Did Boeing Back Itself Into A Corner?
Boeing Commercial Aircraft has made such a big noise about its
newest commercial aircraft prospect, the 7E7 Dreamliner, that it
may be too late to back out.
Boeing's board of directors is scheduled to decide whether the
company will push forward with the project at its meeting December
15th. New Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher said last week that he fully
supports the new project. Already, the company has staged a
worldwide competition to name the aircraft, a nationwide
competition for a community in which to base its assembly plant and
has divided work on the project among several different countries.
It looks for all the world like the only thing left is to sign on
the bottom line.
"The board almost has no choice,"
says Richard Aboulafia. He's an aviation analyst at Teal Group, a
consulting company. "They're set up for embarrassment if they
don't. ... Face is involved here. Politics is involved here."
Indeed, as far as Boeing's image is concerned, the Dreamliner is
a much-needed project, Aboulafia says. With the 767 "supertanker"
project on hold pending a DOD investigation, the recent EELV
scandal and a probe into how Boeing beat out Raytheon for a missile
shield contract, Aboulafia says Boeing needs all the PR help it can
Even worse, Boeing's reputation in the commercial aircraft
marketplace is at stake. So says Michel Merluzeau, principal
analyst with New York-based market research firm Frost and
Sullivan. "Boeing will not be a player in the commercial aircraft
market if this project does not go ahead."
The 7E7 would be Boeing's first new commercial aircraft since
the 777 was introduced in 1990. Many analysts see the Dreamliner as
practically the only way Boeing will continue to compete with
Airbus. The European aviation consortium is forecast to overtake
Boeing as the world's top-selling commercial aircraft manufacturer
But the way Boeing has gone about raising awareness of the 7E7
may make the airline some enemies down the road. Putting the
location of its assembly plant up for bid among communities across
America means there will be a lot of disappointment when the winner
is announced. One newspaper reports the choice will be Everett
(WA). That would be a big let-down for other competitors -- most
notably, Wichita (KS).
"We have been working in every possible way to make this happen
here for Boeing in Kansas," said Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. "We would be very disappointed
if it doesn't go ahead."