Boeing Dreamliner: Game of Software versus Systems Chicken

Boeing finally admitted yesterday that it was delaying the introduction of the 787 Dreamliner from May 2008 to the end of 2008. Just a few days ago, Boeing was insisting that it would make the May delivery, even if it had to work 24 hours a day to do so.

Along with some production problems having to do with parts availability (e.g.,"from fasteners .. to clips and brackets and small assemblies being provided further down in the supply chain") as well as - drum roll please - software.

The issues with software are "coding and integration." More time is required to let the software "mature" through additional testing.

Quoting from Scott Carson,Boeing Co., EVP, CEO Boeing Commercial Airplanes:

"But let me say this about the overall system integration work. We have had two or three software areas that have been on the critical path right along with the production build of the airplane. .... the software and structures work, were running neck and neck."

"As it became clear that in fact the most critical pacing item was the structures, this has actually given us a little bit of headroom on the software side. We're going to have much more time with the software in the lab, both in terms of maturing the individual software itself but also in integrating the software packages to assure service-ready functionality by the time the airplane flies. So the silver mining in this cloud tied to the structures work is we think it has given us some breathing room that is going to allow the software piece to be much more mature by the time the airplane flies."

Ah, the old game of software versus systems chicken to see who has to blink first, and admit they are more behind than the other guy.

Congratulations!! The software guys win.

How hard do you think the software folks were praying that those fasteners wouldn't be available before their tests were? So even though the software is late (and over-budget?), it doesn't look as bad as if software development were alone the hold-up to the Dreamliner's in-service date.

BTW, a note to the FAA - you may want to do some extra "maturity" checks on that software.


Risk Factor

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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City