The fall of the Firefly

an assessment of a failed project strategy

Choices made early in a project determine future success. Missteps in early phases will cause trouble later in the project's life cycle. The U.S. Air Force's acquisition of the T-3A "Firefly" trainer was just such a troubled project. Rather than develop a new aircraft, the Air Force decided to save time and money by buying a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) trainer. But significant aircraft modifications undermined the integrity of the COTS strategy. This paper suggests four project lessons: Any project must be managed as a system of interrelated parts; a project strategy must be flexible to accommodate changing circumstances; testing must be done in realistic environments; and concurrency carries with it benefits and dangers.
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