At an annual retreat for Boeing's senior leadership at the Indian Wells resort near Palm Springs, Calif., chief technology officer John Tracy announced Wednesday the promotion of nine senior engineering leaders in a bid to strengthen the company's "reputation for engineering excellence."
"Revitalizing the important role of such senior engineering leaders will help ensure engineering excellence in all our products," Tracy said in a message sent to Boeing managers.
Three of the new engineering vice presidents are already leaders on the 787 program: Mike Delaney, chief project engineer for the program; Jim Ogonowski, chief structures engineer for the program; and Mike Sinnett, systems chief engineer for the program.
Those three will continue to head those 787 units, while broadening their responsibilities to include future development programs.
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Also inside the commercial airplanes unit, Keith Leverkuhn becomes engineering vice president for propulsion systems.
In addition, five engineering vice presidents have been promoted inside the company's defense and space division.
Boeing spokesman Daryl Stephenson said the new engineering leaders will work with program managers within their specialty fields to ensure that engineering and technical guidance is given early when the direction of new programs is being decided.
Stephenson noted that the challenges experienced on development programs over the past couple of years — in particular on the delayed 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 programs — have dented Boeing's reputation.
"Those challenges have brought home that engineering leaders play a very important role in ensuring that we have engineering excellence and success," he said.
"We have come to recognize that Boeing is first and foremost an engineering company."
Boeing has been heavily criticized in recent years, particularly by its white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), for ditching its traditional engineering-focused culture in favor of an emphasis on marketing and cost-saving in the development and manufacturing of airplanes.
Stephenson said that as Boeing became a giant corporation, it moved away from the type of management structure typical in the early days of all aerospace, "when companies were much smaller and were more or less defined by central engineering figures who were dominant in their influence over design and the direction of the company."
"In a way, (Wednesday's announcement) is a return to a structure seen in the early days of the company."