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Commercial Aircraft Development In Secret?  
User currently offlineJAM747 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 550 posts, RR: 1
Posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 3166 times:

I am sure for most products there is some level of secrecy when it comes to their development. In terms of commercial aircrafts has any been ever kept secret untill very close to first flight? Most aircraft designers normally consult with airlines during the development stage and with today's information age it is hard to keep much things secret. Could a manufacturer still get a big head start on the competition by keeping a development tight lipped till way into the development stage even when consulting airlines? Are airlines in discussions about a new aircraft development under any contractual obligation about to keep things confidential? I think one of the reasons the 777 has been so successfull is that Boeing involved quite a few airlines during it's development stage but I wonder if they were required to keep somethings to themselves. I am sure Airbus and others also consult with airlines too.

7 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13138 posts, RR: 15
Reply 1, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 3136 times:

Probably a number of engineering and design details are kept secret from potential customers or from any other persons who don't need to know during development and even after the a/c is delivered to the customers. Certain ways of engineering or design may be of such value that Boeing (for example) may make them a secret and not even apply for a patent to keep them away from Airbus or other competitors for competitive advantages.
For example, some major repairs can only be done by employees of the company that made the a/c, as in the case over a year ago when a CO 777 had a tail drag incident at EWR and Boeing employees went to EWR and did the repairs with very limited access to any CO employees or others during their work.


User currently offlineGeorgiaAME From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 985 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 3098 times:

Um, the final design of the 747-8I?


"Trust, but verify!" An old Russian proverb, quoted often by a modern American hero
User currently offlineSP90 From United States of America, joined May 2006, 388 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 3006 times:

Are we talking secret like military black project level of secrecy? I don't see how that is possible or beneficial in a commercial aircraft. The more technical engineering details can be kept secret no doubt but I think word of the project's existence will get out way before the first flight. You would want to market the product to potential customers and get feedback to improve/optimize the design. Plus as a publicly traded company isn't it good PR to say you have something new to offer?

User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 2974 times:

It's a bit hard to wrangle up customers if you keep a veil of secrecy (ala the various black project military a/c). While some secrecy is needed (at least in regards to some proprietary materials), you can't exactly go up to the folks @ CO/DL/AA/etc. and say, "Hey, we got a new a/c we think you'd be interested in, but we can't show you what it looks like". There isn't an Area 51 for commercial a/c testing. I mean would you buy a car without knowing anything about it? While I'm sure that Airbus/Boeing/Embraer/Bombardier/etc. have some a/c designs for the future that are being closely guarded right now, as those projects get closer to being given the green light to offer it to potential customers, they'll actually work with potential customers to tweak the design to better suit the needs of those potential launch customers. When MDD was designing the MD-95, they have NW and SK involved in the design process as they were (at the time) the likely launch customers, but both dropped out because the EIS for the a/c got pushed back (Originally intended to go into service in 1995). Some examples where a new variant of a design was primarily as a niche a/c for a small number of operators:

767-400ER (Designed as an L-1011 and DC-10 replacement a/c for DL and CO)
DC-9-20 (Designed exclusively for SAS)
CRJ-705


User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12158 posts, RR: 51
Reply 5, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 2906 times:

Quoting JAM747 (Thread starter):
In terms of commercial aircrafts has any been ever kept secret untill very close to first flight?

The only one that really comes to mind is the B-367-80 was pretty much of a secret until it was rolled out, just prior to the first flight. As we all know the B-367 was a version of the B-377 (C/KC-97). Rather than let anyone out side Boeing know they were working on a jet transport, Boeing designated the -80 into the propeller aircraft group designations they had used up until then.

Of course, as we all know, the B-367-80 grew into the KC-135 and then grew again into the B-707 & B-720.


User currently offlineJAM747 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 550 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 2732 times:

Quoting SP90 (Reply 3):
Are we talking secret like military black project level of secrecy?

.

Quoting Srbmod (Reply 4):
It's a bit hard to wrangle up customers if you keep a veil of secrecy (ala the various black project military a/c).

I did not mean military like secret but more like very confidential info, which even airlines involved in the development are not allowed to freely discuss epecially to the media the details till near to launch etc.

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 5):
The only one that really comes to mind is the B-367-80 was pretty much of a secret until it was rolled out, just prior to the first flight. As we all know the B-367 was a version of the B-377 (C/KC-97). Rather than let anyone out side Boeing know they were working on a jet transport, Boeing designated the -80 into the propeller aircraft group designations they had used up until then.

Of course, as we all know, the B-367-80 grew into the KC-135 and then grew again into the B-707 & B-720.

Thanks, this is the kind of situation I was wondering if it ever happen. If I am not mistaken in the movie Aviator Howard Hughes did not want to disclose to the public and Juan Trippe of Pan Am too early that he was talking to Lockheed about the Constellation. He wanted to keep Juan Trippe off Guard that he ( Howard Hughes ) would have a competitive aircraft to Pan Am's DC-6 or 7 . Not sure if I summed this up correctly. I wonder if Boeing or Airbus was to have some aviation break-through technology how long in the develoment process could they keep it secret.


User currently offlineSquid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (7 years 7 months 3 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2657 times:

The Lockheed Constellation was kept a complete secret almost until it rolled out of the hanger. At that time, Douglas was working on developing their un-pressurized DC-4 and Lockheed was openly working on a design for Pan Am called the Model 44 Excalibur. Lockheed agreed to deliver 25 Constellations to TWA before delivering any to Pan Am, American, or United. The project was actually what let to the development of Lockheed's "Skunk Works". They even had code names for eachother. Howard Hughes was refered to God, Jack Fry was Jesus Christ, and several other TWA and Lockheed project managers had nick names of the twelve disciples. Lockheed also had several people go to work for Douglas just to make sure that they did not know about the Connie and also to make sure they were not working on anything similar. I remember reading all of this in a book about Howard Huges, but I cannot remember the title of it. I thought is was all very fascinating.

[Edited 2007-03-04 01:01:46]

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