1990-10-01

An Engineer's Perspective on the Air Transportation Industry: The Last Forty Years 902012

Joseph Sutter traces his career as a designer of some of the most successful commercial jet transports manufactured by The Boeing Company. From his 40 years of experience, as the industry made the transition from piston-driven to jet-powered airplanes, he draws lessons on airplane design, business philosophy, and the role of the engineer.He credits the success of The Boeing Company to a consistent business philosophy and strong vision of the future of commercial aviation. Mr. Sutter offers examples when the company repeatedly took risks in applying new technology and offering new models in anticipation of customer needs.Few technical advances in aircraft design have been revolutionary. Most have been evolutionary and are the result of continuing to learn and apply lessons from previous designs. Mr. Sutter also cites examples where the success of an airplane could be traced to the willingness to approach a design from a fresh perspective.Another strength of Boeing products is long-term flexibility. Designs that can be lengthened or shortened or fitted with new powerplants make it possible to adapt models to changing market for more range or more payload long after the model has been introduced.Engineers should commit themselves to a broader role. The challenge of the future requires technically astute engineers with marketing and financial skills, who can work directly with customers, if they are to regain their position as leaders in the transportation industry.

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