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Boeing became the hugely success company that it was by a series of risky but successful gambles on new airplane technology.

Boeing lost its leadership role when it stopped its aggressive development programs.  To reclaim its leadership role, it needs to return to embracing innovation.

 
 
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Where is Boeing Going?

Part 4 :  Boeing Today - but perhaps not Tomorrow
 

 

The Sonic Cruiser represented an interesting opportunity for Boeing to advance into new technologies and designs and new airplane performance.  Alas, Boeing lost its nerve and cancelled the project in December 2002.

Worse still, its Commercial Airplane Division CEO reportedly is refusing to even consider a promising new technology that could allow Boeing to reclaim its market leadership role.

Part 4 of a 5 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three  Four  Five

 

 

'The seeds of our destruction can be found in the fruits of our success'.

Boeing was forced to take risky gambles to win its marketplace leadership in the 1950s and 1960s.  But then it changed from being a pioneering innovative company, and instead became one more concerned with perpetuating the status quo.  In doing so, it lost the forward momentum that is essential in the still evolving technology of airplane design and construction.  After years of unquestioned market dominance, it became complacent and failed to recognize the reality of a new threat - Airbus.

Boeing's new 7E7 (now renamed the 787) runs the risk of being 'too little too late' and is unlikely to restore the company to market leadership.  It is essential that Boeing return to its roots, and reclaim the initiative by developing a revolutionary type of airplane.  Failure to do this will doom Boeing to a dwindling role as the smaller of the two remaining major jet manufacturers.

Such a revolutionary type of airplane has been identified.  But Boeing's senior management seems too timid to even consider the potential for this remarkable new plane.

The Super Jumbo : 747-500 or 747X or nothing

All through the 1990s, Boeing was mulling over a new super jumbo jet - something based on a reworking of its 747 design, but substantially larger.

Various designs were proposed and then discarded.  For a while, Boeing looked at building a new super jumbo as a joint venture with Airbus, but then chose not to do that, either.

Meanwhile, Airbus was steadily creating plans for the super-jumbo plane it now calls the A380.  This is a two level plane carrying 555 passengers in three classes, with generous amounts of extra room allowing for (in theory) lounges or shops or other amenities.  Airbus set itself the target of getting 50 firm orders for the plane - if it could secure 50 orders, it would proceed to invest the $10+ billion that the project would cost and commit to producing the plane.

Boeing developed a competing design for a plane it called the 747X, which would carry 525 passengers.  In 2000 Boeing claimed to have received almost $5 billion in orders for the new plane.  At the end of 2000, Airbus succeeded in getting its 50 orders, and so confirmed its intention to proceed with the A380 project.

At the end of March, 2001, Boeing announced it was canceling its 747X project.  While Airbus had by then increased its order book to 66 orders for the A380, Boeing admitted it had actually received no firm orders at all for its 747X.   Indeed, Boeing's last order for a passenger model 747 was in Nov 02, and it is currently rumored (Jan 05) that Boeing may have to close its 747 production line in 2006.

And so, Airbus ended up taking over Boeing's formerly exclusive role as manufacturer of the largest passenger airplane in the world. Since March 2001, Airbus has continued to steadily build its orders for the A380, and now (Jan 05) has 149 orders for the plane.  At an estimated list price of $250 million per plane, that is $37.25 billion worth of business that Airbus has secured, and which Boeing has lost.

Update, Dec 2013 :  Boeing eventually released its new model 747-8, and while it has sold a few freighter versions of the plane, its passenger sales numbers have been dismal.  Airbus has now received orders for 309 A380 planes (all passenger configuration, no dedicated freighters) with another 20 orders pending, whereas Boeing has received orders for 67 freighter version and 45 passenger version 747-8 planes.

Is there a Market for a Super Jumbo?

Is there indeed a market for a super jumbo? Boeing says there is a trend away from 'high density' routes (ie between two major hubs) and a trend towards nonstop secondary routes that don't need to connect through hubs. A 'high density' route would be, for example, between London and New York. A secondary route would be, for example, between Pittsburg and Geneva. Secondary routes don't need very big planes due to the smaller number of people that fly them.

Boeing is correct - there is a growth in secondary routes, but that is only half the story. There is also a steady growth in all passenger traffic - Boeing itself predicts a growth of more than 5% a year for many years into the future. Total passenger traffic will double within the next ten to twenty years, and this growth, combined with finite airport and runway capacity and limited numbers of 'slots' for flights in and out of airports, is pushing the need for bigger and bigger planes. Medium density routes are becoming high density routes, and high density routes are becoming too-high density.

Congestion at airports and in the skies all increase the need for larger capacity planes. Yes, there is a market for a super jumbo.

While Boeing still maintains there is no market for such a big plane, the 149 orders that Airbus already has for its A380 shows the nonsense of this claim. Industry analysts also reject Boeing's claim - for example, London's Heathrow Airport (the world's third busiest airport) is projecting that by 2016, one in every eight flights through its airport will be an A380. In comparison, only one in every nine flights at LHR today is a 747. In other words, Heathrow is expecting that, within ten years of its release, the A380 will be more popular than the 747 is today, 30 years after its release!

Airbus needs to sell only 200 A380s for the entire project to be a success. At its present rate of sales, it seems possible it will have sold more than 200 even before the first plane ever flies (in 2005).

Some analysts believe that Boeing tried to bully or bluff Airbus into not proceeding with the A380 project. Plainly, if neither company developed a super jumbo, then Boeing's 747 would remain the largest plane in the skies - and so Boeing had no motivation whatsoever to develop a costly replacement to the 747, and did all it could to dissuade Airbus from developing one as well.

This strategy clearly back-fired on Boeing. Boeing was probably half correct - there is insufficient market demand for two super jumbos. But by concentrating its effort on doing nothing, it has allowed Airbus to steal this very profitable part of the market away and Boeing now has no hope of supplying very large sized passenger planes for the next 30 years or so, until such time as the A380 design becomes obsolete, in the same manner as the 747's obsolescence created an opportunity for Airbus.

Better than a Super Jumbo? The Sonic Cruiser's Short Life

When Boeing made its public announcement in March 2001 that it was canceling its 747X program, it chose to put a brave face on this situation by announcing its new 'Sonic Cruiser' concept, and said in a press release

This is the airplane our customers have asked us to concentrate on. They share our view that this new airplane could change the way the world flies as dramatically as did the introduction of the jet age.

What was this allegedly revolutionary new plane? Remember that the introduction of the jet age brought about a doubling in plane speeds, and a doubling of passenger capacities.

Alas, the Sonic Cruiser promised to fly merely 15-20% faster than a regular jet plane (at Mach 0.95 - 0.98), and would carry only 200 - 250 passengers (half as many as a 747), with a range of between 6,500 - 10,000 miles (similar to a 747). The plane was described as using about the same amount of fuel to carry a passenger as a 747 or 767.

The promise of a 15-20% increase in speed (15% faster than a 747, 20% faster than a 767) is not the same as a 15-20% reduction in travel time. 20 - 30 minutes of any flight is spent on the ground, taxiing to and from the runway. More time can be wasted with air traffic control delays. When planes are flying below 10,000 ft in the US they are limited to 250 knots maximum speed. Planes don't fly at full speed when climbing up to cruise level. On an 8 hour trans-Atlantic flight, the Sonic Cruiser would save about one hour - hardly a revolutionary change in flying time at all.

Furthermore, when you add in all the other factors that make up a total travel experience (driving to the airport, checking in, going through security, boarding the plane, disembarking at the other end, waiting for luggage, then traveling on from the airport to your final destination) there is as much as 5 or more hours of additional traveling time. A one hour saving on a 13 hour total travel experience is a negligible saving - sure, it is welcome, but it hardly 'changes the way the world flies as dramatically as did the introduction of the jet age'.

Shorter flights offer almost no perceptible improvement in travel time at all. A typical domestic flight of 1000 - 1500 miles would offer an inconsequential 10 - 20 minutes of reduced travel time. The plane would only offer measurable time savings on very long flights.

On the positive side, the plane looked futuristic and exciting and 'sexy'. But such considerations rarely sell $125 million dollar airplanes, and after a period of intense hype, Boeing cancelled this project. The official reason given was that after 9/11, airlines became more sensitive to cost savings, and they'd prefer a cheaper slower plane. In reality, it is equally likely that the illusion of greater speed was finally punctured and when airlines realistically looked for the value and benefit of the Sonic Cruiser, they found it completely lacking.

Another interpretation is that the airlines, in a manner very similar to Boeing, wanted to preserve the status quo. If Boeing had proceeded to develop the plane, some airlines would have purchased it, and that would have then forced the other airlines into purchasing the plane too, so as not to give an advantage to their competitors. Boeing should have called the airlines' bluff and pressed on with development.

21 months after Boeing announced the Sonic Cruiser program, it cancelled it in December 2002, replacing it with another new concept, the 7E7.

More Lost Opportunity

A little known fact about the Sonic Cruiser is that towards the end of its development project, the design evolved to allow it to fly faster than the speed of sound. At the Farnborough Airshow in 2002, Boeing VP Walt Gillette explained that it would have a maximum speed of Mach 1.04, and - amazingly - there would be no sonic boom problems on the ground. The plane would cruise at Mach 0.98 for fuel efficiency reasons, but could go through the 'sound barrier' if it chose to.

This was an exciting development. The 'sound barrier' is no longer the insurmountable obstacle it once was, and neither also are sonic booms impossible to overcome. In addition to Boeing's positive experience in 2002, Northrop Grumman also did testing of a new design of plane nose on a modified F-5E in August 2003, which confirmed earlier expectations that sonic booms can be greatly reduced.

The main obstacle to building faster planes is not a 'law of nature' but rather the unwillingness of private industry to invest in the research and development that is needed to address the present limitations and to find solutions to present problems.

Contrary to popular belief, the Concordes operated by British Airways were consistently and outstandingly profitable (the analysis on this linked page conclusively rebuts all the misperceptions about the Concordes losing money). And there were exciting plans for a 'Concorde II' that would have been bigger, flying further and faster than ever before, but, just like the Sonic Cruiser, these never were fully developed.

While subsonic planes have seen fifty years of consistent development and enhancement with many tens of billions of dollars invested into R&D, supersonic planes have never progressed beyond an original 'first generation' design. A state of the art supersonic plane today could be as improved and different to Concorde as an A330, A340, A380, 7E7 or 777 is from an original de Havilland Comet.

The Sonic Cruiser, while an unimpressive plane in and of itself, was nevertheless a valuable transitional plane between the current technology of subsonic planes and a new technology of efficient effective supersonic planes.

More speed is clearly a prime area of future enhancement for airplanes. The Japanese are steadily working on developing a supersonic passenger plane, as are the Europeans, with credible projections suggesting that they will have a 1200 passenger (!) supersonic plane in commercial service by 2020.

What is Boeing doing to respond to these current competitive developments? Apparently nothing.

The 787 - Savior or More of the Same?

Industry watchers could be forgiven for being skeptical when Boeing announced it was replacing its Sonic Cruiser program with the 7E7 program (subsequently renamed, to no-one's great surprise, as the 787).  Boeing had gone from being 100% committed to the 747X to canceling it, and in less than two years repeated the process with the Sonic Cruiser concept.

In theory, the 787 should replace both the 757 and the 767 series of planes.  The concept developed into three versions - a standard version, carrying 200 passengers, a stretch version carrying 250 passengers, and a short range version carrying 300 passengers.  Using the latest design technologies and materials, the plane will be largely made of composite materials, with very little aluminium.  Because a plane uses up a weight of fuel equal to 3% of its total weight every hour it is flying, any saving in weight means a direct and valuable saving in fuel.  The 787's use of lighter composite materials enable it to be more fuel efficient.

The 787 was originally promised to have extra passenger comforts.  It will be quieter, the windows will be larger, the seats and aisles will be slightly wider, and the cabin will have more air pressure (equivalent to a 6000 ft altitude rather than today's standard 8000 ft pressurization) and with an increase in air humidity from 5% to 20%.  Of course it doesn't require a completely new plane to introduce such extra comforts, but it is wonderful to see a slow return to an improved passenger environment as part of the 787's design.

Unfortunately, the airlines discovered that, by amazing chance, they could choose to fit either eight wider more comfortable seats across the plane, or nine standard narrow seats such as are on most other planes currently.  The opportunity to increase passenger capacity by 12.5% simply by cramming more seats into the available space has proved way too tempting, and many 787s will now offer no greater comfort than the planes that went before them.

The 787 will also use the latest and best new jet engine technologies, enabling further fuel efficiencies to be developed. In total, the 787 is claimed to offer airlines about a 15-20% reduction in fuel consumption.

This is of course a good thing, but it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. And to put it in perspective, fuel costs are only about 10% of the total costs of an airline.

However, a weakness of the 787 is that much of its promised savings come from the new engines that will be fitted to it. Airbus not only disputes the basis of Boeing's claims for extra efficiency in the 787, but has of course also said that it will arrange for the same engine technology to be applied to its planes (this article is well worth reading). If so, then most of the claimed advantages of the 787 are immediately lost!

Update, Dec 2013 :  My, what a lot has happened in the last ten years to this airplane program!  Depending on your perspective, it has either been a great success or a humbling failure.  On the plus side, Boeing has received a massive 1012 orders for the plane.

On the minus side, the plane's entry into service was repeatedly delayed due to a series of problems with the plane and its chaotic supplier chain and sourcing of components, seeing Boeing's overall development costs skyrocket, and its marketplace advantage (over the Airbus A350) wasted.

Further on the minus side, the 787 suffered a humbling grounding for an extended three month period in early 2013 after mysterious battery fires that hinted at broader problems with the largely self-certification process in getting the airplane approved for commercial use.

It is true that Airbus massively mishandled its initial response to the 787 (its A350) but the advantage Boeing had both by its first launch of the 787 and subsequently the Airbus muddled response has been massively lost due to the production problems it had.

This is most starkly illustrated by the statistic that for the four years from 2009 through 2012, when the plane's problems were at their greatest, Boeing's total sales of the 787 were a net reduction/cancellation of 62 planes (75 cancelled, 13 ordered).

Sonic Cruiser or 7E7 - Why not Both?

Simplistically, Boeing found itself with two choices - the Sonic Cruiser, that would have the same fuel consumption as present planes, but fly 15-20% faster; or the 7E7, that would fly the same speed as present planes but use 15-20% less fuel.

Why choose only one or the other? Why not develop both planes at the same time? Boeing did this before with its 757 and 767 program. Why not repeat the process again?

Boeing Ignored Airbus at its Peril

Boeing has for too long chosen to ignore Airbus, and even to mock Airbus, or to pretend a complete lack of concern about Airbus. Sometimes it has also alleged that Airbus is an unfair competitor because it received government handouts from EU governments.

It is true that Airbus has received substantial government support in the past, although this probably no longer occurs. And when Boeing accuses Airbus of this, it chooses to selectively ignore its own massive government support, which it receives in the form of getting much development work funded by Defense contracts. For example, both the 707 and 747 were spin-offs from military projects. And Boeing's new 787 project is benefiting from, amongst other things, a $3+ billion package of tax cuts and incentives from the State of Washington so as to induce Boeing to assemble the plane in WA.

After adopting the stance for many years that Airbus was too small to take any notice of, Boeing now pretends it doesn't care. For example, in September 2003, Boeing VP of Marketing for Commercial Aircraft Randy Baseler said, speaking of Airbus,

What do you mean by market leader? Do you mean who can deliver the most discounted airplanes? If that's the case, then okay, Airbus wins.

Doesn't this sound familiar? It sounds just like the comments of Boeing's clients, the dinosaur airlines, who all pretended not to care what lower cost airlines were doing, and now are suffering massive losses and reduced market share as a result. The ability to deliver a lower priced plane of comparable performance to its competitor is a key parameter for marketplace success.

Boeing has been losing massive market share to Airbus in almost all markets, and all Boeing can do is to sneer at Airbus as being a supplier of lower priced airplanes (as if that is a bad not good thing!) and say 'then okay, Airbus wins'???

And in December 2003, responding to the news that Airbus was delivering more planes than Boeing that year (more than 300, compared to a Boeing target of 280), Boeing spokesman Tom Brabant made the following comment :

[Airbus] may have more deliveries, but what does that mean? In an industry that has two large manufacturers, if you're looking at deliveries, some years Airbus may deliver more, some years Boeing may deliver more. What matters most is making airplanes that passengers prefer to fly on and providing value to our airline customers.

Let me explain to Mr Brabant what that means, seeing as how he is asking the question.  It means Airbus is making the airplanes that passengers prefer to fly on, and providing value to its airline customers - which just so happens to be what he went on to say is what matters most!

This event represents the first time, ever, that Airbus has exceeded Boeing's annual deliveries.  Only three years ago, Boeing was delivering twice as many planes as Airbus, and now Airbus is delivering nearly 10% more planes than Boeing, and with 36% greater forward orders.

And it isn't just a one-off random thing, as he might wish.  Airbus' order backlog stands at 1,500 planes compared to only 1,100 aircraft for Boeing. Airbus will continue to deliver more aircraft per year in coming years.

Boeing needs to ask what this means?  It is time for Boeing management to take their heads out of the sand and stare at the reality that has overtaken them.

Update Dec 2013 :  In the ten years subsequently, and as reported in the fifth part of this series, Airbus delivered more planes than Boeing for nine of the ten years, and outsold Boeing in terms of net new orders for seven of the ten years.

Update Dec 2013 - The 737 MAX Delays and Disappointment

Since this article was written, there has been an entire new derivative plane model launched by both Airbus and Boeing.  This is the latest version of their core mainstay airplane, the A320 and 737 series.

But while Boeing delayed and deferred doing anything, Airbus seized the initiative.  It announced its A320neo series of planes on 1 December 2010, while Boeing dithered and did nothing to respond until 30 Aug 2011, by which time Airbus had already sold almost 1250 A320neo planes.

Boeing then announced the 737 MAX as a response to the A320neo, and has managed to pick up 1700 orders for the plane as of Dec 2013.  But, also as of Dec 2013, Airbus has received 2392 A320neo orders; giving it a clear lead in the 'bread and butter' single aisle airplane market.

How many airplane orders did Boeing lose for the almost full year that it sat passively in the market with no announced alternative to the A320neo?  That's an imponderable number, but as you can see in the table of annual orders received, Airbus clearly had a 'windfall' one time surge of perhaps 700 extra orders in 2011, the likes of which it has never had before or since.

We discuss these events in a separate multipart article series about the A320neo vs the 737 MAX.

As for the 737's future, it is currently being speculated by some industry observers that Boeing may start work on developing a successor plane in 2020, some 56 years after Boeing first started working on its original 737.

The 737 successor might enter service perhaps in the mid/late 2020s, and it is likely that the 737 would continue to be produced alongside the new plane for a few years after that.  So it seems likely that the 737 will have a production run in the order of 65 years.

To put that in perspective, in the early 1960s when the 737 was being designed, steam trains were the norm, the Queen Mary and other ships were still actively providing service for people traveling between Europe and the US, the Andy Griffith Show was just starting its run on television - and of course, almost everyone had black and white sets (about 3% of the population had color sets).  As for cars, the Ford Mustang was just about to be introduced.

Update Dec 2013 - Is Boeing Surviving Solely on Airline Charity?

An increasing phenomenon over the last few years has been airlines splitting their orders between Airbus and Boeing, ordering similar quantities of competing airplane models from each supplier.

There is no clear stand-alone reason why any airline would do this, and it would seem, on the face of it, to make little sense.  Almost certainly, an airline could drive a better bargain if it promised to give 100% of its order to only one supplier; and into the future, it would have more operational efficiencies and lower costs with the need for only one spare parts inventory, one set of staff training, and so on.

Some people wonder if the airlines are deliberately throwing a lifeline to Boeing so as to keep it alive and to keep some competitive pressure on Airbus, which otherwise might end up as the only credible global airplane manufacturer.

But is that what Boeing's business strategy has come to?  To rely on a 'sympathy share' and the fear that airlines have of Airbus otherwise becoming the sole airplane manufacturer?

The Total Death of Innovation?

In August, a Boeing spokesman was proudly claiming the 7E7 would last until the 22nd century.

The plane is projected to first fly in 2007.  It is replacing the 757 and the 767, which in turn replaced the 707 and 727.  These planes were in production for 21, 20, 21, and perhaps 22 years.  Let's say that the 7E7 stays in production for 30 years, meaning that the last plane will roll off the production line in 2037.

Are Boeing seriously claiming that any airline will be flying a 63 year old plane in the year 2100?  How many airlines do you know, today, that are flying planes built in 1940!

It is rare to find a plane that is 30 years still being flown.

Maybe, when Boeing predicts that 7E7s will be still flying in the 22nd century, it is suggesting that it will be producing 7E7s for 63 or more years.  Which, in turn, begs the question - what plane has been produced continually for 63 years?  Of course, no planes have had that long a life.

It is impossible to understand the logic of this statement from Boeing.  But it certainly doesn't sound like a positive promise of ongoing development and innovation.

Update Dec 2013 - It Isn't Just Boeing

It might seem we are lambasting Boeing and holding Airbus out as an example of corporate perfection.  Not so.

Please see our new article 'The Twilight Zone of Stalled Airplane Development' for a broader discussion of the overall lack of innovation in the industry.

What Boeing Must Do to Survive

Boeing speaks proudly about its past 'gambling the future of the company' on new airplane designs.  Both these gambles (707 and 747) were brilliant successes.  Ironically, Boeing is now gambling its future because it is no longer taking risks with new bold innovative airplane designs.

Spending less money on development means that, short term, there is a boost to corporate profitability.  But this short term boost, no matter how alluring it is to Wall St and short sighted managers, comes at a grave cost - the erosion of Boeing's future market standing and market share.

If Boeing wishes to remain a viable airplane manufacturer, it needs to turn away from the temptation of short term profit and invest enormously in risky new airplane developments.  It needs to come up with a plane that is tangibly different to all other planes in the sky today.  The 787 is not that plane.  The 787 is a catchup plane, not a revolutionary new type of plane.  The 707 was revolutionary, the 747 was revolutionary, the Airbus A380 will be revolutionary.

A revolutionary plane could be a supersonic plane (a minimum of perhaps 50% faster than current planes and preferably twice as fast).  There is a definite need for speed on long-haul journeys.

A revolutionary plane could be one that offers massive new economies.  Such a plane would almost certainly not be a traditional long narrow fuselage with wings and tail - that technology has been pushed about as far as it can go.  It might instead build on some of the 'flying wing' research that was first done in the 1920s, with a blended wing plane (the B-47 bomber) appearing in the late 1940s, and which most recently can be seen in the form of the B-2 bomber.

Boeing has done extensive studies of such technologies, and in 2002 released information on a design that it had created with NASA's assistance (illustration in part five).  This 'Blended Wing Body' plane (BWB) would carry 480 passengers.  It would use an incredible 32% less fuel per passenger mile than an A380, be 19% lighter (= cheaper to build) and require 19% less engine power, meaning cheaper engines and less pollution.  Almost certainly, the extra development to evolve this from a prototype concept to a production model would see even greater savings and efficiencies.

Alas, it appears that Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Alan Mulally refuses to consider this as a potential area of development, and won't even allow the person who headed the research program to brief him on its results!  Has Boeing become a black hole that sucks in any innovative concepts and causes them to vanish without trace?

Another revolutionary concept is the 'Wing-in-ground' type vehicle which is a cross between a plane and a hovercraft.  It uses the 'ground effect' to provide a very efficient lift at a very low altitude - perhaps no more than 10 feet.  These vehicles would travel on the water at speeds of about 150 mph and provide a very fast and efficient means of transporting freight and possibly passengers too.

The plane is in development - but in South Korea.  In 2005 it was announced that planes may be placed into production as early as 2010.

A revolutionary plane will almost certainly look different to the airplanes of today - I can't tell you how it will look, only how it will not look.  We already know that the next revolutionary plane is an Airbus, not Boeing plane (the A380) and at this stage, there is little reason to hope that the one after that will again be a Boeing plane.

Update, May 2006 :  Here's an interesting piece in the Seattle Times (often a good source for Boeing gossip) about various doodlings and developments Boeing has been looking at.  Encouraging?  Not really.  None of these concepts seem to have the funding that would be needed to take them from drawing board dreams to production line reality.

Update, March 2007 :  At last, it appears Boeing is starting to do something with BWB type aircraft, albeit at glacial speed - a military version may be deployed by 2022, and a passenger plane by 2030.

Conclusion

Boeing is a once great company that could become great again.  But to do so, it will need to change its ways, and to once more 'bet the company' on an innovative new type of airplane.

This is not urging an irresponsible approach and suggesting money should be spent foolishly on wildly impractical projects.  It is a necessary approach, requiring willingness to move beyond 'conventional wisdom' and to 'think outside the box'.  For example, it seems that one of Boeing's biggest worries about a BWB design is that passengers would not have windows to look out.  Just how much window do they think passengers in the middle block of seats on a wide-body plane get to enjoy at present?  This is not a reason to abandon the entire revolutionary concept and the massive benefits it offers; it is just a minor issue to be surmounted.

In the past, when confronted with a problem, Boeing would see it as a challenge and a reason to try harder and triumph.  At present, when Boeing is confronted with a problem, it seems to see an excuse to give up.

Until Boeing reverses this situation and becomes once more a bold pioneering leader, it will face continued declining market share.  Its sales will be reduced to tactical and 'sympathy' orders from airlines reluctant to let Airbus become the sole provider of commercial airplanes in the future.

Read more in the rest of this five part series

Part 1 :  Boeing's early years

Part 2 :  Boeing's best years

Part 3 :  Boeing in decline

Part 4 :  Does Boeing have a future

Part 5 :  Key facts and figures about Boeing, its planes, and its competition
 

If you liked this, you might also enjoy our multi-part series 'Airbus Fires the First Shot in the New A320/737 War with Boeing'.

 

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Originally published 26 Dec 2003, last update 04 Jan 2014

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
Related Articles
Boeing - The Early Years
Boeing's Best Years
Boeing in Decline
Boeing Today - but perhaps not tomorrow
Boeing - Key Facts and Figures
Boeing vs Airbus book review
Concorde - an Untimely and Unnecessary Demise
Airplane Data
 
 

 


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