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Shuffle gives Boeing chance to push reset button

Post by Kim Bradford on Sep. 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
September 1, 2009 8:17 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Boeing’s announcement on Monday that Scott Carson is leaving his post as CEO of the company’s troubled airplane business could be just the shakeup it needs.

Carson, who presided over the Dreamliner program that has broken company records for sales and delays, appears to be leaving of his own accord.

Analysts say the timing doesn’t indicate an ouster. The announcement comes days after the company had just restored some stability to its Dreamliner program by releasing a new timeline. Observers say that if the Boeing board were inclined to fire Carson for performance reasons, it would have done so long ago.

Carson, who stepped down Tuesday but won’t leave until the end of the year, reportedly told industry insiders that he wanted to retire after the first flight of the beleaguered 787. Boeing’s new Dreamliner schedule puts the plane in the air late this year.

No matter the cause, Carson’s departure comes at an opportune time for Boeing and his successor. A change at the top could help placate frustrated Boeing stockholders and customers, and give the new guy a chance to be the hero who finally delivers on Dreamliner promises.
Taking Carson’s place is Jim Albaugh, a Richland High School graduate who has been heading Boeing’s military business, based in St. Louis.

His selection is clearly a response to Dreamliner’s biggest problems. The “game changer” plane has never suffered from lack of excitement, but rather from insufficient attention to detail. Where Carson was a salesman, Albaugh comes from the engineering side of the business.
Some are questioning whether Albaugh represents all that much of a fresh start. He’s had his share of challenges over on the defense side. Boeing Integrated Defense Solutions twice lost the chance to build Air Force refueling tankers under Albaugh’s watch.

It also has suffered delays in delivering planes to foreign customers and recently lost a contract to build a wireless network for the U.S. Army. There have been some wins too – among them, getting the Navy to buy more fighter jets.

But Albaugh’s biggest asset might be his outsider-insider status. He’s new to the commercial airplane division, but already knows Boeing intimately. His background should help him navigate the challenges ahead while also allowing the company to push the reset button on many of the problems that have plagued it.

Washington, where 285,000 jobs depend on Boeing, has a lot riding on his success.

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