In mid-January, as Boeing announced a new three-month delay to its troubled 787 Dreamliner, the company quietly brought in two high-level...

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In mid-January, as Boeing announced a new three-month delay to its troubled 787 Dreamliner, the company quietly brought in two high-level, seasoned executives from the defense side of the company to bolster its leadership.

Howard Chambers, 65, formerly head of Boeing’s Space and Intelligence Systems, was named as deputy to 787 program head Pat Shanahan.

John Van Gels, 64, former vice president of operations and supplier management at the company’s defense division, came in to oversee management of the 787 supplier partners as well as the final assembly operation.

A Boeing internal memo said the two, reporting directly to Shanahan, will “provide counsel, leadership and hands-on assistance to address critical needs.”

Dreamliner program spokeswoman Yvonne Leach said Chambers and Van Gels have been participating in program meetings in Everett, gathering data and offering guidance drawn from their experience.

“Pat wanted independent assessment,” Leach said. She said Shanahan has told both men: “Give me feedback. Make sure it’s candid. Give me advice and counsel.”

From August 2005, Chambers led the California-based Space and Intelligence Systems unit, which had been in deep trouble.

He arrived there as the Pentagon killed the classified, multibillion dollar U.S. spy-satellite system called Future Imagery Architecture.

He turned around the Satellite Systems unit, which had suffered serious performance problems.

Van Gels is a hands-on manufacturing veteran, like the 45-year-old Shanahan.

From 2000, Van Gels was site leader at Boeing’s St. Louis military-jet plant.

Previously, he was vice president and general manager of commercial-airplane production at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach.

In addition to his broader role on the Dreamliner program, Van Gels will also oversee modification of the 787s that are built before final certification of the airplane by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Boeing must modify those planes to comply with the final certification rules; some will be done at Boeing Field, but due to lack of space here more than 20 will be modified in San Antonio, Texas.

In other executive shifts within the Dreamliner program, Tim Coyle, who headed the maintenance and modification centers on the defense side, will take direct responsibility for improving supplier performance and readiness to meet production rates.

And the Dreamliner program has a new chief project engineer: Mike Delaney, formerly vice president of engineering for the 747, 767 and 777 programs in Everett.

News of the 787 appointments came Friday, when Boeing announced sweeping organizational changes within its defense division, including the naming of replacements for Chambers and Van Gels.

Former Navy vice admiral and Boeing Vice President John Lockard was appointed chief operating officer of the defense division.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com