Boeing’s Conner talks about 787, 777X and SPEEA

Ray Conner, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, spoke Friday at a Morgan Stanley conference that was webcast.

It’s one of Conner’s few public appearances since taking over as BCA chief this summer beyond his attendance at the Farnborough International Air Show.

Here’s a look at what Conner had to say.

On the 787:

Production is at “five a month in the supply chain today.”

“We’ve got a few hot spots in the supply chain but nothing I’m freaked out about.”

In the factory “we’ll end the year at five (787s) a month. I like where we’re going.”

The challenge for reaching Boeing’s goal production rate of 10 787s monthly by the end of 2013 will be adding in the 787-9 into the mix next year. “But that’s why we have the surge line” in Everett, he said.

At Boeing’s North Charleston, S.C. site, “we’ll be breaking (a rate of) two each month soon.”

On development programs:

The 737 MAX “is just doing fabulous … it’s exceeding a lot of the expectations we had initially.”

The 787-9: “we’re well on our way with that product.”

As for future widebody development programs, Conner said the company first would through development on the 737 MAX and the 787-9 and look to stabilize production.

“We are defining the airplanes with our customers,” Conner said.

Speaking specifically on the 787-10x, the larger version of the Dreamliner that Boeing isn’t offering to customers yet, Conner called it a “really straightforward derivative.”

“The 777X … that’s a bigger work statement,” he said, though Conner hinted at what Boeing has in mind by mentioning the 777-8X and 777-9X by name.

On labor relations:

Conner noted that Boeing is in contract discussions with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA.

Boeing’s plan is to “present a total compensation package that’s market leading.” The company made its first complete offer to the union on Thursday.

When asked about the balance between keeping employees happy and Boeing’s desire to cut pension costs, Conner noted the company didn’t change the defined pension plan in the contract it made with the local district of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers last year. However, Conner said that Boeing made “some movement” on wages and medical expenses with the Machinists.

With SPEEA, Boeing is proposing switching new employees to a 401k plan rather than a defined pension.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to make some changes,” Conner said. “Hopefully, our employees can recognize the need to do it.”

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