The dreamliner, the big new modern Boeing airplane, is almost ready for prime time. It will cost apparently $197 million each. (This number does seem to change from report to report.) As an entirely new venture into airplane construction, it has several elements in common with the F35 fighter jet project, including these:
- Construction was done in a relatively new, perhaps risky manner. Boeing used several independent contractors. The F35 used all-up testing (I think they called this convergence).
- Many new materials were involved.
- Government subsidies can be suspected.
- The airplane is late. By several years.
- Current delivery plans seem a bit fluffy. Air Canada will get planes in 2013, maybe. Canada will get jets in 2014, maybe.
There are some differences:
Presumably (after all the bugs are shaken out) the dreamliner will be comfortable and safe. The F35 has one engine and, apparently, no fire extinguisher.
The dreamliner is cheaper, larger, carries more cargo weight, and will probably make a profit for everyone, eventually. The F35 may make a profit for the major contracting company; everyone else involved will either be employees (military) or victims (enemy).
Other countries are watching the dreamliner as competition. The F35 has competitors in some countries, and collaborators in others. It is not clear which are more dismayed by the current state of the warplane’s development.
So, now for the dumb question.
Are overruns in cost and time inevitable with large projects? Particularly aerospace projects? Particularly projects with very large innovation content? Particularly projects with direct or indirect government support?
Is it clear there is any other way to get these things built?
do we need them? I submit the dreamliner is of more value to civilization than the F35.