What Law firms can learn from the Dreamliner
17/06/2013
A Japanese carrier's Dreamliner had engine trouble before takeoff recently, a day after a rival airline had a problem on another 787 plane. Neither problem was with the lithium-ion batteries that were overheating and resulted in the Boeing Co. aircraft being grounded for four months. The 787s returned to commercial service last month with their batteries now encased to prevent overheating from spreading.

The WalkerClark law firm in the US published on its web-site an interesting comment on the Boeing 787 debacle. "The February 4, 2013, issue of the  New Yorker includes a short piece on current problems with the Boeing Dreamliner.  It should be at the top of the reading list for every law firm managing partner who is considering the risks and opportunities of legal process outsourcing.  In “Requiem for a Dreamliner? James Surewiecki describes how Boeing’s decision to outsource design and production of an unprecedented percentage of the Boeing 787 aircraft,  combined with a “build twice, check once” attitude about FAA certifications, produced risks that could have been easily avoided."  Mr. Surewiecki writes:

In a fascinating study of the process, two U.C.L.A. researchers, Christopher Tang and Joshua Zimmerman, show how challenging it was for Boeing to work with fifty different partners. The more complex a supply chain, the more chances there are for something to go wrong, and Boeing had far less control than it would have if more of the operation had been in-house. Delays became endemic, and, instead of costing less, the project went billions over budget.  This article can be accessed here

Forbes Magazine  has reported on the recent US NTSB 787 Battery Hearing: "No one expected the two-day NTSB hearings that concluded Wednesday to answer the question why the Boeing 787’s lithium ion batteries dangerously overheated and in one case caught fire after only 52,000 hours of flight when Boeing had predicted that possibility as one in ten million flight hours.  That answer is likely months, if not a year or more, away.  But one could have expected an answer to why Boeing failed to use the standards developed by an independent advisory board – an advisory board that Boeing co-chaired – to re-assess the batteries before the aircraft was approved for passenger use.  And why the FAA failed to mandate that re-assessment…… If the public is to have any faith in FAA certification, it needs an answer to why industry developed minimum standards were not used when new technology was introduced into our nation’s airliners.  The implications for future certifications is obvious – and of tremendous concern."  The set of presentations at the hearing are of interest, as is NTSB Document ID No.: DCA13IA037 – the NTSB Chairman's Factual Report of the Battery issue. 

The Canada Globe and Mail published an interesting informatic on the Dreamliner troubles:

Boeing has released its annual Current Market Outlook in June, projecting a demand for 35,280 new aircraft over the next 20 years, valued at $4.8 trillion and a doubling of the world fleet over the next two decades. Passenger traffic and cargo traffic are each expected to grow 5% annually. The narrowbody market continues to be the main driver of the forecast and Boeing anticipates 24,670 new single-aisle aircraft will be needed in this segment because of the growth of low-cost carriers and airlines from emerging markets. There will be a need for 8,590 new widebodies, Boeing said, fueled in part by airlines replacing their older fleet with new, more fuel-efficient aircraft. The Boeing Market Outlook Report can be accessed here  and there is also a presentation of the report