Boeing Live Event Coverage
The new Boeing boss brings some Airbus-style swagger
On the eve of the Farnborough Air Show in London Sunday, Ray Conner -- the new chief executive at Boeing Commercial Airplanes -- showed some of the swagger of a top salesman.
In a book-lined conference room at a fancy London hotel, Conner faced a small group of journalists in his first media appearance since his abrupt ascension to the top job on June 26.
Conner (pictured right, my photo) suavely parried all questions, disclosing no specific news. And yet his responses betrayed an intense competitiveness.
It was a media performance with a style closer to that of Airbus sales chief John Leahy than to the earnest approach of Conner's predecessor Jim Albaugh, a former engineer.
Will Boeing beat Airbus on orders this year? Without committing to a specific prediction, Conner's answer spoke of ambition.
"It's always important to be number one," Conner said. "You don't want to be number two."
Does he share Albaugh's publicly stated goal to achieve parity in the single-aisle jet market between the 737 MAX and the rival Airbus A320neo?
"Parity? I thought (the goal) was 100 percent," Conner said, with a big smile. "You're talking to a sales guy. I don't want to lose any."
Does he feel pressure at this Air Show, with all the advance expectations that Boeing's 737 MAX must begin to catch up with the A320neo?
"I feel pressure all the time," Conner replied. "Every order is a precious thing. We want to win as many as we possibly can."
Conner said he'll be "doing a little double duty" at this Air Show, on the one hand the CEO, on the other closing lots of deals as chief sales guy.
Exuding confidence, he allowed one moment of deliberate understatement, still avoiding specific predictions. Conner said Boeing will have "a decent show" and "a good year."
Conner said hes "really excited" to be promoted to the top job at a moment when he sees Boeing as poised to make big gains "both in the marketplace and in production."
He said he isn't concerned about Airbus's decision to build airplanes in Mobile, Ala. He said U.S. airlines don't buy locally.
"I don't think our customers really care where the airplanes are made," he said.
And he spoke glowingly of the strides Boeing is making in production.
He conceded that this isn't apparent yet in the delivery rate of the 787. Despite a rollout rate from the Everett factory of 3.5 per month, only six Dreamliners went to customers in the first half of the year.
Conner blamed the build-up of early planes that require modification before delivery.
"That's taken longer than we anticipated," he said. "That's probably been the thing that has slowed us down the most."
But in five years time, he said, the Dreamliner "will be rolling out like nobody's business ... out in the marketplace pretty heavily and flying around everywhere."
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- Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance
- State aerospace companies: 2006 wage and job data
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- Flight International airplane cutaway graphics
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- Paine Field Everett daily photo record
- Renton & Boeing Field photos