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November 12, 2007

Vought CEO speaks frankly on 787 issues

787_production_color_diagram_4 Fairly or not, Dallas-based Vought Aircraft Industries has gotten the rap of being one of the major reasons why Boeing's 787 Dreamliner program has fallen months behind schedule, never mind Boeing's very ambitious (read unrealistic) plan.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Vought CEO Elmer Doty was very candid about some of the issues facing the company as it took on the task of designing and building major structures for the 787.

The Seattle Times, which had earlier broken a story that Boeing had assigned a senior executive to directly oversee Vought's work on the 787 and 747-8 programs, ran a detailed account of Doty's comments.

Doty acknowledged that Vought was "among the riskiest, if not the riskiest, of the (airplane) structure producers" in terms of its ability to perform as expected by Boeing. At the time major 787 work began early in 2006, Vought's ownership had just installed Doty to run the company which was in bad shape financially and had numerous production and quality problems.

Doty said things are looking up but the company has logistical, manufacturing and financial challenges ahead as it struggles to continue upgrading its other business sectors and meet its commitments to Boeing on the 787. He said Vought had asked for Boeing to send extra management help.

"Our challenges are logistical rather than technical," Doty insisted in a teleconference with financial analysts to discuss third-quarter earnings. "We've got a game plan that meshes with everyone else's and we think we can execute on it."

Vought builds the two rear-most sections of the 787 (open diagram above) at plant in Charleston, S.C. It also, in a joint venture with Italy's Alenia which manufactures the middle fuselage section, operates an adjacent plant where the two companies install wiring, plumbing and other parts into their sections and also components made in Japan.

- Bob


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Maybe Vought did too good a job of getting rid of their experienced employees throughout the company.

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