Sst Prototype Hardware, Tooling Programs Progress Despite Continuing Controversy
Seattle-Supersonic transport hardware and tooling are taking shape here and throughout the nation as the prototype program continues to progress smoothly despite the storm of controversy raging around it. Veteran Boeing program managers claim the 2707-300 is going together better than any previous experimental aircraft in their experience, and that the exacting requirements of the SST effort may set new standards in management of airplane programs. Program officials marvel at the high morale of the SST workers and attribute it to the fact that the effort is on schedule and within budget and continuing to record technical achievements despite the strong opposition to the airplane and the severe blow dealt by the U.S. Senate (AW&ST Jan. 11, p. 14). “Morale has not plummeted as we expected,” said H. W. Withington, vice president and general manager of the Supersonic Transport Div. “We were quite concerned about this, but people seem to have complete dedication to the program, and think it will win in the end. “We are making damned fine progress in both engineering and manufacturing,” he said. “We have not missed a schedule since the Senate vote. The subcontractors are charging ahead, on schedule and budget. At this stage in a program, we usually are in trouble in several areas, but not this time. Maybe that is why morale is not shot. The releases are coming out on time; the stuff is getting built. When we’ve had some glitches, the guys have swarmed around and solved them.” Recent technical developments have furnished encouraging evidence that the noise problem—a serious hurdle—may be solved, ,and that flutter soon may be scratched from the list of major technical problems. On the manufacturing side, more than 2,000 pieces of prototype hardware for the titanium aircraft have been completed by Boeing, and the first prototype subassembly tool is taking shape on the floor of the company’s Developmental Center. At the same time, however, the uncertainty of the program’s future is creating headaches at the corporate level as well as among program managers. Although spending has not been reduced yet, a decision is needed soon on program funding so that the rate of spending can be adjusted if necessary. At present, the program is at an increasing level of expenditures which is scheduled to peak in the last half of 1971. If the eventual Fiscal 1971 appropriation is less than $290 million, the current spending rate must level off soon. While the effect of different potential funding levels is occupying Boeing and Dept, of Transportation officials, those on the engineering side are cheered by the results of recent wind tunnel tests at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Langley Research Center. There, wind tunnel testing of a highly sophisticated flutter model indicates that addition of weight to certain areas of the wing may have solved the flutter problem—a major area of concern with a wing as thin as that of the 2707-300. Engine noise is another problem that is beginning to give under the combined assault of Boeing and General Electric experts. Boeing officials long have conceded that the 2707-300 prototype with its GE4 powerplants could not meet the Federal Aviation Administration requirements for sideline noise, and a solution for the production aircraft was not in sight. Opponents of the SST effort have made much of this situation. “I used to say that we could solve it, but I didn’t know how,” Withington said. “But now we are getting close to knowing how to solve it for the production airplane. We are working with General Electric to determine what combination of engines changes and suppression devices are likely to succeed; what the penalties are and how to overcome them. The band is beginning to narrow.” Boeing’s SST chief believes that the 2707-300 effort is in better shape at this point in the program than any other experimental aircraft in his experience, and attributes this at least partly to the continuing and intense scrutiny the program has experienced.
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