Serious About the 7E7?

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By kingmaddmaxx
April 25, 2003

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Boeing's future in commercial aircraft now hinges on a single plane, dubbed the 7E7; it is likely the last chance Boeing will get to prove to itself and its customers that it is serious about commercial aircraft. Three times before Boeing has announced major new programs and then quietly cancelled them; if you can't remember them, they were the 747-500/600, the 747X, and of course the ill-timed Sonic Cruiser. Going one step beyond the usual three strikes and you're out policy, Boeing has a fourth chance, a last chance, to show what it can do... and the Board seems to be ready to cancel it. Harry Stonechipher and McDonnell were identified Monday in an article in the Seattle Times as being ready to block any effort on the 7E7 if the development and manufacturing costs weren't significantly lower than that of the 777, the last all new Boeing model which itself started as a 767 derivative.

Public speculation on the 7E7 development costs range from 6 to 12 Billion dollars, Billion with a B people, and the Seattle Times cites that Stonecipher wants those costs to come in below 40 percent of that total for development and 60 percent of what it cost to build the 777 when building the 7E7. It can't be done, at least not the Boeing way. So begins the massive search to outsource as much work, design and manufacture as possible, and even a search for a new assembly site, if Washington won't play ball.  Boeing seems to be willing to go to a different stadium, I hear Texas is rather sunnier than Seattle this time of year. The political repercussions of building it overseas, (China anyone?), are also being considered and this should frighten not just Seattle but anyone with an interest in Boeing. Period.

Now, hard questions are being asked in light of all this speculation: Is Boeing after the long term health, or the short term gains with its strategy? Phil Condit throws up the usual management wall, saying we of course want both. Actions and accusations at this point seem to speak louder than those words. What is the right answer for Boeing? Should they forsake development of new models to help the bottom line? It didn't work out so well for McDonnel-Douglas, whom Boeing bought in 1997, but did work out well for its management who went on to hold high executive positions within Boeing. Harry Stonecipher seems to have brought this attitude with him and whispers the magic words of stock price and high margins into Phil Condit's ear, and we see Boeing react accordingly. Wisely or unwisely the current management will decide Boeing's fate. The decision will affect the company for the rest of its life and can be boiled down to one question: Are we serious about building planes, or just content to be an also-ran? I am serious, and my fellow employees are as well. Let's hope that management is as well or Boeing will be relegated to the history books with so many others that once were great contributors to the frontier of flight.

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