- Both aircraft introduced after significant delays from their respective manufacturers.
- Both aircraft brought with them significant changes from predecessor aircraft
- Both aircraft received significant on-site intro support from the OEM and from suppliers
- Both aircraft introductions have hit rough spots resulting in service interruptions and downtime
Given the interest here in every hiccup these introductions face (see active threads on LO, UA and AI introductions and challenges), I thought it would be worth opening a thread to discuss generally what makes for a successful (or troubled) introduction.
Watching a new airplane introduction from within an OEM is an incredible experience. Boeing views readiness for EIS as a 3-part problem to solve:
- 1. The airplane must be ready
- 2. The support products & services must be ready
- 3. The airline must be ready
Preparations for introduction of the type begin years in advance. In the case of the 787, there was significant staff and effort focused on service readiness already in place when I joined the program in 2004. As EIS nears, and the airplane and support products are completed, the focus shifts to #3 from the list above – making sure the airline is ready. This effort must also start well in advance of the airplane delivering.
Here are a few of the key things an airline must accomplish ahead of taking the airplane to ensure they are ready for the introduction:
- Develop a plan with the local regulator to get the type added to the AOC
- Implement a training plan for pilots, engineers and mechanics
- Order maintenance & flight training simulators as needed to support the training plan
- Order GSE tooling – much of which will be long-lead items
- Order spare parts – much of which will be long-lead items
- Pre-position parts and qualified people at stations
- Prepare maintenance facilities (hangars/docks) to support the new aircraft
- Secure & provision gates to accommodate the new aircraft
Airlines get ready for a new airplane with varying degrees of success. Some are diligent at placing orders for long-lead tooling and parts in time to have them in hand when the airplane delivers; others are not. Some heavily provision outstations with parts; others provision little or nothing. Some have large amounts of support staff trained in advance of the introduction; some introduce the airplane and operate into stations with minimal personnel trained on the type. Some do extensive route-proving and hands-on training with the aircraft after delivery; some do none. This list could go on and on.
Regarding this last point of route-proving after delivery of the first aircraft, here is a summary of 787 introductions I posted earlier in the active LOT thread:
Airline - Time from first 787 delivery to first revenue flight
UA.. 41 Days
JL.. 35 Days
LA.. 31 Days
NH.. 30 Days
LO.. 30 Days
AI... 13 Days
ET.. 1 Day
What is remarkable about this list is that NH and JA each had large engineering staffs in Everett for years during 787 development. These airlines understood the airplane as well as Boeing by the time the airplane first delivered, yet still took a month or more to get to know the airplane before they put it into revenue service. UA, which is the largest and arguably the most technically capable of operators on this list, was not on-site in Everett during 787 development and took a bit longer with the airplane before putting passengers on it. AI and ET, with similar 787 exposure as UA in advance of delivery, but which have much smaller technical staff and less past experience with new types, put the airplane into service MUCH faster.
I don’t know that there is a “right” or a “wrong” way to go about an introduction of a new type, but there is no question that how you go about it has a direct influence on the smoothness of the introduction. Operators who spend less on parts and training in advance of the intro, and who skip or abbreviate any route-proving efforts, reduce their up-front costs for the intro and begin making money with their new airplane sooner. The downside is they are likely more exposed to disruptions and extended return-to-service times. Airlines who invest more up front are effectively insuring themselves somewhat from the financial and publicity impacts of a more painful introduction.
My experience is with Boeing products and most recently with the 787, but we can add a note here about the A380 introduction as well. Like the 787, introducing the A380 also brings many new and unique challenges. Airbus did a magnificent job supporting the first A380 introductions with large on-site staff and excellent levels of support. Still, much of the responsibility falls to the operator in order to make the introduction a success. Malaysia took their first A380 in on May 27, 2012 and did not put it into revenue service until 5 weeks later – this for an airplane type which had its EIS 5 years ago. It doesn’t always take this long (Thai took 2 weeks) but I believe this underscores both the challenge of introducing a new type, as well as the fact different airlines can take very different approaches to solving this very complex challenge.
[Edited 2012-12-22 17:50:43]