Oregon Magazine
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Ignoring Customer Desires
Threatens Boeing Contract


News item the U.S. Air Force has awarded a $35 billion contract to the Airbus 
European conglomerate for a jet
refueling tanker aircraft fleet following
proposals
 by Airbus and Boeing
   
By Fred Delkin

We grew up in a Seattle worshipping the output of its major
manufacturer, Boeing Aircraft, creator of the planes that bombed
Germany and Japan into submission in World War II and provided the
designs that made air travel successful on a global basis in the
early-20th century. Founder William Boeing came to Seattle in 1908,
leaving a Yale education to go into his father's lumber business
in western Washington. The 1909 Seattle Alaska Yukon Exposition
changed him forever when he first saw a flying machine, a pioneer
seaplane. Boeing went into airplane manufacturing, with the Boeing
Airplane Company incorporated in 1917, in time to negotiate a sale of
50 seaplanes to the U.S. Navy in the midst of WWI.

Boeing next went into the air mail business, designing the Model 40
which earned a U.S. Postal Service contract to carry mail and two
passengers between San Francisco and Chicago...a mere 22.5 hour
flight. This led to Boeing's entry into the airline business,
the design of the monoplane 247 and creation of United Air Lines,
which was divested from its parent Boeing in 1934. William Boeing Jr.
assumed control of his father's firm soon after and oversaw the debut
of the Flying Clipper, a giant luxury seaplane that was launched in

1938 to carry 74 passengers
across the Pacific ocean for
Pan American as the largest,
heaviest, longest-range, highest
capacity airliner in the world.
World War II ended the Clipper's
brief reign, but Boeing had
designed a heavy bomber, the
famed B-17 Flying Fortress,
developed from concept to test
flight in just 12 months and
forever worshipped for its
durability under enemy fire.

The B-17 was followed by the  B-29
that loosed the atomic bombs on Japan, ending the most deadly war in
human history. Yours truly was a teenage rivet-bucker one summer on
the B-29 fuselage assembly line. Today, the U.S. Air Force still
flies the B-29's successor, the B-52.

Postwar Passenger Debut

Boeing gained postwar global dominance in passenger aircraft with its
introduction of the 707 jet, followed by airline sales of the
subsequent 727, 737 and 747 airliner designs. However, military sales
declined and a slump in commercial plane development brought the gloom
of cutbacks and unemployment to a Puget Sound region that had venerated
the economic flagship that was Boeing...we well recall the billboards
along Seattle freeways at the end of the '60's that stated "Will the
last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?"

Now that specter threatens to return, though Boeing is trying to
overturn the U.S. Air Force contract decision. A trade publication,
AVIATION WEEK,ascribes Boeing's failure to earn the contract decision
as "arrogance about its relationship with the U.S. Defense Dept.,lack
of focus on customer requirements and reluctace to provide detailed
pricing data"...declaring that "Boeing knew more than the customer,
what the customer wanted and in its arrogance didn't listen."

We believe Boeing's current plight dates back to a decade ago when the
executives leading the company chose to move their headquarters from the
Seattle ancestral home to the current Chicago site. Late U.S. senators
Warren Magnuson and Scoop Jackson cemented their electability for years
by steering Defense Department spending to their home state of
Washington. Their absence and current Boeing leadership's failure to
understand the historical origins of the firm are the root causes of
Boeing's current malaise.

BREAKING NEWS March 29, 2008 ... Lockheed Martin Corp. has just outbid
Boeing Co. to win a $766.2 million Pentagon contract to design and
build
a radio system connecting aircraft, ships and ground stations
military-wide.

© 2008 Oregon Magazine