So why is a Dynamics MVP writing a blog about an airplane? Well read on...
I am currently in Seattle, after the MVP Summit here. There is very little I can say about the Summit, since just about everything is covered by our NDA. This is the most awesome event that Microsoft organize. And being a part of it, is an experience of a life time.
Although most of the event is technical, we also get time to party. Our biggest non technical event is dinner at the Boeing Museum Of Aviation. Oddly at the museum, there is no 787 display, not even an exhibit (that I could find) about it, but it definitely is the buzz word now.
When you look at any major industry, there are evolutions and revolutions. This applies to the Aircraft industry as much as it applies to the IT industry. Although we all like to look at technology, and the latest and greatest, what really matters is acceptance. The greatest advance in technology is pretty pointless if it is not accepted and adopted by users.
In the heavier than air craft industry, the biggest revolution was made by the wright brothers. Ignoring the fact that they were only days ahead of everyone else, their true impact on the industry was the application of science to aeronautics. They didn't just throw and engine on a bit of wood, and fly, they did studies of wind flow, and horsepower and thrust, and designed something on paper that would break new grounds in science. The trivial issue of being the first to fly was just a culmination of many years of testing and trying and research. Their development and use of the wind tunnel is probably the single most important contribution to science they ever made, but it is trivialized.
The evolution that made this science useful, was getting passengers and payloads into the air. it was only a small step from the original 112ft flight in 1903, but no technology is useful unless it is used. In terms of revolutions evolution, the revolutions that change technology are no where near as important as the evolutions that bring that technology into our homes and our workplaces and our lives.
For us as "users" we see significant milestones as Passenger flight, Crossing Countries, Crossing Oceans, Pressurized Cabins, Jet Engines, and until now thats about it. Revolutions happen a lot in this industry, as do technological evolutions that really don't affect us. I mean how do evolutions like Turbo Fans affect you directly? So the next revolution that will evolve into something that affects us will be hypersonic or hyperbolic space flights. The idea of going into space and then getting anywhere in the world in a few hours. Well to me that's junk anyway. I often need to get from home to Northern New Jersy. I live in the mountains a long way from a major airport, so get up at 5.00am, for a flight that takes off at 12:30 I arrive at JFK at 4:30, and arrive at the hotel at around 8pm. So (completely ignoring time zones), I spend a whole day traveling, and in reality the small bit on the airplane where I sleep just is not an important part of the travel. Whats worse is if we go to these Hypersonic type technologies, it means using Hubs, which I guess for me would be Heathrow. So in the end I might get to my hotel an hour earlier. (or something useless like that). For sure this will help people that live in Slough and need to get to Queens. But how does it help the average person. With the internet, I want to be able to live in a small town, and work for another company in a small town, and just get there. I don't want to get a cab to a train to a station via cab to the airport to hub, to another hub, to another small airport, to a cab to a hotel. All that matters to me is how long it takes from getting out of bed, to being in front of the client.
So the 787, so what is so special. Well rivets. Yep little bits of aluminum, that we all see when we look out the windows. Well when you fly on a 787 you wont see them. Rivets have been around for a very long time. ANd oddly enough, construction of the 787 is closer to World War One planes using wooden frames and doped cloth than it is to the most modern airliners today. back then cloth or even paper, was tightly stretched around a wooden frame. "Dope" was then applied, this was type of varnish, except that when it dried it shrunk, and thus added a lot of strength to the cloth. So the cloth was not only an aerodynamic component of the plane, but also structural. Now a days, we use aluminum riveted together. But rivets do two things, one they weigh a lot, and second, they add a lot of wind resistance and drag. So the move to Carbon fiber in the 787 basically is all about replacing rivets.
Ooooohhhh kkaaayyyy but what on earth does that matter to me. So I wont see rivets out the window. But really what it means is less fuel to take off (because of the weight of the rivets) and less fuel in flight (because of the reduced wind resistance). And this means that a small aircraft can now fly long distances. So just ignore the 787, but encompass the concept and the evolution. Since it now means we can see in a few years, even smaller airplanes, taking off from more and smaller airports, going to more an more places.
I for one would rather a direct flight on a 787 even if it is 3 hours longer, than have to spend 5 hours getting to a hub where I can catch an A380.
Rivets, its all about rivets.
This blog is in two parts... part 2 is on the way... (actually only because they need to clean my room, so need to leave the hotel for a while) hmm maybe three parts. But the Dynamics bit is coming.