Email | Print    Type Size  -  +

The predator, page 4

By Barney Gimbel, writer
October 31, 2008: 6:44 AM ET

From takeoff to landing, the Predator can be controlled with a joystick by a pilot sitting in a trailer thousands of miles away. But the original Predator "cockpit" looked more like a computer console than the deck of a fighter jet.

The new prototype Blue was here to inspect aimed to fix that. Indeed, it looked like a cross between a high-end videogame and the multimillion-dollar simulator airlines use to train pilots. But the system was buggy, and the video was so jittery that it hurt your eyes to look at it.

Blue's face dropped. "This shouldn't be like this," he snapped at a young programmer who was demonstrating the machine. His voice rose. "This is totally unacceptable. Wouldn't you agree? What is your problem? Why can't you get this stuff right?"

The pressure of GA's success - and the challenges Blue is facing in his other operations - may be taking a toll. The aeronautics business has grown so fast that it has apparently experienced production problems.

Northrop Grumman (NOC, Fortune 500) recently beat it out for a $1.6 billion contract to produce drones for the Navy. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the Navy had "substantial doubt" that the company would deliver the drones as promised. The Predator maker says the GAO report references "select instances of past performances," and it has since increased resources and staffing.

"That's just part of the capitalist world, which has provided so much to so many," Blue says. "But I suppose the fundamental essence of our portfolio, aside from some measure of economic balance, is 'Okay, how do you make a difference?' And in my case, it is in developing transformational technologies that could change the world. The rest of all this doesn't really matter."

It is a prime example of Blue-speak - a measured but completely unremorseful response that belies the sharp elbows and strong-arm tactics Blue often uses to achieve his goals. And it is perfectly in keeping with his stubbornly old-fashioned brand of doing business.

As Howard Hughes said, "Once you do consent to some such concession, you can never cancel it and put things back the way they were." He didn't have an heir, but Neal Blue sure comes close.  To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.13 -0.26 -1.59%
Facebook Inc 59.72 0.63 1.07%
Yahoo! Inc 36.35 2.14 6.26%
Intel Corp 26.93 0.16 0.60%
Alcoa Inc 13.42 0.37 2.84%
Data as of 4:02pm ET
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,424.85 162.29 1.00%
Nasdaq 4,086.23 52.07 1.29%
S&P 500 1,862.31 19.33 1.05%
Treasuries 2.64 0.01 0.34%
Data as of 9:34pm ET
More Galleries
8 CEOs who took a pay cut in 2013 Median CEO pay inched up 9% in 2013 to $13.9 million. But not everyone got a bump last year. Here are eight CEOs who missed out. More
7 businesses Amazon wants to shake up From industrial supplies to educational software, Amazon is about more than just retail and books. More
Don't miss these Tax Day deals From massages and paper shredding to cookies and queso, celebrate the end of tax season with these Tax Day freebies and discounts. More
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.