China is always blamed for cheap processors on US, European, and Canadian jets or fighter jets, now it is India's turn. haha Can Boeing Contain the Dreamliner's Technical Glitches? - Forbes Can Boeing Contain the Dreamliner's Technical Glitches? Comment Now Follow Comments 2nd Boeing 787 First Flight 2nd Boeing 787 First Flight (Photo credit: Wikipedia) If there was ever a case for being a responsible corporate citizen, it is hard to imagine one much better than the obligation of an airplane maker to keep its passengers and crew safe. As I learned in researching my book, You Canâ€™t Order Change, Boeing (BA) has faced many challenges in fulfilling that responsibility with its 787 Dreamliner. And recent problems with the 787â€²s electrical system and fuel leaks â€” the latter leading to an FAA demand that Boeing inspect fuel line couplings in the engine pylons and check that lock wires were assembled correctly on all its 787s â€” suggest that more work needs to be done. On December 4, a 787 with 174 passengers and 10 crew operated by United Continental Holdings (UAL) ran into a mechanical problem on its way from Houston to Newark, N.J. â€” and that flight made an emergency landing in New Orleans. United said that one of the jetâ€™s six electric generators failed. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported, United spokeswoman Christen David said, â€œThe redundancies built into the aircraft allowed it to be powered by the remaining five electric power sources. We are replacing the generator and running additional checks so as to return the aircraft to service.â€ And according to the Seattle Times, on December 4, a person at Boeing with knowledge of the incident told the Seattle Times that the pilot observed â€œmultiple messagesâ€ indicating some system errors, and decided to divert â€œout of an abundance of caution.â€ Problems with the 787â€²s electrical system (ES) do not surprise me. After all, in August 2009, a source who worked as a software engineer at Boeing for a decade and was close to the 787 program, told me that there were serious problems with the 787â€²s ES. To be sure, there is no clear evidence that the problem with the electrical generator on that United flight is directly related to the problems with the ES that I learned about in 2009. However, this sourceâ€™s comments made me wonder whether there might be a connection. This source claimed that the 787â€²s ES failed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspection in 2008 so the FAA ordered the firm responsible for the ESâ€™s software to rewrite the code. In my reporting on August 19, 2009 on potential delays in delivering the 787, Boeing spokespeople denied knowledge of any serious problems with the 787â€²s systems. The ES is critical to aircraft operation â€” it distributes power around the aircraft from the engines and the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) â€” which provides the power to operate the air conditioning and to start the engines at the gate â€” to all the systems requiring electricity. My source told me that the ES is a so-called level A system (highest level of certification) â€” which must pass stringent testing. Such certification includes evidence of following processes in development and passing thousands of tests. Almost everything on the aircraft is electrical â€” even the brakes â€” so â€œit is very critical the system works flawlessly.â€ This source told me that the software that controls the ES was developed by HCL Technologies â€” a $2 billion (2008 revenues) Indian software company that worked with Boeing and its partners on the 787 and won Boeingâ€™s Gold Performance Excellence Award in February 2009. He spoke with colleagues at United Technologies (UTX) division â€” Hamilton Sundstrand (HS) â€” which was the ESâ€™s primary contractor. His ES colleagues told him that the Designated Engineering Representative (DER) â€” a SWAT team of top engineers that tests aircraft software against rigorous standards â€” and the FAA refused to certify the work HCL did and told HS to start over â€” without HCL. Several of my sourceâ€™s colleagues joined HS at the end of 2008 in an effort to rewrite the software. My source says the HCL was chosen for the software in response to Boeingâ€™s order that its suppliers outsource at least 25 percent of the work to overseas sub-contractors. The failure of the ES on that flight to Newark makes me wonder whether there is still a bug in the ES software. The 787â€²s problems are a result of a radical shift in the way Boeing managed aircraft development. As I wrote in my book, Boeing had a long history of command-and-control leadership â€” where top executives toldl everyone else what to do. Under its curent CEO, Jim McNerney, who took over in July 2005, Boeing adopted a so-called Transformational Leadership (TL) approach which empowered workers to make decisions, have ownership, and to take responsibility for success and/or failure. TL was behind Boeingâ€™s radical decision to outsource 60 % of the 787 design and manufacturing to its suppliers. In the past, Boeing had given its suppliers very detailed specifications. But with the 787, Boeing let the suppliers do the design and manufacturing. The first manager of the 787, Mike Bair, was a transformational leader. Bair took the blame for the 787â€²s delays and Boeing replaced Bair with Pat Shanahan from Boeingâ€™s defense unit. As such, Boeing reverted back to its old command-and-control style of leadership. My source claimed that when Boeing spent three days in the spring of 2008 with HS, the supplier of the 787â€²s electrical systems, Boeing issued orders to its supplier about how it wanted HS to fix the problems. Rather than listen to what HS thought would work, Shanahanâ€™s team issued orders. And according to my source, HS agreed to what Shanahan wanted even though it did not believe that his ideas or time-line would work. Building airplanes and flying people around in them is a huge corporate responsibility. I hope that those in charge are maintaining hyper-vigilance in fulfilling it â€” particularly when it come to making sure that the 787 can earn its Dreamliner moniker.