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Boeing 787: A Look at the Supply Chain Used to Build it

Much has been made recently about the processes used in assembling the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  With all of the problems it has had, it is somewhat reasonable to see such critiques arise.  Using multiple suppliers is by no means a new idea.  Every large manufacturer does it, but there probably aren’t many that do it on the scale that Boeing does for their 787.

Randy Tinseth, vice president, marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle, recently shared a blog post that laid out the supply chain used in building the 787 in the form of a simple diagram.  While it is clearly a major simplification, it does give some perspective of where all of the pieces come from.

Personally, I don’t see the problem with it.  Clearly Boeing feels they need to go to numerous sources to provide the highest quality product at a price they think their customers will accept.  They are a for-profit business that has every right to pick whoever they want to supply their parts.

It is easy to say that having such a huge supply chain is contributing to the issues with the 787, but that is just looking for the easy way out in my opinion.

So what are the pros and cons of having such a long supply chain?  Should Boeing have stayed closer to home with its products, or does their attempt to make a profit make the risk worth it?

February 27, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Phantom Eye by Boeing Flies for Second Time

The Phantom Eye takes to the skies for the second time.

The Phantom Eye takes to the skies for the second time.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Boeing Phantom Eye performing taxi tests in preparation for its next flight.  That second test flight took place yesterday, and it was a great success according to the developers.

In this second flight, the Phantom Eye flew to an altitude of 8,000 feet and lasted for 66 minutes, doubling the parameters of its first flight.  The longer flight allowed technicians to collect a lot more quality data to further the development process.

The other happy outcome from this flight was that the plane landed successfully.  After the first flight, the gear collapsed causing some damage to the aircraft.  In this second attempt the landing was picture perfect.  What is really interesting about this plane’s landing is that it only has two sets of gear, so once the plane comes to a stop, it leans to the side and rests on its own wingtip.

In watching the video below this thing just looks almost graceful in flight.  With most of my recent flying experience being around military planes, it is a nice change of pace to see something look so clean and smooth in flight.

I have yet to see any kind of expected release date for the Phantom Eye, but if it lives up to its goals of 65,000 altitude, and up to four days of continuous flight, it is sure to be useful in all different types of applications.



February 26, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Gulfstream G650 and G280 Make Australian Debut at Avalon 2013

Two Aircraft Set Four Unconfirmed City-Pair Records En Route To Air Show

MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia, February 25, 2013 — Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.’s two newest aircraft arrived in Australia Monday to participate in the company’s static display at Avalon 2013, an air show and defense exhibition in Geelong, Victoria. It’s the first time both the super mid-sized Gulfstream G280 and the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range G650 have been in Australia.

“We’re thrilled to be able to show these two aircraft to our customers in Australia,” said Scott Neal, senior vice president, Sales and Marketing, Gulfstream. “It’s an opportunity for customers to see firsthand the tremendous capabilities of the G280 and G650, including speed, range, safety, reliability and comfort.”

The two aircraft demonstrated their speed and range en route to Australia, setting a series of potential city-pair records. The G650 set a world record between Honolulu and Auckland, flying 3,868 nm (7,164 km) in 7 hours and 57 minutes. Once approved by the National Aeronautic Association, this record will join eight others already set by the G650.

The G280 set three pending records en route to Avalon. The aircraft took off at maximum weight from Carlsbad, Calif., where it demonstrated its takeoff capabilities from the short runway (4,897 ft/1,492 m). It then flew six people (three passengers and three crew) to Honolulu, a distance of 2,322 nm (4,300 km), in 5 hours and 31 minutes at an average speed of Mach 0.83. The aircraft flew the 2,292 nm (4,245 km) from Honolulu to Pago Pago in 5 hours and 12 minutes at an average speed of Mach 0.83. The flight from Pago Pago to Melbourne, a distance of 2,846 nm (5,270 km), took 7 hours and 16 minutes, at an average speed of Mach 0.80 The G280 has set 22 city-pair records since it entered service in 2012.

The aircraft’s appearance at Avalon 2013 is part of a world demonstration tour intended to introduce the two aircraft to customers. Since entering service in November 2012, the G280 demonstrator has visited 65 cities in 15 countries, accumulating more than 340 flight hours. Its longest nonstop flight was from Savannah to London, a journey of 3,676 nm (6,808 km).

The G650 flies farther, faster and with a larger, more comfortable cabin than any other business jet in service. The G650 world demonstration tour began in mid-January and has already visited 28 locations in six countries, covering 40,000 nm (74,000 km).

Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), designs, develops, manufactures, markets, services and supports the world’s most technologically advanced business-jet aircraft. Gulfstream has produced more than 2,000 aircraft for customers around the world since 1958. To meet the diverse transportation needs of the future, Gulfstream offers a comprehensive fleet of aircraft, comprising the wide-cabin, high-speed Gulfstream G150®; the new large-cabin, mid-range Gulfstream G280®; the large-cabin, long-range Gulfstream G450®; the large-cabin, ultra-long-range Gulfstream G550® and the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range G650®. Gulfstream also offers aircraft ownership services via Gulfstream Pre-Owned Aircraft Sales®. The company employs more than 12,500 people at 12 major locations. We invite you to visit our website for more information and photos of Gulfstream aircraft at

General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and information systems and technologies. More information about the company is available on the Internet at

I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Asia-Pacific Region to Lead the Way in Aircraft Marketplace Future

The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing region in the world when it comes to aviation.  Considering that it contains about half of the world’s population that is likely not much of a surprise to anyone.  Airbus recently released a statement outlining what their projections are for the next 20 years, and the numbers are somewhat staggering.

Airbus estimates 10,000 new aircraft including 3,800 widebodies over the next 20 years.  Those are just incredible numbers, that quite simply blow me away.  Airbus and Boeing will clearly be the major players in these markets, but with that many aircraft to be built and sold other companies will likely fill in the gaps.

The above statement talked a lot about larger aircraft, but as time progresses and the region matures I think the regional type aircraft will become increasingly important.  Much the way the regional carriers have become essential parts of air service in the US, these will become essential to really ingraining flying into the culture of these rapidly developing countries.

I recently saw a comment saying that the aviation industry was being attacked by China and India, but I completely disagree.  I think it is awesome for the industry that these countries are becoming larger players.  There is just so much potential and opportunity there that to think that it could possibly be a bad thing makes no sense to me.  We should all want the industry to grow and develop.

The US has long been the world leader in aviation, and will remain such for the foreseeable future.  That being said, we need to embrace that role, and do our part to improve aviation globally.  We need to be the leader in new ATC technology.  We need to not get so bogged down in regulations and red tape that we lose the wonder that has always made aviation so amazing.  We need to bring the wonder of flight to as many people as we possibly can.

I am curious what other people think about the aviation boom in the Asia-Pacific Region.  What do you see as the benefits of this growth?  What are some of the challenges or difficulties that it will present?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

February 25, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Shared Virtual Sky: Leading the Way Toward Enhanced European Air Traffic Management

One of the most challenging aspects of learning to fly is getting used to the radio communications.  Even as an experienced aviator going to a new area where they have different procedures, or even just a different lingo can be difficult.  I have long wondered why there are not more intertwined systems to help pilots, and air traffic controllers practice this more.

Apparently I was not the only one thinking this as Airbus’ ProSky is in the process of developing just such a system.  The full details can be found in the press release below.

It is amazing how much of an impact this could have on the quality of training.

For example, I spent about a year going through military flight training and became quite adept at communicating over the radios.  I then followed that up with about four months in simulators where the only radio chatter was from our crew and the instructors.  When I returned to the flight line to resume real flying it took me at least a week of flights to get back to where I felt comfortable with the radio communications again.

They obviously have much bigger plans than just to practice communications with this system, but if it does nothing more than make the training more realistic, then I think it is worth the cost.

Airbus ProSky is taking a high-profile role in developing Europe’s first airspace simulation platform that will be available to the aviation sector – which is called Shared Virtual Sky, and allows for accelerated innovation as well as the ability to test new air navigation concepts for improved safety and fluidity.

20 February 2013 Shared Virtual Sky is an innovative response to challenges facing the aviation sector. It enables multiple participants to connect their simulators to a completely realistic real-time environment, where test pilots and air traffic controllers can work together – while each are based in their respective cockpits or control towers.

Airbus ProSky – the air traffic management subsidiary of Airbus – and Paris-based Steria signed an agreement with nine additional partners for the system’s advancement, following completion of a collaborative research & development project. The nine other partners include: Aerospace Valley, Airbus, DSNA, ENAC, Thales, Oktal SAS, CGX AERO, Alticode and Intespace.

Under terms of the accord, Airbus ProSky will handle the promotion and marketing of Shared Virtual Sky – which has its origins in the Gaia Virtual Sky project launched by Aerospace Valley in 2007; while Steria will be responsible for operating it as a software service.

This solution supports the European Commission’s efforts to modernise air traffic management systems through its Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project, which seeks to develop a world-class integrated air traffic navigation system. Ten industry leaders currently are conducting experiments as part of the SESAR project, and five participants are negotiating to join the SVS platform in 2013 to validate their new ideas.

The Shared Virtual Sky technology also can be adapted to other industries that face similar challenges with respect to interconnection and interoperability of systems.

February 20, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Boeing Moves Forward with the Phantom Eye Hydrogen Powered UAV

Two of the biggest topics of discussion in the aviation industry in recent years have been Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) and alternative fuels.  Hidden in the Boeing 787 news last week is another story from Boeing that will play a role in both of those topics.

The Boeing Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-powered high altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft system that could have a tremendous impact on the future of aviation.  As you can see in the video below, it looks pretty cool too.

I have written about UAVs before, and become increasingly interested in them the more that I learn about projects like this.  The Phantom Eye is designed to fly at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet, and stay airborne for as long as four days.  You want to talk about options?  Having an airframe that could stay airborne for four days at incredibly high altitudes gives all kinds of options when it comes to military applications, or even civilians when it comes to disaster relief and other situations where having an “eye in the sky” would prove useful.

One of the biggest pieces of news in this story is the use of liquid hydrogen as fuel instead of traditional fossil fuels.  I don’t necessarily think that liquid hydrogen is the answer to our long-term fuel issues, but the fact that companies are actively pursuing other fuels gives me hope for the future.  We don’t need one fuel to replace fossil fuels, but if we can come up with new technologies to ease the burden in certain parts of the industry then we are moving in the right direction.

Last week the Phantom Eye performed taxi tests in preparation for its second flight later this year.  Improvements had been made since its first flight on June 1, 2012.  One of the most notable improvements was to the landing gear.  Learning from the landing gear on the F/A-18 Hornet they were able to make this landing gear more durable after the first attempt resulted in the gear collapsing on landing.

February 11, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Airbus Building the Aviation Industry Through Education at the Airbus Lycée

Education is a huge part of my life.  It was ingrained into my head at a very early age that getting a good education is essential to success in life.  As I have grown older I have come  to learn that education has way more faces than just going to school where a teacher stands in front of a class and gives lessons.

One of my favorite recent lessons comes from Mark Cuban.  Admittedly, I have become enthralled by the things he says and writes since seeing him on the ABC show Shark Tank because he is always very real.  There are two blog pasts that he did in particular that struck a chord with me.  The first is entitled How to Get Rich, and the second is SharkTank & Success & Motivation.  What stuck out to me in these posts was the role that education played in his success.

He started out like many people with a Bachelor’s degree, but ultimately most of his education came from sources other than a traditional school.  He spent countless hours reading manuals, and books, and essentially anything that he could find that would help him better understand the things he was doing.  He saw every job he had as being paid to learn as opposed to paying to go to school.  He continues to value information as the thing that sets people apart.  The fact is that the information is out there, it is just a matter of whether or not we are willing to pursue it.

So what does any of this have to do with aviation, Airbus, and the Airbus Lycée?  Let me explain.

For over 60 years now the Airbus Lycée has been a Company Technical College, and is apparently one of the few such establishments that still exist in France.  Their program has four different focuses: Industrial Metalwork Technician; Machining Technician; Avionics Mechanic; Airframe Systems Mechanic.  This degree program would appear to be similar to many other aeronautical programs, but there is a distinct difference that I think is largely missing with most schools, especially in the US.

The first two years of this three year program are academic like most schools, but the third year is done under an apprentice status allowing the students to gain more practical knowledge as opposed to just book knowledge.  This apprentice year is invaluable when it comes to applying knowledge in a real world environment.  Experience is one of the biggest hurdles for students coming out of college, but this program provides both an education and experience.

Perhaps even more valuable is that the program takes place in the Airbus Saint-Eloi plant.  This allows students to interact with professionals from day one, gaining precious understanding of how the concepts they are learning are actually being used.  By sharing the same facilities, they are also able to gain an understanding of the corporate culture, and how they fit into it.

We need more education like this.  It is important to have a baseline understanding built from academics, but is is even more important to understand how those concepts are applied.  Reading about how a turbine engine works is a nice start, but actually opening up an engine and seeing how the parts fit together to make a device that is capable of creating enough thrust to lift a massive plane into the sky is an even higher level of understanding.

Airbus is doing themselves, and the industry as a whole, a great service by preparing these students for a career in aviation.  They are providing not only the book knowledge but the practical knowledge that can be so much harder to obtain.  It is this practical knowledge that truly sets people like Mark Cuban apart.  For those who are willing to go the extra mile and pursue this type of education, the rewards will be dramatically greater than for those who are simply pursuing a piece of paper after four years and tens of thousands of dollars.

For those fortunate enough to benefit from the Airbus Lycée they are holding their annual Open Day February 16th to explain their program and what they have to offer.

February 10, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Boeing and Airbus Working Together to Make NextGen ATC a Reality

If you browse through this blog at all it will become apparent rather quickly that I am a huge proponent of NextGen ATC technology.  Call me crazy, but when it has been proven that there is a system that exists to replace decades old technology to make something more efficient, effective, and safe, I think we should act quickly to implement it.

While it is not happening as quickly as some people would like to see, it is happening.  Just last week Qatar Airways flew a RNP-AR approach into Nepal.  This week Frontier Airlines received certification from the FAA to fly the same types of approaches in the US.

I find it interesting that both of these events share a common trait.  They are both heavily impacted by high terrain.  Nepal is one of the most mountainous countries in the world, and Frontier does a huge amount of business through Denver which is nestled high in the mountains of Colorado.

These applications are where the safety impact of NextGen becomes so apparent.  Navigational aids are all based on line of sight, which makes it incredibly difficult for ground-based navigational aids to be effective in mountainous regions.  While GPS still requires line of sight with satellites, it is much easier to achieve that with the satellites positioned overhead as opposed to the being on the ground where they can easily be blocked by mountains.

While both of these press releases come from Airbus, it is important to note that both Airbus and Boeing are actually working together to make this new system a reality.  On Airbus’s ProSky website, which is essentially their ATC arm, they have a long description of how the two airlines are cooperating to improve the whole system.

Boeing and Airbus are two of the biggest corporate competitors in the world, so to see them work together on something says a lot about its importance.

For those who may not really understand what exactly NextGen is, Boeing has an article that does a great job of explaining some of the most important technology, namely the ADS-B and how it works to improve air travel for everyone involved.

February 5, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.