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updated: 7/26/2013 7:36 PM

Boeing appoints Whittington as engineering chief of Dreamliner

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Bloomberg News

Boeing Co. chose a new chief engineer for the 787 Dreamliner program as the composite-plastic jet continues to face glitches almost two years after it first entered service.

Bob Whittington will take over as chief project engineer for the 787, which was grounded for three months after lithium- ion batteries overheated on two Dreamliners in January and now is being investigated for a July 12 fire on an empty plane parked at London's Heathrow airport.

Whittington, chief engineer on the twin-engine 777, will replace Mike Sinnett, who will become vice president of product development. Sinnett had been chief engineer of the 787 since early 2010 and took the lead role in redesigning its lithium-ion batteries, including a metal enclosure, which led U.S. regulators to permit the plane to fly again in April. He served on the 787 program since its inception, previously as chief systems engineer and vice president of systems.

Larry Schneider, vice president of product development, will take over as chief engineer of the 777, which is scheduled to introduce a new version of the twin-engine plane this year, known as the 777X. The job changes will take place over an extended period of time, Mike Delaney, engineering vice president for Boeing's commercial airplane unit, said in a memo announcing the shuffle.

No Perfect Time

"Some may ask why we are making moves of this magnitude at this time," Delaney said. "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."

For the July 12 blaze on the Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise 787, U.K. investigators have pointed to an emergency locator transmitter as the likely source. Regulators, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, have asked airlines to check the beacon, made by Honeywell International Inc. Two airlines have reported crimped wires on the transmitter.

In another Dreamliner incident, Air India Ltd. said an oven for warming food overheated on July 24 and began to emit smoke. There was no fire and the plane wasn't diverted during the flight from New Delhi to the city of Kolkata.

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