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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW MARCH/ APRIL
Nearly seven years ago, when I visited
Boeing's cavernous manufacturing
site in Everett, WA, the sight of machinists
playing ping-pong in a vast but idle shop
seemed to symbolize the stagnant state of
the aviation industry. Air travel had not
recovered from the terrorist attacks of Sep-
tember 11, 2001. And Boeing was facing sti
competition: Airbus, its European rival, had
made innovative advances in commercial
jets, such as rear tail pieces made
from lightweight composites.
Worse, Airbus was gearing up to
build the A380 superjumbo jet---a
higher-capacity, more e cient competitor
to Boeing's iconic 747.
Boeing needed to do something bold.
So it bet its business on a medium-sized
advanced aircraft called the 7E7---today
known as the 787 Dreamliner---that would
be 20 percent more fuel-e cient than other
jets of comparable size and cost less to main-
tain. Such a jet would make direct flights
between far-flung smaller cities (say, Bos-
ton and Bangalore) cost-e ective. "It's the
future. It really is," Mark Jenks, a Boeing vice
president who was then director of technol-
ogy integration for the 7E7 program, said to
me in 2003. "If we get it wrong, it's the end.
And everyone here knows that."
Boeing's plane would greatly increase
the use of advanced composites---layers of
carbon fibers embedded in epoxy resin to
form durable, lightweight materials. The 787
structure would be 50 percent composite,
compared with just 12 percent in Boeing's
previous jet, the 777, and 23 percent in the
Airbus A380. For the first time in commercial
aviation, the entire tube of the fuselage would
be a single piece of composite, replacing the
customary aluminum alloy skin a xed to
aluminum alloy ribs. In another first, the
wings and the center wing box---a chunk of
fuselage to which the wing structures attach---
would also be made of composites.
Innovation extended to the design and
manufacturing process. Airbus and Boeing
had long subcontracted some manufacturing,
and Airbus had even invited some subcontrac-
tors to invest and share the risk in the A380.
But in an e ort to reduce its own investment
and cut costs, "Boeing took it a lot
further," says Hans Weber, owner of
San Diego--based TECOP Interna-
tional, a technical consultant to the
aviation industry and government agencies
including the Federal Aviation Administra-
tion. Airbus had never outsourced design or
the manufacture of the main airframe. With
the 787, Boeing did both.
On paper, customers were impressed;
by the end of 2007, the 787 was the hottest-
selling jet in history. But when the first one
took wing for its first test flight in December,
it was the most delayed commercial jet in the
firm's history---28 months behind schedule.
The 787 had become bogged down in a saga
of parts shortages, subcontractor failures,
and weaknesses in crucial composite struc-
tures, requiring retrofits and redesigns.
WHERE S THE DUCT TAPE?
So what went wrong? For starters, the com-
pany lost track of certain details---namely,
fasteners. Building a single Boeing 777
requires 2.7 million titanium, aluminum,
and stainless-steel bolts, rivets, and other
fasteners peculiar to airframe manufacture.
Reinventing the Commercial Jet
THE LONG DELAYED BOEING 787 IS A LESSON IN THE LIMITS OF OUT
SOURCING. IT IS ALSO A PREVIEW OF THE FUTURE OF AIR TRAVEL.
By DAVID TALBOT
now appeal to more sophisticated European
noses, too, he said, though Europeans once
preferred the "intellectual" chypre genre.
And yet ... Eau Sauvage, dépassé as it
may be, is still admired for its structure,
and Austin says it had more character
than many of the mainstream scents "we
in the industry produce today." In his guide
Turin writes, "I always forget how good this
darned thing is. Part of the reason I don't
wear it is that it reminds me of my youth."
He embraces the new!
Then, in our madcap Saks round, Turin
randomly sprayed on a Guerlain eau de toi-
lette that, he said, was the only thing he wore
for years. I loved it. Eau de Guerlain is pure,
unsweet citrus, with a lingering light verbena
scent on the drydown. "If you want citrus,
there is simply nothing better out there," his
review says. Bergamot and citrus, also the
dominant notes in Eau Sauvage, are appar-
ently what I want. It makes sense. Verbena
was the scent of my childhood: my mother
ordered boxes of specially milled lemon
verbena soap for every bathroom.
Eau de Guerlain it is, then. Well ... there
was one new perfume that I kept return-
ing to with an almost physical craving, even
after smelling dozens: Bigarade Concentrée,
sold by Malle and created by Jean-Claude
Ellena, now the house fragrance designer for
Hermès, where he designed Eau de Pamp-
lemousse Rose, another citrus I liked. Biga-
rade Concentrée smells powerfully of bitter
Seville oranges, with nothing sweet or false
about it; Turin likes the "interesting mixture
of citrus friendliness and resinous auster-
ity." But I wouldn't pay the $210 for the 3.4-
ounce bottle (the same size bottle of Eau de
Guerlain costs less than $100).
Maybe my simple taste marks me as a
cook. "All chefs like citrus," Lev Glazman,
who creates bespoke scents as head of fra-
grances for the Boston-based firm Fresh,
told me. "It doesn't interfere with what
they're cooking." So sue me. My search for
the new resumes---with flavors.
CORBY KUMMER IS A SENIOR EDITOR AT THE ATLAN
TIC, WHERE HE WRITES ABOUT FOOD.
See more images of the Boeing 787:
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