The Making of Boeing 777
THE NEED FOR BOEING 777 When the US-based airplane manufacturer, Boeing Airplane Company (Boeing), announced the development of a new airplane model – Boeing 777 – in the late 1980s, many aviation experts wondered about the rationale behind the decision. They questioned the need for a new model since Boeing‟s highly successful 747 model had been flying successfully for over 30 years (refer to note 1 for a description of Boeing 747). Aviation experts argued that Boeing was unnecessarily spending a huge amount of money to develop a new model, whose size capacity and convenience was, in their opinion, roughly similar to the existing 747. They added that developing a new aircraft was a highly complex affair. They suggested that if Boeing wanted to increase efficiency for operators and convenience for passengers, it could improve the features of the existing 747, which would ultimately be much cheaper than developing an entirely new aircraft – the 777. However, Boeing countered by arguing: “Why do auto manufacturers keep improving their latest models to suit customers‟ needs? Because they are dynamic and market-driven and don‟t want to be put out of business by hanging on to old models.” Boeing felt that airplane manufacturers, like auto manufacturers, had to keep innovating new airplane models if they wanted to survive in the competitive world. To cut costs on designing and developing the new 777 model, Boeing adopted a unique process. For the first time in aircraft manufacturing history, Boeing adopted a collaborative designing and development process and involved customers, air carriers, technicians, finance experts, computer experts and even other aircraft manufacturers. It was the first aircraft to be digitally designed by computers and was expected to be the best in efficiency and quality in its class. The 777 design process, innovative technological features and approach to manufacturing established a benchmark for the development of aircraft in future. The management and technical approach used to develop the 777 were applied to a number of projects including the International Space Station. BACKGROUND TO THE BOEING AIRCRAFT COMPANY Boeing was founded in 1916 by William Boeing and George Westervelt and was initially called the Pacific Aero Products Company. The company‟s name was changed to Boeing in 1917. Boeing began manufacturing aircraft for the US military during World War I. In 1922, Edgar Scott became the company‟s president and during his tenure, the US Navy awarded Boeing a contract to build a primary trainer (planes for test flights). In 1927, the Model 40A mail plane won a US Post Office contract to deliver mail between San Francisco and Chicago. Boeing Air Transport (BAT) 2
was formed to run airmail services. BAT also trained pilots, set up airfields and provided maintenance staff for these services. Boeing‟s management realized that to accelerate the company‟s growth IT needed to design, mass produce and sell its own aircraft. After World War II, the company shifted its focus from the defence industry to commercial jets. In 1952, Boeing launched its first commercial jet, the Boeing 707. In 1965, Boeing began designing its first jumbo jet – the Boeing 747, which went on to become one of the company‟s most successful aircraft. Famous varients of the 747 include Air Force One for the American President‟s use and the space shuttle carrier. In late 1969, Boeing entered the field of spacecraft manufacturing by contributing to the Apollo programme. In the mid-1970s, Boeing launched long-range planes (the 757 and the 767). By the mid-1980s, Boeing expanded its presence in the consumer electronics business through joint ventures, mergers and sub-contracting. In March 1984, Boeing took over De Havilliard Aircraft of Canada to enter the commuter planes business. In the early 1990s Boeing completed the manufacturing of the 727 and the 737 models. In October 1994, the company...
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