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Boeing Vice Chairman Ray Conner will retire at the end of the year.

Most recently the President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Conner stepped down from that role a year ago to help train his replacement. He officially retires at the end of December 2017.

The second highest ranking executive in the company, Conner started out as a mechanic on Boeing’s Renton factory floor building 727s.

In an exclusive interview with KING 5’s Aviation Specialist Glenn Farley, he talked about some of his toughest challenges and where the company is positioned as it moves forward.

In his five years as head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, there two particularly difficult periods. One involved whether the company would build the new 777X in Western Washington.

Boeing says it needed to move away from a traditional pension with its largest union and adopt a 401K-type retirement plan. The future of the company’s next airplane, the 777X, depended on it.

But would Boeing have really moved operations? Conner talked about what it was like inside making those decisions and why.

Boeing did keep the 777X in Everett, and is bringing more work back inside the company, such as the new record-sized composite wings. Wings for the 787 Dreamliner are made by a contractor in Japan.

Another tough challenge Conner faced involved the once troubled 787, which was years behind schedule. It was also the first airplane fleet in more than 30 years to be grounded by the FAA until problems could be fixed with its cutting edge, high tech battery.

How did Conner lead the company through that?

The next airplane at Boeing

It’s not yet a done deal. There’s a lot more work to go, but Boeing is continuing to move forward in consideration of its next airplane that some people are already calling the 797.

That designation hasn’t been formally adopted, nor are there any commitments to build it.

It will be aimed at what’s known as the middle of the market – larger than the company’s popular workhorse 737 and smaller than a 787 Dreamliner.

What do we know is where it could potentially be built and where Boeing fits into Seattle’s new economy.

Future of manufacturing

Is manufacturing in America going away?

Conner says not in aerospace. Boeing is actually bringing more work back in-house.

But what do you need to get a job as Boeing is now hiring again.

Conner’s outside replacement

Conner grew up in the Seattle area, and his father worked at Boeing. But now the new head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes is from outside the company, and that concerns some people.

For the past year Conner’s been working with Kevin McAllister. What does McAllister bring to Boeing, and how has the transition helped in this highly complex job?

Investment in community and education

Conner may be retiring, but he says he’s not going away.

He says he’ll continue to stay involved helping create a new generation of aerospace workers.

He’s already involved with the Highline School District where he went from grade school through high school. He is also working with community and technical colleges, as well as engineering programs at the University of Washington in Seattle and Central Washington University in Ellensburg.