, unexpected inflight boarding The 787 runs out of time and lies – Plane Talking Volker Pispers: Bis neulich 2010 – Nerdcore Flight Level 390: AF 447… Part 3 Posted by […]

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details