Boeing’s ‘lessons learned’ manifest themselves in 787-9, 777X

 - July 17, 2014, 4:58 AM
Boeing Commercial Airplanes head of airplane development Scott Fancher (Photo: David McIntosh)

Boeing’s centerpiece display at the show, the 787-9 not only represents a revolution in technology, but perhaps more important, it embodies a validation of the company’s decision a year and a half ago to reorganize its management structure to segregate airplane development from production. As Boeing Commercial Airplanes head of airplane development Scott Fancher explained to AIN at the Farnborough Air Show, the results of the exercise have manifested themselves in the stark contrast between Boeing’s experience with the first Dreamliner variant and that of the 787-9. 

As Boeing prepared for several rate breaks since late 2012 and an increase in production of 25 percent across its product lines in the subsequent 18 months, it recognized the need for a fundamental change.

“We looked at what we learned from the 747-8 and the 787-8 development and we came to the realization that development requires a particular set of skills,” said Fancher. “It requires a management system that is really geared toward a development environment. We also saw that there would be great benefit from sharing lessons learned across programs in a very seamless way.”

So-called lessons learned resulted in Boeing delivering the 787-9 roughly a month ahead of its original commitment date, explained Fancher. Now, the 737 Max and the 787-10—both in their detailed design phase—show the same characteristics that Boeing saw in the 787-9, according to data cited by Fancher. “When you look at the metrics, the data…the data is telling us the same thing as it did in the -9 and that is that things are stable, they’re on track and they’re executing to plan,” he noted.

Also proceeding according to plan, the 777X continues to benefit from “learnings” gained from the design of the interior of the composite 787 as Boeing applies some of the same features to the metal tube used in its largest family of twin-engine widebodies, reported Fancher during a show briefing on Tuesday. Advances include a cabin altitude of 6,000 feet, windows that measure 15 percent larger than the competition’s and humidity levels “comparable” to those of the 787. Fancher also revealed the 777X will benefit from the same hybrid laminar flow technology used in the tail section of the 787-9.

Asked how Boeing expects to achieve cabin improvements in the 777X that relied heavily on the fact that the 787 used a composite shell, Fancher offered few technical details.

“It’s because we know the fuselage really well,” he said. “We’ve been building it for years, we’ve been doing incremental design improvements for years, we understand how much design margin the fuselage has. So we figured out a way with very minor investment to imbed those capabilities in that fuselage.”