Any company is worried when it launches a new product. There are concerns over sales and performance. One example is when new car model is offered. People often shy away from the first year of a new car because there are “bugs” in the system that need to fixed. The people buying the new product become beta testers and often have to endure recalls to correct the flaws that are expected to appear. Now when your new product costs over $200 million and flies through the air, there is even greater concerns when bugs appear. However, any new product has minor problems, even airplanes.
Boeings new 787 “Dreamliner” has been having its share of minor problems in January of 2013. Early on there was a braking problem then a fuel leak that brought out emergency crews at Logan International Airport in Boston. Here is part of the story about the fuel leak:
A Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner jet operated by Japan Airlines Co. is towed back to the gate at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. The plane leaked fuel while taxiing for departure today in Boston, in the second incident involving the Boeing Co. aircraft in two days. Photographer: Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Bloomberg
“I am 100 percent convinced the airplane is safe to fly,” Mike Sinnett, chief 787 project engineer, said on a conference call with reporters yesterday. “I fly on it myself all the time.”
Thus far, the airlines that have ordered the planes have expressed confidence in the new plane.
More recently, there was an oil leak and problem with the cockpit. These problems were experienced by All Nippon Airways. Japan has been the largest purchaser of the Dreamliner but you also have airlines in Qatar, India, Ethiopia, Poland, and the U.S. who have purchased and/or are using the planes.
The Dreamliner is revolutionary in its use of composites and fuel savings generated by using these new materials. The minor problems have caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. The FAA has ordered a comprehensive review of the critical systems on the Dreamliner. This could further eroded airline and passenger confidence in the new airplane.
Here is the response from Boeing:
EVERETT, Wash., Jan. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Boeing [NYSE:BA] is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane that brings tremendous value to our customers and an improved flying experience to their passengers.
The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily. Its in-service performance is on par with the industry’s best-ever introduction into service – the Boeing 777. Like the 777, at 15 months of service, we are seeing the 787’s fleet wide dispatch reliability well above 90 percent.
More than a year ago, the 787 completed the most robust and rigorous certification process in the history of the FAA. We remain fully confident in the airplane’s design and production system.
Regular reviews of program and technical progress are an important part of the validation and oversight process that has created today’s safe and efficient air transportation system. While the 787’s reliability is on par with the best in class, we have experienced in-service issues in recent months and we are never satisfied while there is room for improvement. For that reason, today we jointly announced with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the start of a review of the 787’s recent issues and critical systems.
We welcome the opportunity to conduct this joint review. Our standard practice calls on us to apply rigorous and ongoing validation of our tools, processes and systems so that we can always be ensured that our products bring the highest levels of safety and reliability to our customers.
Just as we are confident in the airplane, we are equally confident in the regulatory process that has been applied to the 787 since its design inception. With this airplane, the FAA conducted its most robust certification process ever. We expect that this review will complement that effort.
Questions to Consider
1. How bad is the situation for Boeing and what leads you to that conclusion?
2. What role can public relations play in helping to address this problem?
3. Some media outlets have found experts that say minor problems are common in new airplanes. Who might this type of information help Boeing? Hurt Boeing?
4. Why should the FAA announcement be so significant in this case?
5. How would you evaluate Boeing’s response and what is the rationale for your evaluation?
6. What else might Boeing doing and how would those efforts help?
7. How is publicity working against Boeing in this case?