On the whole, I tend to see cock-ups and coincidences where others see conspiracies. But I’m fascinated by what recently deposed 787 programme manager Mike Bair has been saying about major contractors. This really doesn’t sound accidental. So either he’s a much looser cannon than anyone imagines (and although he has got a bit of form in that area, it’s not really the Boeing way), or this is the authorised version – which is remarkable even by the standards of Boeing’s infamosly brutal treatment of its suppliers.There doesn’t seem to be any doubt what he said. The Seattle Times, Post-Intelligencer and Everett Herald all pretty much agree on that at least. Some of the major suppliers performed inadequately to the extent that – according to Bair – Boeing won’t use them again.
Think what this means. Bair has just set in a motion a moderately frenzied media hunt to track down the guilty men. Everyone knows who did the work, although the Seattle Times version seems to have Bair hinting that it was second tier suppliers who he’s thinking of (I might be reading that wrongly.) And unless Boeing ditches them now, those firms are going to be building the aircraft for a long while to come. You can bet they’re going to love the customer who set the media dogs on them. Interesting relationship.
So what could Bair/Boeing be hoping to achieve? I’m at a loss to be honest. Perhaps they actually want to bring those supplier deals crashing down. Maybe they think they can shame the underperformers into walking away. Perhaps they’re significant Airbus/A350 suppliers and Boeing wants to see Airbus having to use its cast-offs. All very odd – but no coincidence I think.