Air Transport World

777: a program of new concepts. (Boeing 777 Jet transport)

One of the most interesting aspects of the Boeing 777 is the amount of new thinking that is going into the program. The 777 is Boeing's first completely new transport program since the 767, which was launched in 1978. Considerable thought was given to new ways to manage a program with the 7J7 150-seat effort. And while that program never was launched, officials say that many of the new ways of doing things emanated from the effort.

Philip Condit, executive vice president and 777 program manager, usually begins a description of the aircraft by saying that it is "customer driven." And while manufacturers have been saying such things for many years about many programs, this time, they really can say it. One of the most notable features of the 777 effort has been the early participation of airlines. In fact, about 2 1/2 years before the 777 was launched, Boeing formed a group of eight airlines: United, American and Delta from the U.S., British Airways for Europe and Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways for the Pacific region. All have assigned people to give their wants and hopes for the new program.

American Airlines Managing Director of Fleet Planning Ken Raff, an early participant, says he expects that the "early airline participation will help produce more broad-based appeal among customers," which he feels is a step forward. American has not ordered any 777s but the aircraft is considered a likely candidate to replace its large fleet of DC-10-10s.

The early airline participation produced a unique relationship between Boeing and launch customer United Airlines, resulting in a hand-written agreement between Condit and Richard Albrecht, Boeing's other executive vice president, on the one hand, and United Executive VP-Operations James Guyette. According to Guyette, it was a very informal meeting, really, "and it was just agreed that we should write down our feelings about working together to produce this airplane." He says a similar agreement has been developed with Pratt & Whitney-which will make United's 777 engines-that is "a new philosophy" for a long-term "working relationship at the top of our companies."

Guyette says one of the major benefits is that United will have inputs during all phases of the program and, "Boeing listens and responds to our needs." He says United has full-time people at Boeing, actually participating in the design of the 777. He calls it "concurrent design," something that has not been done before in commercial-airplane programs. …

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