A detailed look at Boeing’s recent aircraft problems


Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space cover

After being in print for twenty years, the Chronological Encyclopedia of Discoveries in Space, covering everything that was learned on every single space mission in the 20th century, has finally gone out of print.

 
I presently have my last four hardback copies available for sale. The book sold new for about $90. To get your own autographed copy of this now rare collector's item, please send a $120 check (which includes shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to


Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


"Useful to space buffs and generalists, comprehensive but readable, Bob Zimmerman's Encyclopedia belongs front and center on everyone's bookshelf." -- Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut

 

"The Chronological Encylopedia of Discoveries in Space is no passionless compendium of information. Robert Zimmerman's fact-filled reports, which cover virtually every spacecraft or probe to have ventured into the heavens, relate the scientific and technical adventure of space exploration enthusiastically and with authority." -- American Scientist

Link here. The article is entirely focused at reviewing only Boeing’s recent aircraft projects (Boeing 787, Boeing 747-8, Boeing KC-46A, Boeing 777X and Boeing 737 MAX), all of which appear to have had a lot of development issues.

The worst of the lot was the KC-46A, with many of the problems shared by our incompetent federal government. Initially proposed in 2001 (that is not a typo), the contract award did not occur until 2010, with delivery of the first 18 planes set for August 2017. The GAO predicted this delivery would be late, and the GAO was right.

Worse, Boeing has had cost overruns on the tanker totaling $3.4 billion above the initial fixed cost development contract of $4.9 billion (that is also not a typo).

The article also cites far too many examples of where Boeing requested waivers in order to meet schedule, even though the waiver allowed serious safety issues to linger, a behavior that reminded me strongly of NASA’s management during the shuttle program, resulting in the loss of two shuttles because the agency preferred to push its schedule rather than deal with serious engineering problems.

When you add the delays, cost overruns, and sometimes absurd mistakes that have occurred during Boeing’s development of SLS, this article is far more disturbing. It gets worse when you consider the issues that have delayed the launch of Starliner, some of which (the parachutes) should not have been an issue considering Boeing’s half century of experience.

All told, these problems portray a company that is akin to our federal government, badly managed and ripe for disaster. While the U.S. aerospace industry would take a deep hit if Boeing went under, that hit however would likely be temporary, especially considering the problems Boeing is having.

Freedom must allow bad businesses to fail so that fresh faces not bogged down by old problems can come to the fore and replace them. If Boeing collapsed I suspect a host of new companies would quickly appear, all likely more capable of producing what the nation’s aerospace industry needs. Because right now, Boeing is certainly not doing the job.

Share

6 comments

  • Phill O

    How much does the degradation of our education systems play a factor? If people are permitted to go into a “Safe Space” or a similar area rather than be gone, does that not affect a companies ability to recruit and keep excellent people rather than get rid of poor performers?

    Between bad managers and poor human resource management, big companies operate like government where everyone is equalized to the lowest level.

    Not everyone is capable of what they want to do. An education system that is functional helps people achieve their most, but we all have limits.

    Students getting awards for participating degrades the final product!

  • DJN

    Interesting article, thanks for posting. Link back to your recent appearance on the Space Show?

  • DJN: I posted the link to my December 23, 2019 appearance on the Space Show here.

  • mkent

    Yet another article blaming McDonnell Douglas for the problems at Boeing. Funny, though, that almost all of the problems at Boeing are happening at heritage Boeing sites while the programs run at heritage McDonnell Douglas sites all continue on with no or only your typical aerospace problems.

    The 787, 747-8, KC-46A, 777X, and 737Max are all heritage Boeing programs run out of Seattle. You can add the KC-767 for Italy and Japan and the 737 AEWC Wedgetail for Australia to that list of troubled Seattle programs. Then add the RAH-66 Comanche in Philadelpha and the SLS and GBSD programs in Huntsville, both heritage Boeing sites*.

    Meanwhile the F-15 Eagle, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, AH-64 Apache, JDAM, and SDB are all considered the best in the world in their class. The C-17 Globemaster and Delta II (both now out of production but also considered the best in the world) were from this same side of Boeing. All of these, like the 737, 747, 767, and 777, are continously updated with new technology. You don’t have to work there to know these things — ten minutes in Wikipedia should suffice.

    For all the ink spilled in the press on the culture of Boeing, it’s amazing how many articles get things exactly backwards. If Boeing were to listen to these “journalists” they’d replace the culture of success at McDonnell Douglas with the troubled culture of Boeing Seattle. If they did that, it would be tragic for both the company and for America.

    *The only other Boeing programs in the last 25 years with major problems I can think of are FIA (heritage Hughes in El Segundo) and Delta III (heritage McDonnell Douglas in Huntington Beach). Delta III eventually recovered and morphed into the successful Delta IV. FIA never did and was rightly cancelled.

  • DJN

    To be fair, I haven’t been grounded in in a MD plane since the late 90’s when Alaska had to run and fetch a heater part from Long Beach for our stranded flight at LAX (in rush hour!!!).

    Since then, the new MD airliners have been performing great. Those Deltas have been dominating the commercial launch market. 8-o

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *