Design News had the pleasure last night of awarding in person our 2007 Engineer of the Year award to Chief Project Engineer Tom Cogan. Tom is the real deal – polished, articulate, smart, people-oriented and passionate about airplanes. With youthful good looks belying his 52 years and a bit Boy Scout-ish, he gives his total attention to whomever he is speaking with and is gracious to a fault. We thoroughly enjoyed presenting him with the award in our booth at National Manufacturing Week and celebrating him at dinner afterward. Our heartiest congratulations go to Tom Cogan, Design News' 2007 Engineer of the Year.
He said a few interesting things, which seem a little more poignant now that I am recalling them flying home on a Boeing 757, an aircraft for which he also served as chief project engineer.
-- We asked him if Boeing will stick to its mid-November to mid-December timetable for the already twice-delayed first flight for the . He gave his pat answer that it would fly when it’s safe and ready. My read was that he sounded a bit doubtful without saying so, but we’ll have to wait and see. For sure, we’ll be there when it does.
-- All test pilots at Boeing are degreed engineers. The will only have two people on board during first flight — the two pilots along with scads of equipment relaying data back to a control room where Cogan will be during the first flight. Sensors will be positioned throughout the plane to test the structure. First flight will be between six and seven hours assuming nothing forces the plane to land before that. Production plane test pilots are not required to be engineers.
-- All twin-engine aircraft Boeing makes can fly on one engine. I thought this was a well-perpetuated myth, but Tom says it’s absolutely true, not that I want it proven to me. Planes are also designed to withstand 50 percent more than the maximum abuse engineers and pilots know about. I always thought it was 30 percent, but my information might be dated. “The planes can withstand more abuse than the people [inside],” he said in response to a question about how much turbulence planes can withstand. The person asking happened to land in Tokyo on a 747 during a typhoon.
-- The 787 has electrically-signalled spoilers so if all the hydraulics fail, the aircraft can still be controlled and safely landed by the pilot. This tough lesson was learned from a terrible 1979 crash in Chicago when an engine separated from a DC-10 and severed all three hydraulic systems. Chances of a total hydraulic failure are about one in a billion, Cogan said, and controlling an aircraft should that happen is do-able, but “not easy.” Usually, spoilers are hydraulically actuated.
-- The centerpiece for each of our four dinner tables was a 787 model and apparently we had installed the tail wings at an anhedral angle, which should have been dihedral. Tom immediately recognized this and made the fix.