Boeing replaces 787 Dreamliner chief

Boeing Co.tapped the leader of its thriving 777 airplane program to oversee production of its much-delayed 787 Dreamliner jet in a management reorganization Friday.

The Chicago aerospace company said Larry Loftis is the new vice president and general manager for the Dreamliner program. The current head of the Dreamliner program, Scott Fancher, is taking over as vice president and general manager of the 777 project.

Jim Albaugh, head of Boeing's commercial airliner unit, said in an internal announcement that the move is designed "to better align our organization for the challenges ahead."

The changes, which take effect immediately, come just a few weeks after Boeing acknowledged the latest in a number of production flaws with the Dreamliner, a long-range plane that was delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways Co. last September more than three years behind schedule.

The company said the problem, which involved the plane's rear fuselage section, poses no short-term safety issues but could result in some short-term delays in deliveries of the twin-aisle jet.

Loftis led the 777 program to a record year of 200 net orders last year. The wide-body plane's popularity contributed to rival Airbus's decision last year to cancel production of its competing A340 model.

Boeing is under pressure to sharply increase deliveries of the Dreamliner to reduce a backlog of more than 850 planes. The 787, which is more fuel efficient than previous Boeing models, is the first big commercial jet made largely from plastic reinforced by carbon fiber, instead of aluminum.

"As this program transitions into production, this appointment will take advantage of Larry's more than 32 years of commercial product experience and knowledge of Boeing's production system," Albaugh said in Friday's announcement.

Boeing said Fancher, who led the 787 program as it hit the crucial milestone of making the first delivery last year, will work on such duties as helping to define the next variant of the 777.