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The Software Side of Flight Testing the 787 Dreamliner

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Boeing's airborne data analysis and monitoring system


With nearly 600 hours of testing completed, Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner is in the thick of its nearly year long flight test program. Delays in the program have put the new composite airliner behind schedule, and the company is working very hard to make sure there are no further problems with its $15 billion investment.

So during a test last month when there was a simple communication problem between two critical data archives recording the mountains of data from the airplane, the company did not want to waste any time in fixing the issue. It called in the nerds.

“We’re really a flying help desk.”

That’s the humble and perhaps overly simplified way Neil McNeight explains his job. For an experienced software engineer, working the help desk might not sound like anything worth bragging about. But for McNeight and his coworkers, the help desk they operate has the future of one of the biggest companies in the world riding on their ability to solve a problem right now. And they pride themselves on being able to solve a wide range of problems while dozens, if not hundreds of people wait impatiently for the job to be done.

“If you don’t solve it quickly, it’s going to cost the company a lot of money” McNeight says of the pressure that comes with every phone call.

From Wired
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