Air Transport World

As smooth as silk. (Boeing 777 performs well in first year of service)(includes related article on GE-90 engine)

777 customers applaud the aircraft's first 12 months in service as remarkably uneventful

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the [Boeing] 777 is the best aircraft we have ever introduced." David Cooper, British Airways deputy project manager for the 777, sounds pleased and relieved, having spent months before the new aircraft's service debut lying awake thinking about things that could go wrong. Apart from the well-covered delays caused by problems with the GE90 engine, not much has occurred.

Boeing and United Airlines, the leading 777 operator, are saying that a much-publicized dispute was blown out of proportion. It became public in March, when a letter from Joseph O'Gorman, United executive vice president-fleet operations, to 777 Program Manager Ron Ostrowski was leaked to the press. In it, O'Gorman described the 777's reliability and performance as "a major disappointment," and called the number of cancellations "intolerable." Three months later, the customer and manufacturer explained this tiff as a matter of too-high expectations, sounding rather like a couple caught screaming at each other in public.

Standard metrics of performance bear out Cooper's enthusiasm. The 777 entered service with United on June 7, 1995. Just over a year later, in mid-June, 26 aircraft were flying with eight operators. They had made 10,565 revenue flights and flown 47,653 hr., with a 4.5-hr. average sector time--firmly in the medium-haul category. The high-time aircraft, United's WAO06, had 4,251 hr., and All Nippon's WA131 was the cycle leader with 1,934 revenue flights.

Overall, since the beginning of service, 97.8% of flights have departed without an aircraft-related delay of more than 15 min. A comparison of the 777,767 and 747-400 records shows a common pattern: Reliability is worst about two months after service entry, picks up quickly by the 6-month point and then settles into a gradual increase. But the numbers are different. The 777 never dipped far below 97% and is hovering around 98%, a level that the 767 took three times as long to attain.

Operators are counting on the 777's performance in new ways. British Airways' first 777 was in service five days after delivery, a house record for a brand-new airframe and engine. The following three aircraft went into service the day after they arrived at Heathrow. BA's first increased-gross-weight (IGW) aircraft, due to be delivered in February, already is scheduled to be carrying revenue passengers two days after the delivery date.

Boeing, British Airways and United all credit this performance to the changes in the way the 777 was designed and developed. "We have a new way of building the aircraft," and a different way of relating to people, remarks John Monroe, senior manager in the 777 program-management office.

The 777, however, was different in two specific ways from previous Boeing projects. One was technological: It was the first Boeing aircraft designed in its entirety on computers. The other was philosophical: Instead of being developed by a hierarchy, divided according to disciplines and with strong divisions among engineering, manufacturing and support organizations, the 777 was developed by a confederation of integrated-product teams (IPTs), that included manufacturing and support people, and worked in close cooperation with the customers. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.