Flying High with Project Management

As my closest friends know, I am a huge airplane buff. I love aviation and really love to follow the large aircraft  manufactures as they develop the next generation of planes to transport millions of people a day. Recently on the Financial Times of London, there was a great article talking about the ongoing war between Boeing and Airbus to gain control of the wide body aircraft market. For those of you that do not know, a wide body aircraft is for the most part one that has more than one aisle running the length of the aircraft. Currently, examples of this type of plane would be the 787, 777, 747, A380, etc. They are needless to say very large aircraft and occupy large air routes.

Long-haul contender: the twin-engine Airbus A350 is rolled out of the factory in Toulouse. The manufacturer is hoping to stage a fly-past at the Paris air show

Many individuals that pay attention to the news will hear stories about endless delays for these manufactures in their development of new aircraft due to any number of reasons. Something that occurred to me is that while many of these delays can take headlines, they are really a larger product of poor project management practice. It is absolutely true that aircraft have a very very long lifespan within the marketplace and traditionally, a new product is on the market for 20 or 30 years at a time. This timeframe supports the extensive time and costs that are required to bring a new product to market that truly revolutionizes the marketplace and well as providing a product that provides business justification to airlines to purchase these new fleets. While these timeframes are very long, the recent trend has been to experience extreme delays in these developments and more importantly, in customer delivery. I have started to ask myself if these firms are starting to reach an unrealistic view of the requirements in the developments of these next gen products.

787 wide body interior
787 wide body interior

Bringing two perfect examples into context, both Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 are two of the most recent entrants into the marketplace and both are constructed of something called carbon fiber. This technique allows for extreme strength of the airframe while significantly dropping the weight on the aircraft. Additionally, both of these aircraft are being constructed using a significantly diverse supply chain as opposed to more traditionally held models supported by the manufactures themselves. The project timeframes were simply unrealistically constructed and did not take into account the possibility of things going wrong all over the place. This delayed both aircraft by literally years as problems had to be worked out in both design and the supply chain. This is becoming a chronic trend for these firms and quite frankly in my opinion, these issues are ripping down their reputations.

The question to all of us project manager students is simple. When we are working on our own development schedules, how do we intend to build in time for the foreseen and unforeseen issues that can occur and what do we do when we are faced with such troubles both from a management and reputation standpoint?


Big guns blaze in wide-body war

Warren Buffet makes largest personal plane purchase of all time!

In these hard financial times, owners of private jets are finding themselves unable to afford their lavish lifestyles. In March of 2011, business tycoon Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, made history by making the largest personal plane purchase of all time. His foresight of luxury air travel for the corporate elite gave him the confidence to make a purchase of over 400 jets from Bombardier Inc., the world’s largest business-jet maker. The fall of the housing market in America inhibited Americans from a budget for luxury travel. With the slow and steady increase in our housing market, Berkshire Hathaway feels confident that the global economy will bounce back and luxury travel could be bigger and better than ever before. Scott Ernest, the CEO of Cessna planes, believes Buffets purchase showed “confidence in the growing strength and long-term outlook of the clobal economy and the aviation industry.”  Even revolutionaries like Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic are on the verge of launching cutting edge space travel – the ultimate experience in aviation.

The power Buffett possesses with his net worth of $44 Billion enabled him to make a great deal with manufactures of the aircrafts. When you are able to make such a significant order, obviously the cost of goods will go down considerably. Basically, Buffett cornered the market of 8-12 passenger small business jet planes that are affordable for the 10% – .001% instead of larger jets. This allows more business men opportunities to travel in style, and the options of available places to fly is now almost limitless and it opens them to new opportunities such as creating new jobs for struggling economies. Warren Buffett has almost created his own industry and no-one will be able to compete in that sector of the market place because of his net worth. It will be interesting to see how this will play out and if this can be added to Warren Buffett’s repertoire of successful ventures for Berkshire-Hathaway.