|BOAC, Now British Airways, Crews Cheer Arrival of DeHavilland Comet, World’s First Operational Jetliner Image: BOAC|
Chicago – 17 June, 2012 – In the interests of professional full disclosure, I completely disagreed with Boeing’s decision to drop development of the Sonic Cruiser – an aircraft with the potential to completely reshape the commercial air travel landscape in a way not seen since the debut of the jet-powered DeHavilland Comet, Boeing 707 and supersonic Concorde (I had the profound privilege of being aboard Concorde 4 times) in favor of the aesthetically boring -save for the exquisite interior- though technologically advanced Dreamliner. An analysis in queue, but never completed owing to national security related events which commanded our full attention, was entitled “Boeing Chooses Mediocrity Over Greatness”. Indeed, a wonderful opportunity was missed to give the flying public a large glimpse of the future in aircraft design, and one that would have had people flocking to airports just to see it. It should be mentioned however, that according to Flight Global’s Steve Trimble last month, there is reconsideration -on going as we speak- of a somewhat reconfigured, and in all likelihood Mach 1 capable, Sonic Cruiser as replacement for 757.
|Artist’s Rendering of The Sonic Cruiser: If Boeing Doesn’t Build it The Japanese and The Chinese Most Certainly Will Image: Boeing|
The foregoing statement is one given substance as I recall recommending to then British Airways Director of Public Relations John Lampl that he should strongly consider having Concorde visit Tampa International Airport. In the aftermath of having flown this superlative aircraft on its inaugural run for Miami service in March of 1984 and then again the following year, I felt this visit would act as a stimulus for further developing the passenger base in the Tampa – St.Petersburg -Clearwater market. John agreed, and Concorde did indeed visit Tampa in 1985 and thrilled the 100,000+ people who responded to an excellent PR campaign that included a full page ad simply saying “Concorde’s Coming!”.
|Airbus A380 Image: Airbus|
I always believed Boeing management, under the then captaincy of Dr. Philip Condit, weakly bowed to pressure from Airbus’ John Leahy and under informed aviation media’s public debunking of Boeing’s Sonic Cruiser announcement in 2001 following a near total rejection of its revamped 747X in favor of the “clean sheet of paper” A380 Super Jumbo. And in hindsight, must be viewed as nothing more than a thinly disguised fear by Leahy that the proposed near-sonic Boeing aircraft would simply neutralize the market momentum and presumed ascendancy induced by A380.
In the 2001 analysis “Boeing Going?” Leahy was quoted as saying “The 747 is a very fine airplane, but it’s based on 1960’s technology.” To which our editorial team responded:
|Then Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Alan Mulally Unveils a 3-dimensional Model of the Sonic Cruiser during the 2001 Paris Air Show. There is Little Doubt That Mulally Would Have Successfully Launched the Program Image: Boeing|
|Delivery of 787 Aircraft to Launch Customer ANA at Everett, WA Production Facilities in September 2011|
Destined For Success: Dreamliner Completing World Tour
With the delivery of 787 aircraft to launch customer ANA last September, and the near completion of its world tour flight demonstrations, Boeing appears to be on a roll.
The myriad manufacturing process issues, particularly the conjoining of metal to composites, seemed to have been resolved, although academic colleagues in the field of metallurgy and an aerospace industry supplier are not totally convinced that Boeing has crafted a long term solution to the latter concern. “In my mind, I keep envisioning a [DeHavilland] Comet-like state of affairs from an aircraft structural integrity standpoint; the result of pushing the technological envelope too far, too fast,” said a supplier colleague. “While I have seen Boeing engineers over the decades demonstrate an incredible knack for ultra-complex problem solving, the issue of composites being used this extensively in an airframe (50%) and conjoined metal to composite in the wing box is a new animal. No one has demonstrated or answered convincingly to my satisfaction that separation of the conjoined components will not occur subsequent to X amount of flight cycles. You can’t put one thing that doesn’t move on top of something that does.
“Of course, I very much want 787 to succeed brilliantly. And, although confident that every problem has a solution, I remain convinced that only a short to mid-term solution has been crafted to gain FAA approval. An approval mind you, that prompted a GAO investigation into the 787-specific modified certification processes.”
|Boeing 707 Image: Boeing|
To be continued next week…