The “Dream” Liner
By David Glenn Cox
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy. ~ Robert Burns
Ah, but what of Mousie dear with stacks of money holding back the door, with thoughts of secret longing, unable to answer but with more and more. Boeing aircraft has a long and storied past in the annals of aircraft manufacturing. These are people who know how to build an airframe and how to incorporate cutting edge technology into an intelligent aircraft.
Only Boeing management decided to deviate from its long held formula on its 787 Dreamliner. In its advertising copy Boeing calls the aircraft, “The most anticipated aircraft in the world.” Well, that might be way so, but only in the same way your food is much anticipated in a restaurant, it isn’t really anything for Boeing to brag about.
On the drawing board, the 787 looked to be a quantum leap forward, with a composite carbon fiber fuselage, saving weight and saving fuel and making lots of money. Then Boeing began with some even more revolutionary production ideas. Let’s outsource both production and engineering. It will be so cool; man, we’ll just bolt the pieces together and dispense with those expensive workers on the factory floor.
Boeing had first budgeted $12 billion on development costs for the 787 and aggressively sought subcontractors to supply the new aircraft with subassemblies. By 2010, development costs were already 120% of the budget. Rather than supply subcontractors with specific blue prints Boeing left the engineering to sub contractors as well. One subcontractor didn’t even have an engineering department before landing the contract.