Boeing announced internally Friday a reshuffling of top engineering executives that sees Mike Sinnett leaving his post as chief project engineer for the 787 Dreamliner.
During the last seven months of intense scrutiny of the Dreamliner program, Sinnett has been the top executive called upon to address the most technical details of the 787’s problems.
Mike Delaney, vice president of engineering at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, announced the changes in an internal memo.
“Since some of these moves involve changes to key people on the 777 and 787 programs, some may ask why we are making moves of this magnitude at this time,” Delaney wrote. “While there is never a perfect time to make changes, by making these moves, we are giving all of these individuals an opportunity to broaden their experience and to apply their knowledge and capability to other roles or on other programs.
“These changes will increase the bench strength of our teams,” he added.
Sinnett led the development of all the 787’s airplane systems from the beginning of the program a decade ago.
As chief project engineer, Sinnett had his BlackBerry set to receive a real-time alert whenever a 787, in service anywhere in the world, had a fault notification.
And it was Sinnett who this year led the effort to design a fix for the main battery overheating problems that grounded the 787 for almost four months. He briefed customers and the press on all the engineering details.
After the grounding was lifted, it seemed Sinnett had put the 787’s troubles behind him, until the July 12 fire aboard a parked Ethiopian Airlines 787 at Heathrow raised a new set of concerns.
Sinnett now steps sideways to a less stressful position as vice president of product development. That means he’s in charge of developing concepts for future airplanes, beyond the current pipeline of new jets.
Replacing Sinnett as 787 chief project engineer is Bob Whittington, who previously held that post on the 777 program.
Larry Schneider, who had led product development, will take Whittington’s position as chief project engineer on the 777.
Other executive changes are aimed at aligning the engineering leadership structure with Boeing’s intention to diversify its engineering workforce to three separate design centers around the country.
Todd Zarfos, who previously was vice president of engineering on the 747-8, has been named the vice president of engineering functions and will lead the Washington state design center.
Zarfos replaces Dan Mooney, who last month was named vice president of the Boeing South Carolina engineering design center.
In May, Tom Croslin was named to lead the newly established engineering design center in southern California.
In his internal message, Delaney said the moves will position the engineering leadership to handle the shifts as the company “transitions to three independent but cooperative engineering design centers based in Washington state, Southern California and South Carolina.”
In one further change, John Hamilton, who is vice president of regulatory administration, has been given added responsibility for aviation safety and aviation security.