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Boeing Says Muilenburg Will Take Over As CEO, Succeeding Jim McNerney

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(Corrected spelling of Muilenburg's name.)

Boeing says Chief Executive Jim McNerney will turn over the reins to Dennis Muilenburg, who has served as the aerospace company’s president and chief operating officer since 2013. Muilenburg will take over on July 1st.

McNerney will stay on as chairman of the board and will work at the company to help with the transition until he retires at the end of February 2016, the company said in a statement. Muilenburg has been elected a member of the board.

Muilenburg is 51 and has worked for Boeing for 30 years. He joined Boeing as an engineering intern in Seattle in 1985 and centered his career in the company’s defense business. He headed Boeing’s Defense Space and Security business from 2009 until 2013.  

But the commercial airplane side of the company is where Muilenburg faces a number of decisions to make soon, said aviation analyst Scott Hamilton. 

Decisions To Make

"The more pressing issues for Dennis are going to be what to do about the 747 production rate and whether or not to even continue the program," Hamilton said. Muilenburg will also have to decide "whether or not to acknowledge what everybody else already believes is going to happen and that is a rate reduction on the 777 classic in advance of the 777X."

Demand for the four-engine 747 has been limited in recent years as airlines opt for more fuel-efficient twin-engine planes. And analysts have been questioning for a while whether Boeing can maintain its current production rate of building 100 777 jets a year. That's important because that airplane is a big money-maker.

McNerney, 65, became chairman, president and CEO in 2005. He’s overseen a time of record sales and a record backlog, but at the same time, he’s had a rocky relationship with the company’s labor unions.  

Hamilton said Muilenburg's attitude toward organized labor is still something of an enigma.

Labor Relations

"Is Dennis going to continue the McNerney policy of moving work and jobs out of Washington?" Hamilton said. "That's obviously going to be a big concern to SPEEA, which is the most vulnerable of the two unions, so those are going to be some top of the mind issues."

SPEEA stands for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. That union represents about 20,500 Boeing workers in Washington state. They enter contract negotiations with the company next year, and the last time they negotiated a contract, in 2013, SPEEA workers came close to going on strike. 

SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich said Muilenburg was represented by the union from 1986 until 1994 but never actually joined the union.

Since 2013, Boeing has announced plans to move thousands of jobs out of the Puget Sound region to other parts of the country, including many engineering and technical positions. 

As for Boeing's biggest union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 751 President Jon Holden said chief executives come and go, "but District 751 Machinists have been the driving force behind Boeing's success for the past 80 years and that hasn't changed."

"We welcome Boeing's announcement that Dennis Muilenburg is taking over as CEO and encourage him to invest in the workforce and recognize the value of each and every employee at the Boeing Co.," Holden said in a statement.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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