GAO shoots down challenge to bomber deal

Image: Shrouded airplane
A shrouded airplane takes center stage in a Northrop Grumman TV commercial. The company’s Long Range Strike Bomber is similarly shrouded in mystery. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

The Government Accountability Office ruled that Northrop Grumman won the U.S. Air Force’s contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber fair and square, and turned back a protest of the decision by the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin.

The next-generation stealth bomber is meant to replace the Air Force’s decades-old B-1 and B-52 bombers starting in the 2020s. The contract could bring as much as $80 billion to Northrop and its subcontractors.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin lost out in the competition, and in November the two companies filed a protest saying that the Defense Department’s selection process didn’t properly weigh all the risks and comparative advantages. After reviewing the record, the GAO denied the protest on Feb. 16, clearing the way for Northrop to resume work on the project.

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Boeing sees sunny skies for airlines

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Model airplanes swarm through Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Gallery. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

LYNNWOOD, Wash. – The stock market may be caught in a downdraft, but things are looking up for the commercial airline industry – at least according to the Boeing Co.’s annual forecast.

“As we look at 2016, we see another good year,” Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told industry executives here on Feb. 9 at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance’s annual conference.

The trends that are pushing stock prices down – including a slowdown in China’s economy and a drop in oil prices – aren’t dimming Tinseth’s outlook. He noted that cheap oil means it costs less to fuel up planes.

“It adds to the bottom line of our customers, which is good,” Tinseth said.

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Final Boeing-built GPS satellite goes into orbit

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United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket rises from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying the GPS IIF-12 satellite into space. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

The last GPS Block IIF satellite built by the Boeing Co. was sent into orbit for the U.S. Air Force today, filling out a set of a dozen.

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket carried the 3,500-pound GPS IIF-12 satellite into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at the start of today’s launch window, at 8:38 a.m. ET (5:38 a.m. PT). Hours later, the rocket’s Centaur upper stage put the satellite into a 12,700-mile-high orbit.

Today’s launch was the first one of the year for United Launch Alliance, which is a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

The 12 Block IIF satellites are part of the Air Force’s Global Positioning System constellation, which provides navigation data for users worldwide. Those users range from Air Force controllers calling in air strikes to drivers, sailors and hikers trying to figure out how to get where they want to go.

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‘Age of Aerospace’ recaps 100 years of flight

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“The Age of Aerospace” traces 100 years of history. (Credit: Science Channel)

This year marks the Boeing Co’s 100th anniversary, and the company is using the centennial as an opportunity not only to celebrate its own history, but the history of aerospace as well.

That celebration takes the TV spotlight starting Feb. 1, in the form of “The Age of Aerospace,” a five-part documentary series that’s airing on the Science Channel on Mondays. The series, sponsored by Boeing, will be shown on Saturdays on theDiscovery Channel. Eventually it’ll be available for online streaming as well.

Check your local listings and/or search engines, and check out a preview as well.

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Boeing’s 737 MAX jet gets ‘wow’ reviews

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Boeing’s 737 MAX jet rises into the sky after taking off from Renton. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

Boeing’s newest breed of airplane, the fuel-efficient 737 MAX, took to the air for the first time on Jan. 29– and the first pilots to fly it had nothing but glowing reviews.

“This is our first airplane of our second century, and I just have to say, wow, this is an amazing machine,” chief test pilot Craig Bomben told reporters afterward at Seattle’s Boeing Field, in a reference to the Boeing Co.’s centennial this year.

737 MAX chief pilot Ed Wilson said that the nearly three-hour flight occasionally got “a little rough up there,” due to the rainy weather, but that the plane worked like a charm. “This airplane is ready to go to test. … We are off and running,” he said.

For this first flight, the jet was limited to traveling at a speed of no more than 250 knots, and rising no higher than 25,000 feet. “We just let it cruise,” Wilson said.

The latest incarnation of the long-lived 737 line will undergo months of testing and certification, leading up to the first deliveries to customers in 2017. Southwest Airlines, which is due to receive the first planes, tweeted its congratulations during the nearly three-hour maiden flight.

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Boeing trims back 747 jet production

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A Boeing 747-8 jet is assembled at the company’s factory in Everett. (Credit: Boeing)

The Boeing Co. says it will cut back the production rate for its 747 jets to one every two months and report an $885 million pre-tax charge against earnings, due to the slower-than-expected recovery of the air cargo market.

“Global air passenger traffic growth and airplane demand remain strong, but the air cargo market recovery that began in late 2013 has stalled in recent months and slowed demand for the 747-8 Freighter,” Ray Conner, Boeing vice chairman and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Jan. 21 in a news release.

He voiced confidence that business would pick up for the 747-8 jet as companies replace their older 747-400 freight airplanes, but said cutting back production was a “prudent step to further align production with current market requirements.”

Some observers were less sanguine about the 747’s prospects.

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Get a drone’s-eye view of global destinations

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“View From Above” shows the Space Needle and a Seattle sunset. (Credit: Emirates Airline)

Seattle is one of the stars of the show in “View From Above,” a series of aerial videos shot by drones over 19 destinations for Emirates Airline and the Boeing Co.

The Emerald City looks like the gorgeous place it is, with awesome views of the waterfront and skyline, Gasworks Park and the University District, ferries plying Elliott Bay, plus mountains, lakes and waterways galore.

But that’s not the only reason why Seattle made the list: Because Boeing is one of the project’s sponsors, the aerospace giant’s facilities around Puget Sound are featured as well.

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Junior engineers score big with golf club project

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Boeing engineer Adam Clark helped design Callaway’s golf clubs. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

EVERETT, Wash. – When experts at Callaway Golf sought Boeing’s help to improve their golf clubs’ aerodynamics, Boeing turned to a special breed of engineers: recent hires with a hunger for projects off Boeing’s beaten path.

Some of the engineers didn’t even play golf before they took on the challenge – but now they’re learning.

The result of the collaboration is Callaway’s XR-16 line of drivers, which sport a pattern of chevron-shaped “trip steps” to optimize the aerodynamics of a golf swing. Computerized analysis helped the engineers tweak the club’s shape ever so slightly: By making the air flow just a bit more turbulent at a key point, the engineers reduced the drag encountered during the swing.

“We’ve obviously been working on this problem for many years,” said Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s senior manager for research and development for woods. But for the XR-16, Callaway had only a few months to up their aerodynamic game. That’s why the company turned to Boeing’s engineering-savvy duffers.

The unusual collaboration is arguably the highest-profile success story for Boeing’s Opportunities for New Engineers program, also known as ONE.

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How Boeing helped build a better golf club

Image: Callaway XR16 golf club
Boeing drew upon lessons learned from airplanes to build a better golf club. (Credit: Boeing)

What do aerospace and golf have in common? For the Boeing Co. and Callaway Golf, it’s a new line of golf clubs that have been tweaked to optimize the air flow for a faster, surer swing.

The results of one of Boeing’s most unusual collaborations will hit the market on Jan. 29, in the form of Callaway’s XR16 drivers. (Even the name sounds like an experimental aircraft, doesn’t it?)

The XR16 is a stretch version of last year’s model, redesigned to produce a higher moment of inertia. That keeps the head more stable when a golfer takes a swing. But a bigger head also typically means more aerodynamic drag, which would slow down the swing. That’s why Boeing was brought into the picture.

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Good news for Boeing’s space taxi – and SpaceX

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An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has ordered a second space taxi from the Boeing Co. to carry astronauts to the International Space Station a couple of years from now.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule and an upgraded version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft won’t go into service until 2017 at the earliest, but NASA has to put in its orders well in advance to get the ball rolling. NASA has been providing billions of dollars to support the commercial spaceship development effort.

“Once certified by NASA, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon each will be capable of two crew launches to the station per year,” Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said today in a news release. “Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station.”

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