New Boeing chief flies in to restore relations with MoD

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The Independent Online

The new chief executive of Boeing, the troubled US aerospace giant, arrives in Britain today to mount a charm offensive following its failure to win a key contract with the Ministry of Defence.

Harry Stonecipher is scheduled to see the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and the Defence Procurement Minister Lord Bach, to stress that Boeing remains committed to the UK despite being snubbed for the £13bn contract to replace the RAF's refuelling aircraft.

Mr Stonecipher, who was parachuted back into Boeing last December to replace the ousted Phil Condit, is also meeting the BAE Systems chairman Sir Dick Evans, rekindling speculation about a possible transatlantic merger between the two companies.

A Boeing spokesman refused to talk about Mr Stonecipher's itinerary. But he said: "When he took the job, Harry pledged that he would rebuild confidence in the company and renew dialogue with customers and that is exactly what he intends to do."

Boeing suffered a series of ethics scandals last year involving industrial espionage and the hiring of former Pentagon staff involved in awarding it contracts.

Presenting its annual results last week in Chicago, Mr Stonecipher said that since taking the job he had been spending a lot of time in the Pentagon and Congress "dealing with this perception that we are a bunch of crooks". Boeing's boardroom crisis and the ethics scandals - one of which involved a USAF order for 100 refuelling aircraft - are widely felt to have dashed its chances of securing the RAF contract.

Among the MoD programmes Boeing will be competing for in the next 12 months are a £12bn contract to provide all military flight training, being let under the private finance initiative, and an equipment contract known as SABR to replace the Navy's fleet of Sea King helicopters.