The A7D Affair
The order was for 200 brake assemblies for the new Air Force light attack plane, the A7D. Ten years ago Goodrich had built a brake for LTV that did not met expectations and caused Goodrich to be written off from the supplier’s list. After 10 years, Goodrich attempted a comeback by making an offer that could not be refused – a ridiculously low bid for making the disc brakes. Since the aircraft brakes are to be custom made, only the manufacturers could provide replacement parts. Thus even if it took a loss on the job, Goodrich was counting on the replacement parts for the profits. Of course, if Goodrich bundled the deal, it would not get a third chance!
John Warren, a seven-year old veteran engineer was made the project engineer. Lawson, a young engineer who qualified one year earlier and has been with Goodrich for the last six months, was assigned to produce the final production design. He was given the full mandate to use the best material and for the product to be tested extensively. The brakes disintegrated on the first test run. Lawson thought that it was due to the unsuitable lining. However after two more test, he found that it was possibly due to the design by Warren. Lawson thought that instead of the four disk design, a larger five disc design brake was needed.
The replacement design was not possible due to the schedule for delivery. Lawson brought the issue to Warren’s attention but Warren was too adamant to acknowledge the design to be the cause of the default and put it to the lining. Lawson went to Robert Sink, the head but Sink was in a tight spot. If Sink agreed with Lawson, it would look bad on him since he was the one who assigned Warren to the project and has accepted the design without reservation. He left the issue with Warren. Lawson was instructed to proceed with the tests. A new brake with a different lining was made and tested 13 times with all failures. It was at this point that...