Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor's degree in engineering physics from the University of British Columbia, native Canadian Longridge joined Boeing in 1993 as a flight test analysis engineer, working on certification of the 777-200. He subsequently held a variety of assignments in Boeing Commercial Airplanes, including Director of Product Marketing for the 7E7, which became the 787 Dreamliner, sales director for Western Europe for Boeing Business Jets and a product analysis focal for the 737 program. He was serving as a Sales Director based in the UK leading the British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, IAG and TUI accounts when he was appointed to his current position in November 2014.

 

1. The Boeing celebrity at this year's EBACE is the brand-new 787 lording over the Static Display. Is it the first BBJ Dreamliner?

Actually, no, it will be the third to enter service. And it's so fresh out of the Greenpoint Technologies completion center in Moses Lake, Washington, its interior has yet to receive FAA certification. The first 787 BBJ was outfitted with an airliner interior, and the second one, which went to the Government of Mexico, has a mix of first class seating aft and more executive-type accommodations forward. The Greenpoint aircraft is by far the most luxurious of the three. At this point we have sold a total of 15 787 BBJs to governments and private operators. Six more are currently in completion centers.

2. Gulfstream, Dassault and Bombardier used to send green airplanes to completion centers, but realized they were missing out on a lot of value, while getting blamed if the outfitting disappointed the operator. So, they took the work in-house. Is Boeing likely to do the same?

Quite unlikely. We do offer customers a turnkey service whereby they pay us for a completed aircraft and we have dedicated staffers with expertise in managing such work who then carefully oversee the outfitting done at one of our 14 approved completion centers around the world. But no, I don't foresee people with Boeing badges ever doing completions. There is an exquisite range of imaginative things people do with interiors. We're superb at building airliners, but designing interiors of business jets is not something we do. That said, there's definitely a risk we run in allowing others to do the completion. If something breaks, it's still a Boeing. But my group has deep experience as a customer of the completion centers, and as such we can identify trouble and solutions early on.

Well, would Boeing consider investing in an existing center?

As I highlighted in the previous question, I don’t think so. The Boeing Company is an expert in building the aircraft; the completion center industry does what it does, brilliantly, and has evolved into some incredibly competent centers of excellence.  For us, Boeing, to break into that business would be…difficult.  There are certain elements of the process you leave to the requisite experts and the centers are among those, just like the thousands of suppliers that assist Boeing in building the aircraft. So, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and leave them to do what they do so well.

Airlines buy Boeings by the score and more and, obviously, get discounts as a result. But BBJs are usually single buys, which presumably means the price is higher and margins better.

A logical assumption, but our customers get great value for their money across all models. These are exceptional machines and our success confirms the fact that our customers agree.

The BBJ division has been in operation for twenty years, and in that time it's recorded sales of just 238 airplanes ranging from 737s to 747s. Meanwhile, big Boeing has sold thousands of planes to the airlines. Why does it bother continuing your tiny operation?

When the original BBJ was first conceived by our former CEO, Phil Condit, the intent was to extend the Boeing name and capability to important people who might be unfamiliar with us. The idea was the BBJ would give us a chance to put a Boeing product in the hands of people who shake and shape the world. We think that's a good idea. For example, the Mexican government's 787 BBJ transports the president of Mexico at least once a month. I think that's marvelous. And so does Boeing. So, our group's value is difficult to quantify, but does it work? Yes!