Were you aware that the largest building in the entire world (by volume) is dedicated to aviation innovation? I recently had the opportunity to visit Mukilteo, Washington, home of the biggest building in the world by volume. Sandy Ward, marketing director of the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour (www.futureofflight.org) graciously provided a personal tour of the museum following a fascinating tour of Boeing’s Everett factory. The Everett product line includes the Boeing 747, 767, 777, and the cutting-edge 787 Dreamliner all housed in a building that measures an impressive 472,000,000 cubic feet of volume.
On the flight line, I witnessed jets in various stages of manufacture, assembly, and flight test. One of the highlights of the factory tour was witnessing electronics and electrical infrastructure—specifically, wires being guided into the massive fuselages by one of 26 massive, overhead cranes that run over a 39-mile network of tracks in the ceiling of this behemoth building.
A majority of people travel by plane; yet, how many consider the electrical and electronic technologies hidden behind each aircraft’s metal and plastic facade? Hundreds of miles of wiring power everything from a reading light to the sophisticated flight control avionics in the cockpit. Even slight miscalculations by CAD software designing wiring harnesses can result in a severe backlash, costing companies millions or billions of dollars and, worse yet, their reputation.
This very circumstance took place in early 2007, when wiring designs for the Airbus A380 were passed between two different versions of CAD software. The result of this disconnected electrical design process : A major miscalculation in wire length throughout key hareness assemblies. Workers attempted to take apart and pull 300 miles of wire and some 40,000 connectors by hand. Airbus engineers quickly realized this approach was impossible to do manually; yet, estimates for a redo approached $6 billion in costs, including lost profit.
It all could have been avoided with the advent of an electrical systems design tool suite encompassing electrical system design, electrical analysis, system integration/wiring design and harness engineering. How many companies will learn this the hard way?