Just a week after Boeing announced an embarrassing six-month delay to its 787 Dreamliner jet, the company ousted Mike Bair as head of the...

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Just a week after Boeing announced an embarrassing six-month delay to its 787 Dreamliner jet, the company ousted Mike Bair as head of the program.

Boeing replaced him with Pat Shanahan, a former manager at the commercial airplanes unit who will transfer from Washington, D.C., where he’s been heading the Missile Defense Systems unit on Boeing’s defense side.

The move is designed to put in place a leader with direct experience of fixing complex supply chain tangles — the source of the problems that have dragged the 787 program behind schedule.

“We’ve reached a stage in the program (where) there are challenges,” said Boeing spokesman John Dern. “As we bring the production system up to speed, the decision was made to bring in (Shanahan)… He’s been working technically demanding and complex programs that involve working with partner suppliers.”

Heidi Wood, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said in a note to clients the move is “the right call for the 787.”

“Mike Bair has done a solid job quarterbacking the program, with 730 orders in backlog, proving out the technology,” Wood wrote. “Now, however, it’s down to program execution, and completing a myriad of in-the-weeds issues, which points to a person with ‘devil in the detail’ strengths.”

Robert Stallard, an analyst with Bank of America, warned in a note to his clients that although investors might welcome Boeing taking “decisive action” after the delay announcement, the move won’t be an instant fix.

“A significant body of knowledge will depart with Mike Bair and it will take time for Mr. Shanahan to get up to speed on the program,” Stallard wrote.

Shanahan, a 45-year-old Washington State native and a UW engineering graduate, joined Boeing in 1986. He was director of the tooling division at the Auburn fabrication plant, worked on the 777 program, and was program manager for the rollout of the 767-400ER derivative. In 2000, he headed the 757 program.

In April 2002, he moved to the defense side of the business, taking charge of the rotorcraft programs in Philadelphia, Penn. He was responsible for the Apache and Chinook helicopter programs as well as the revolutionary V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor airplane just deployed with the Marines in Iraq.

In December 2004, he took over the company’s ballistic missile defense program, a complex integration of many technically complex elements including a ground-based system of missile interceptors and an airborne laser program. Elements of the system are developed by a range of big defense contractors, with Boeign integrating the whole.

Bair, 51, who led the 787 program since it launched in 2003, was considered a leading candidate to one day become chief executive of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes division if the 787 continued its astonishing run of success.

Now that the 787 has run into serious trouble, that career arc looks unlikely. Bair will now become vice president for business strategy and marketing at the commercial airplanes division.

“Mike has led the development of the best-selling commercial airplane in history,” said Boeing commerical airplane spokesman Jim Schlueter. “He’ll take that expertise into the job of leading our next steps on future products and strategy. It’s one of the key senior positions.”

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