Ramon Lopez/WASHINGTON DCGuy Norris/Los Angeles

Boeing has begun to study the future of the McDonnell Douglas (MDC) airliner range following the combination of the two companies, which began as promised on 4 August.

A team led by Richard Pearson, who has managed the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group's merger transition team, has already arrived at Long Beach in California to begin detailed studies into which Douglas Aircraft products will survive the take-over.

Pearson, who has been named vice-president and general manager of the newly named Douglas Products division, will oversee the studies which will make initial recommendations from November.

Ed Renouard, vice-president and general manager 747/767 programmes, says that the team will look at issues such as manufacturing techniques, cost structure and cycle times. "It will also get more data from their customers and see how they feel," he says.

For the first time since the merger was announced, Renouard sounds a public note of optimism over the fate of the MD-11. Despite the precipitous drop-off in orders for passenger versions, the limited success of the aircraft in the freight market has forced Boeing to re-assess its position. "It probably will have a complementary role," says Renouard.

The prospects for the MD-80/90 family seem less bright. "We don't know until we have really examined everything," says Renouard, adding that the group should have a "-good sense of how everything will fit in" by the end of the year.

He adds that the future of the MD-95 is also under consideration, but does not rule out the possibility of a niche being found for the 105-seat aircraft.

For the moment, Douglas will continue to provide engineering support as a priority, with 120 engineers remaining in place in Seattle, where they have been based since moving there at the start of the year. More Boeing design work is also expected to be placed with Douglas, while further studies will focus on aero structures and other support work. This could include flight testing, certification, final painting and customer-acceptance duties.

Under the deal thrashed out to win approval from the European Commission, Boeing agreed to maintain Douglas Aircraft as a separate legal entity for the next ten years. However, Boeing chairman and chief executive Phil Condit, speaking at a briefing to mark the start of the merger, says that the deal still allows "-the flexibility to move products around [and] that's what we will do". The comment appears to confirm long-running speculation that the Long Beach site may eventually be used to take up the overspill from Seattle.

Under the new group structure, unveiled at the briefing, the Douglas Products business will be absorbed into the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (BCAG), of which Ron Woodard remains overall president. The previous head of Douglas Aircraft, Walter Orlowski becomes vice-president of strategic and product planning within BCAG.

The main MDC defence and space units are being incorporated into a new Information, Space and Defense Systems (ISDS)group, to be headed by Alan Mulally, formerly president of Boeing's Defense and Space Group, which already includes acquisitions from Rockwell made in 1996.

Reporting to Mulally are three business units, as well as the Phantom Works research and development operation:

- McDonnell Aircraft and Missile Systems, based in St Louis, is to be run by Mike Sears, formerly head of MDC Aerospace;

- Space Systems, headed by John McLuckey, formerly president of Boeing North American, is based in Seal Beach, California;

- the Seattle-based Information and Communications Systems, which includes satellites and strategic missiles, is headed by Jim Evatt, formerly executive vice-president, Boeing Defense & Space Group;

- David Swain continues as head of Phantom Works, but the centre may move from St Louis.

Boeing Helicopters and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company will remain separate for the time being. Condit says that initially he "-does not see a lot of value" in consolidating the two operations, but Boeing will evaluate whether civil-rotorcraft manufacturing should remain in Mesa, Arizona for the long term.

Condit admits that it will take time to digest the massive merger, before moving towards any radical poste-merger rationalisation. "We will look at how to get some synergies, but for now people will stay where they are," he says.

Source: Flight International