Jim Albaugh, credited with overcoming delays in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program, has just left the company, according to a report in the Financial Times [reg. req’d].Albaugh, an engineer by training, had headed the company’s commercial business— a position that will now be filled by his subordinate, Ray Conner, who at 57 is five years his junior. It’s the latest in a series of moves by CEO Jim McNerny to fill top jobs with younger men.
Before going to Boeing’s commercial division in 2009, Albaugh worked on the military side, and he was obviously a great believer in unmanned aircraft, or UAVs. So far these machines have been mainly of use to the military, but Albaugh let slip that he thought they had a broader future. That could be called a brave position to take at Boeing, which compared to its great European rival Airbus, has always been considered a pilot’s company.
At a conference held in August in Portland, Ore., Albaugh was asked how long it would take for UAVs to become commercially important. "A pilotless airliner is going to come; it's just a question of when," he said. "You'll see it in freighters first, over water probably, landing very close to the shore."
Too bad. When an airliner finally flies with an empty cockpit, the man who won’t be in it won’t be Albaugh.