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Jon Talton: Boeing's poor performance in defense offers more signs of deep trouble

Jon Talton, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

The beginnings of Boeing’s defense unit go back to the company’s origins in Seattle.

The Model 15 and its variants, a biplane, were used by the Army Air Service (forerunner of the U.S. Air Force) and Navy in the 1920s.

Boeing gained prominence as a warplane manufacturer in the years before, during and after World War II. It built the B-17, a rugged bomber that a Seattle Times reporter called the Flying Fortress. The B-17 saw extensive service in the European theater. The B-29 Superfortress was the most advanced bomber of the 1940s and two of them dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Development and manufacture of the plane was said to cost more than the Manhattan Project that developed the bomb.

After the war, Boeing entered the jet age with the B-47 Stratojet bomber and one of its greatest successes: the B-52 Stratofortress, introduced in 1955 and still in service today.

The Boeing Problem that I wrote about in January isn’t confined to the company’s commercial airliners (although revelations continue to be reported by my colleague Dominic Gates and others).

At the time, I described a dysfunctional corporate culture that contributed to the part of a 737 Max 9 that blew off in flight. Disaster was averted. But the potentially deadly situation happened because a “door plug” was mis-installed by Boeing at its Renton plant.

 

The Boeing Problem extends to defense and space.

So many Boeing products in this area are delayed, troubled and/or confronting technical challenges that it’s difficult to keep track.

The new airplanes that will carry the call sign Air Force One when the president is aboard (the variant of the 747 designated VC25-B) has faced numerous delays attributed to such issues as higher manufacturing costs and a lack of skilled employees.

But the trouble goes deeper, as is typical with the Boeing Problem.

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