Friday November 21, 2008

Expert: Boeing Dreamliner 'Well Worth Wait'

Raul Ordonez, an expert in flight control systems, spent eight weeks this summer in the Boeing Welliver fellowship program. Boeing selects about 10 people a year for the program.

 University of Dayton professor with intimate knowledge of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner said the plane will be worth the wait despite recent announcements of production delays.

"It's a great airplane. For a customer who flies a lot, the Dreamliner will be fantastic," said Raúl Ordóñez, a University of Dayton associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. "It will be a treat to fly in it."

Ordóñez, an expert in flight control systems, spent eight weeks this summer in the Boeing Welliver fellowship program. Boeing selects about 10 people a year for the program.

Embedded in Boeing's 787 flight control group, Ordóñez climbed inside the first 787 prototype and took a spin in the Dreamliner flight simulator. He used analysis methods he teaches at UD to help predict the behavior of the 787 under extreme flight conditions. He said he cannot discuss specifics because of proprietary reasons. He also delivered lectures on control methods to Boeing's flight control engineers.

He did say that the way pilots interact with the Dreamliner will be much improved.

"Passengers don't think about the control systems of a plane," he said. "But improvements in those areas are important to help the pilot have an easier time flying the plane; therefore, it will be safer."

The Dreamliner will be designed for nonstop, international flights that avoid the traditional hub system. Flights will be longer but more comfortable. The Dreamliner's composite body will allow for larger windows and better air pressure and humidity in the cabin.

Back in the classroom at UD, Ordóñez hopes to bring back the culture of teamwork that made Boeing successful.

"Very large groups of people, who seem to only be loosely coordinated, are nevertheless able to design and make complex products that are extremely reliable," Ordóñez said.

Other teaching improvements Ordóñez hopes to bring from his Boeing experience include producing more hands-on engineers who can design systems that work. He also will stress topics he found to be of great importance to Boeing.

Ordóñez also performs research and teaches courses in coordinating multiple aircraft for search and rescue or military operations. He is director of UD's new Motoman Robotics Lab.

He is the second UD engineering faculty member in the last three years selected for the Welliver program. Danny Eylon, chair of UD's graduate materials engineering program, participated in the program in 2006.

UD performs more aerospace research than any other Ohio university. It is in the top 30 of all U.S. universities in engineering research.

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of media relations, at 937-229-3391 or srobinson@udayton.edu.