In a move geared to finding an eventual successor to Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney, Boeing has advanced two top executives to vice chairmen, appointed a company president and chief operating officer, and announced new leaders for Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Military Aircraft.

Dennis Muilenburg, who runs the company's defense arm, is promoted to vice chairman, president and the new post of chief operating officer. The promotion, which is the first time Boeing has created a senior operations executive under McNerney's watch, will see Muilenburg sharing oversight of the company's overall operations. Christopher Chadwick, the current Boeing Military Aircraft president, replaces Muilenburg as leader of Boeing Defense, Space & Security with Shelley Lavender, who is vice president and general manager of Integrated Logistics for the Global Services & Support business, replacing Chadwick. Ray Conner, who has led the company's commercial sector since mid-2012, is promoted to vice chairman, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Reacting to Muilenburg's appointment, investment analyst firm Jeffries states: “We consider him the most likely candidate to succeed McNerney. We expect this transition to run into 2016. We continue to believe the company has a deep bench of technical talent and these promotions reflect a considered approach to planning for the future.” Robert Stallard, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, comments: “The promotions signal to us that Muilenburg is the anointed heir apparent—though it could be a couple of years before he actually gets promoted to the top slot.” Stallard adds that McNerney's departure is not thought to be imminent.