Re: TV programme on 777

From: (Martin Lomas)
Date:         18 Nov 92 19:39:39 GMT
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In <airliners.1992.2@ohare.Chicago.COM> (Jonathan Bowen) writes:

>Last night (Sunday 15 Nov), Channel 4 broadcast a TV programme on the
>production of the new Boeing 777 airplane in the Equinox series in the
>UK. Unfortunately I only saw the last 5 minutes of the programme. Would
>anyone who saw the whole programme like to provide a summary in this
>forum? In particular, I would be interested to hear if any mention was
>made of the fly-by-wire and safety aspects of the plane.
>Jonathan Bowen, <>
>Oxford University Computing Laboratory.

OK, here goes (and without the aid of a video recorder! :-):

New Boeing 777 and its design. The program concentrated on the
general aspects of how the whole thing is put together - ie:
need, management, tools used, some financial. Hard technical
details were scant.

Boeing need a plane that is bigger than their 757 and 767 yet smaller
than the 747. With latest design, the 777 will be smaller than the
747 yet carry nearly the same number of passengers. Pressure from
customers and competition from Airbus and McDonnald Douglas. Large
order from American Airlines and others prompted the design start.
Production aircraft by 1995(?).

Large mainframe cluster (IBM!) being used for all drawings (CAD) work
with stress analysis to let engineers reduce component weight ('safely')
where possible. A full size mockup to test whether all components will
fit together will not be needed (as made for previous planes) due to
computer design checks. (Component clashes checked and highlighted.)

International manufacturing: Electronics from UK, rudder from Australia,
various (large) sections from Europe, and all assembled at Boeing's now
being built plant in America.

Some design decisions shown: Use of Aluminium-Lithium alloy -- strong
and light but cracks when drilled. However, the cracks don't propagate
and so are safe. Reluctantly rejected due to engineers' fears of cracks
and possible confusion over what parts must be crack free and where
cracks are 'ok'.

Safety: Issue of doors mentioned -- trade many doors against plane
too heavy, so compromise. Doors must open even with quarter inch
ice sealing them shut. Good demonstration showing their intended
design works. (Big freezer, idiot in there sprays on water, big party
next day to see the door break open.)
  Cost compromises: None made where the plane's flyability is concerned,
possible compromises for such as crash survivabilty and other cases.
Concentrate efforts to AVOID crashes. Anyway, bad for business
if your plane falls out of the sky!

Fly by wire briefly explained. Safety issues NOT covered. Only advantages
of better fuel economy and smoother flight mentioned. Implied weight
savings due to easier mechanics. Intended fly-by-wire system currently
being tested on a 757 with dual control systems (mechanical and the FBW).
Hundreds of real flights being performed. Some mention given to making
the controls similar to existing planes so the pilots can be easily trained
for the plane. Control ergonomics reviewed by test pilots to great detail
(focus in on 'that knob doesn't click nicely when switching between
settings -- make it click better...').

Two engines only on the plane -- one adequate for flight across the
Atlantic. Engine reliabilty relied upon. Customer engineers allowed
to review the new engines for servicing and to make mods.

Customers allowed into (some) of the Boeing meetings to discuss the
777's design and to suggest mods. 'Open management' strategy.

Main thrust of the program was the huge cost and complexity of the
task of producing a new aircraft to tight schedules. Management
style/issues covered much more than the technical issues.

Good documentary very much in the 'Skyscraper' style that this film
company first produced.

Any other critics out there?