January 2014

David Tantrum's picture
Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Ocean Township Elementary School Science Fair



Anthony Torchia and Niall Tantrum man the Martin & Ottaway model display at the school science fair on January 28, 2014.  The models were all constructed by the Martin & Ottaway model making subsidiary.

There is a Cold War (remember, that was before 1989) engineering joke that goes as follows:


The Russians had built a brand new huge airplane, and it was the pride of Russia, but they had a continuous problem with fatigue fracturing at the wing to fuselage connection.


They tried everything and it just kept fracturing. One day there was a goodwill tour of Americans that came to Russia and one of the tour members was a Boeing engineer.


One of the Russian aerospace engineers discovered this and during a quiet moment approached the Boeing engineer to see if he had any suggestions on the fracturing problem.


The Boeing engineer quickly came up with a solution. He said: “just drill tiny evenly spaced little holes right along the path where the fracture appears and the problem will go away.”


The Russian thought he was kidding, but they were desperate and decided to try it. Surprisingly it worked, the wing never fractured at the wing root again. Years later the Russian met the Boeing engineer again, and asked how he came up with that idea. The Boeing engineer told him it was easy, he just made the wing look like the perforations in Russian toilet paper, since that never tore at the perforations either.


But is there a kernel of truth in the joke?

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I remember standing at the Newport News Shipyard gate in the 90’s next to Dorothy the tugboat and reading the shipyard’s motto:


“We will build good ships here — at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always good ships”


This motto was apparently coined by Collis Huntington, founder of Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock, which is now Huntington Ingalls Newport News.


I liked this motto, especially since, at that time, TQM was in its revival in the United States. More remarkably, I did not know until later that Newport News’ motto had actually been used as an example of a proper TQM mission statement in Japan right after World War II.


Whether it is the truth, or whether the motto makes it appear so, there is a general industry impression that Newport News always built better ships.


Undoubtedly, I have always found that Newport News would insist on doing the right thing rather than deliver slip shod work. There is other evidence too; for example the Newport News built ship, Medina, was in ocean service from 1914 to 2009!


Nevertheless, over time, I feel the mission statement can stand some updating.

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