Having combined its 737 Max return to service, commercial customer support, and derivative development programs into a single entity, Boeing finds the reorganization is bringing benefits to its latest development and certification efforts.
“It’s a dynamic time in the industry, with changes with regulators and within Boeing,” said senior v-p Mike Fleming, who Boeing recruited to lead the commercial derivatives program in January. “The [737 Max] accidents caused us to reflect on development programs and what we do, and we’re taking those lessons learned on the Max and extending those onto the next development programs, the 737 Max 7 and then the 777-9.”
The new organization for the first time also brings program development and customer support within the same organization. “I’m going to get to eat my own cooking,” said Fleming, a veteran of both the initial Boeing 777 and 787 development programs, noting that synergies among the groups can apply to all its derivative programs.
The 777X-9’s comprehensive test program continues, Fleming said, the development timeline having been moved to the right to ensure “high reliability and maturity” upon service entry. He noted that Boeing spent 18 months of program analysis and 11 months of ground testing before the first flight in January 2020. The program has logged more than 1,700 hours over 600-plus flights and Boeing expects to fly 3,500 hours on the 777-9 before certification, expected in late 2023.
Meanwhile Boeing is making "large" changes to the flight control systems on the in-development 737 Max 10, but they won’t affect the flight deck displays or the commonality among the Max variants, he said.
“The regulators asked us to look at the [flight control system] architecture to have more dissimilarities in some of components, to make them less susceptible to a common error” that could result from a common manufacturing flaw in two or three components, he said. In the event the automated system erroneously triggers a stick shaker, pilots can quickly shut off the system’s control. Boeing will also put more monitors on the airplane to “catch any anomalous situations.”