Defence exec takes over: what next – Boeing KC-787?

Ever since Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas in 1997, the company has tried to project a “One Boeing” image. It has never been true. The commercial and defence sides of the company have different cultures. So Boeing has worked to bridge the divide, moving executives between the businesses.

The latest move sees an Integrated Defense Systems executive move to Boeing Commercial Airplanes to take over the troubled 787 programme. But look closer and you will see that Pat Shanahan is actually returning to BCA, where he once ran the 757 and 767-400ER programmes.

Seattle sticking with its own, Boeing bridging the divide – or defence taking over? All three, perhaps. Shanahan could be a poster boy for “One Boeing”. An acolyte of former BCA boss Alan Mulally, he established a reputation at IDS for turning round troubled businesses. He brings that rep to the 787.

More significantly he brings experience of IDS to BCA, and to a programme that is crucial to Boeing’s future. Mulally briefly ran Boeing’s defence business before returning to Seattle to lead the commercial business out of its production problems. But corporate Boeing’s struggles with ethics scandals denied him the chance to bring that experience to the role of CEO.

Shanahan and other executives like him represent the first chance for the company to make “One Boeing” a reality.

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