An old colleague of mine (Dave Robinson) recently posted an article on linked in. It was a video of an AIAA discussion panel on why aircraft take more than 4 years to bring to market. I have to admit that I did not watch the whole video. It was over 2 hours long and I have things to do – not least of which is to create some content for the newsletter and the website.
In the 25 years I have been involved in the industry (and growing up – both my parents are engineers and both started their careers at Avro in Woodford, just south of Manchester in the UK) I have seen projects take longer and longer. From military aircraft to commercial to part 23 GA projects there is a disease in the industry. we understand the major symptoms; budget and schedule overruns. However, we do not understand the underlying illness – the malaise at the heart of the industry.
It may better to use a more appropriate medical term – the industry suffers from a syndrome rather than a specific illness. There are multiple symptoms and causes. Some causes look like symptoms and some symptoms look like causes.
No company is immune. Until recently the doughty Cessna had an excellent track record of well-defined products, good price points and well-executed certification and development programs. Then the Skycatcher came along and showed that the infection had spread even to Cessna.
We have been working on part 23 GA and light jet and part 25 business jet programs for nearly 10 years. Almost every program (I say almost. there are several programs we are currently engaged on and we work towards and hope for a better outcome for those) has suffered from what I call the ABSOS – Aircraft Budget and Schedule Over-run Syndrome.
There are several key factors that contribute toward an acute incidence of ABSOS.
- Executive Paralysis
- Hollowing out of Middle Management and the use of Professional Project Managers
- Organizational Confusion – IPDT, Matrix Management, etc
- Overuse and Misuse of Subcontractors
- Overuse and Misuse of Digital tools in the development process
Before I lay into the industry, it has to be said all of these criticisms are general, there are excellent individuals I have worked with in executive, technical management and project management positions – in particular, Warren Wishart, a professional project manager who was essential in keeping a team together against the odds. It also has to be said that the right person in the wrong position is the wrong person. For those of you have worked with me, this article is not a criticism of any individual. Everyone I have worked with has been honest and hardworking – the problem comes when honest and hardworking people are put into an inappropriate position or a dysfunctional environment. Something I am sure most of us have first-hand experience of .
It should be pointed out that the boundaries between these 5 points are blurred and none of these points exist without all of the others.
Let us start at the top………………