The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is arguably one of the most anticipated commercial aircraft releases in many years. With the 787-8 boasting carrying capacities of 210 to 250 passengers with ranges of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles and the 787-9 capable of toting 250 to 290 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles, the Boeing 787 certainly presents many benefits to the end user, especially in the realm of efficiency. The 787 is said to use 20 percent less fuel than comparable size planes, while still achieving speeds of mach 0.85 like its wide-bodied big brothers. This plane looks rather good on paper, but does it live up to the hype?
Boeing first offered the 787 for sale in late 2003, with the program officially launching in April 2004. Since the time the Dreamliner went on sale in 2003, Boeing achieved a milestone sales record, pulling in a whopping $147 billion dollars—making it the most successful commercial airplane in the company’s history. Fifty-five customers from six continents have placed orders to date, with All-Nippon Airways, an airline from Japan, leading the charge. Three years of research and development, engineering, and prototyping lead to its completion and the opening of the final assembly plant in Everett, Wa., in May 2007. Finally, the much-anticipated and heavily delayed Boeing 787 finally made its maiden flight in December 2009—to tremendous fanfare.
So, it sounded as though everything was going according to plan…. Yet, in looking back at the development of this bleeding-edge airplane, it is evident that the program was riddled with delays, testing issues, and parts mistakes (affecting several parts ordered from subcontractors).
Boeing was treading new ground and, according to some industry pundits, did not anticipate the risks associated with outsourcing roughly 60 percent of the design and manufacture of the 787.
Boeing integrated 135 sites into a virtual workflow connecting vendors from around the world. Believe me, a longtime networking geek, when I say: This is no small undertaking. It requires the utmost planning, risk mitigation, and security to pull off such a feat successfully!
In my many years as an information technology expert, I have never once attempted, mastered, or otherwise been involved in a task of this scope and magnitude. I can see why some of Boeing’s dreams of the Dreamliner turned into nightmares.
So, what will tomorrow look like in this ever-expanding virtual world? If software and electronic design automation (EDA) vendors have anything to say about it, end users, engineers, designers, project managers, suppliers, and others will be quickly and easily linked in secure, shared, all-encompassing, collaborative virtual workspaces. In essence, companies such as Mentor Graphics are pioneers in the creation of an environment in which colleagues collaborating from half a world away are indistinguishable from those in the cubicles around you. This geek thinks the prospect sounds sweet!