The Boeing 787 is set to fly eight weeks from now. Hamilton Sundstrand president David Hess tells Brendan Gallagher what a key system supplier is doing to make sure the Dreamliner comes true on schedule.

A million lines of software code to be written, verified and system-tested. Six hundred different parts, including an air-conditioning pack the size of a large vehicle, to be delivered for each aircraft. A mountain of hardware to be qualified.

“The challenges at this point in our 787 programme are the scope and magnitude of the work that’s got to be done to make sure the aircraft takes off two months from now and goes into revenue service in May next year,” says Hamilton Sundstrand boss David Hess in a truly great masterpiece of understatement.

Just over a month ago the US systems supplier (Hall 5, B19/20) was nearing the top of the mountain, with 92% of its 600-part-number commitment delivered to Boeing for installation on the first 787 to fly. As well as the environmental control system, the Connecticut-headquartered company is supplying the electric power generation and start system, remote power distribution, the APU, the primary power distribution system, emergency power, nitrogen generation, and the electric pump subsystem.
It’s a massive undertaking, even for a $5 billion-revenue company like Hamilton Sundstrand. But the potential rewards are just as big.


“When we were first awarded this programme in 2004 we were talking of $8bn-plus in revenues over a 20-year period,” says Hess. “Since then we’ve basically doubled that. Boeing forecasts deliveries of more than 3,000 787s in the next 20 years. We multiplied that by our shipset value, threw in the aftermarket, and now we think this programme will be worth in excess of $15bn to us over the next two decades.”

So significant is the 787 to the company that it decided a couple of years ago to create a programme-centric management structure. “We’re thrilled that we did, and I think Boeing would say the same thing,” says Hess. “It’s helped us shorten cycle times, make faster decisions, and identify capacity constraints so we can add resources to minimise programme risks. It’s given us much better visibility of where things are working and where they’re not.”

These days Hess is feeling pretty good about his own organisation’s ability to soak up the pressure generated by the soaring 787 order book. But there’s work still to be done on preparing the supply chain on which the company depends. “We’re still working hard to understand the capacity of the supply chain, particularly in areas where capacity is inflexible and lead times are long – things like forgings, castings and machinings. We’re spending a lot of time with our suppliers to review their readiness and assess their ability to ramp up.”

Persuading suppliers of the solidity and duration of the market is vital, Hess believes. “To incentivise them we have to show that the growth we see is not just a one or two-year blip on the screen, and that it will continue beyond the end of the decade,” he says.


“We do think this is going to be a prolonged cycle, with high delivery rates continuing for a while. So we’re trying to encourage our supply base to make the investments to add capacity. And if they won’t, we’ll go elsewhere.”

Hamilton Sundstrand itself has bought Boeing’s case for participation in the 787 Gold Care integrated support programme. “We were one of the first three suppliers to sign up,” he recalls. “It’s designed to give the airline one-stop-shopping and a better way to support the aircraft. It may not be for everyone – there are folks like Lufthansa who have a big infrastructure of their own - but there are plenty of other operators for whom this may make a lot of sense.”

Hess sees little chance of tension between Gold Care and Hamilton Sundstrand’s existing support structures: “It will build off our support systems, not replace them. We’ll use the same repair shops, the same logistics supply stream, the same customer support.”

Gold Care has won no takers among the 787 operators yet, but Hess believes the first may not be long in coming. “Boeing are in serious discussions and we think they may be close to signing someone – possibly here at the show,” he reflects. “Gold Care is starting to get some traction, and the marketplace will decide soon.”
While the 787 may look something like the tail wagging the Hamilton Sundstrand dog, the company is in fact active on a wide range of other programmes and looking to get into still more. In the case of the Airbus A350XWB Hess is hoping for another success on the scale of the 787.

“We’ll be bidding the same types of system as we now have on the 787,” he predicts. “We’re in early discussions with Airbus for quite a few packages - electric power, air management, LED lighting, some of the actuation, fire-detection and suppression, engine control in conjunction with Rolls-Royce – and we expect them to start making selections later this year.”

If the A350 does turn into a 787-style gold-rush for Hamilton Sundstrand, Hess would give serious thought to repeating the same programme-centric management approach. “Given the success we’ve had on the 787, if we win as much content on the A350, with a similar amount of systems integration work, it would make a lot of sense to do the same again.”


Looking beyond the A350, Hess has his sights fixed on the glittering prospect of the Airbus and Boeing narrowbody replacement programmes. The two aircraft manufacturers continue to circle one another like wary boxers, and the Hamilton Sundstrand president wouldn’t be surprised if one of them made a sudden move in the next couple of years. And that, he believes, would galvanise the systems suppliers into a bidding frenzy.

“That’s the market everybody in the industry is lusting after, given the delivery rates and volumes these aircraft will generate,” he observes. “We have a nice level of content on today’s A320 and 737, but it’s not as high as we have achieved on the widebodies or even the regional jets. When the replacement programmes finally launch, we’ll be looking to expand our shipset content on those aircraft if we possibly can.”

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Source: Flight Daily News