Boeing Co. announced Tuesday that commercial airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh, 62, will retire Oct. 1.
The head of sales, Ray Conner, 57, will replace him immediately.
The switch replaces a champion of Boeing’s engineering prowess and the capabilities of its production workforce with a Seattle-born executive who has climbed through the ranks of the company from mechanic to top gun.
In September 2009, Albaugh, then head of the company’s St. Louis, Mo,-based defense division, was brought in to lead the commercial airplane unit and soon established himself as an advocate for Boeing’s internal talent.
Dealing with the aftermath of costly delays on the 787 Dreamliner program, Albaugh repeatedly made public declarations that Boeing had made serious mistakes in outsourcing too much of the 787 work and that it would in future do more in-house.
Since he arrived in Washington state, Albaugh has lavishly praised the Puget Sound-area workforce and said this region will remain the center of gravity of Boeing’s commercial airplane operations. But shortly after he came in, it was Albaugh who made the final recommendation to the Boeing board in Chicago that a second 787 assembly line should be in North Charleston, S.C., not in Everett. Conner accompanied him on that presentation to the board.
Conner was hired by Boeing in 1977 as a mechanic on the 727 program.
Shortly after he started work, he joined his International Association of Machinists workmates in a 45-day strike. But within a couple of years, Conner had taken classes, joined management and begun to rise through the ranks.
In recent years as a top executive, Conner has been a key leader in the company’s labor negotiations.