Learning and Forgetting: the Dynamics of Aircraft Production

58 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 1999 Last revised: 24 Jun 2010

See all articles by C. Lanier Benkard

C. Lanier Benkard

Stanford Graduate School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 1999


This paper introduces a new cost dataset for a commercial aircraft firm and uses this data to analyze the dynamics of learning in commercial aircraft production. This dataset is found to be inconsistent with the simple learning hypothesis, and particularly the prediction that a firm's unit cost must decline with its cumulative production. Instead, strong support is found for the hypothesis of organizational forgetting, a more general learning model where unit costs are similarly dependent on a firm's past production experience, but where that experience depreciates over time. Additionally, it is found that some, but not all, of a firm's production experience transfers from one generation of an aircraft to the next. This evidence adds to our understanding of productivity in industries with learning and thus has implications to many fields of economics.

Suggested Citation

Benkard, C. Lanier, Learning and Forgetting: the Dynamics of Aircraft Production (May 1999). NBER Working Paper No. w7127, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=165171

C. Lanier Benkard (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-723-4124 (Phone)
650-725-0468 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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