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Douglas Expects Delivery Delays to Worsen

Times Staff Writer

Douglas Aircraft has notified its commercial aircraft customers that delivery delays, which have plagued the McDonnell Douglas subsidiary for the past year, are expected to grow somewhat worse during 1989.

The firm announced Tuesday that because of a record backlog of orders, problems with rapid employment growth and various management changes, deliveries of some MD-80 jetliners from its Long Beach complex will be delayed about five to 30 days this year.

Robert H. Hood Jr., the recently named president of Douglas, said only three weeks ago that the delays had not grown any worse, but a new assessment has indicated that more aircraft than earlier thought will be delayed, company spokesman Don Hanson said.

“It doesn’t mean that every airplane will be affected,” Hanson said. “A lot of the aircraft going out of here have been delivered on time.”

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Hanson did not have figures on how many additional airplanes will be late, and he declined to identify the affected airlines.

Last year, Douglas delivered 121 MD-80s. The company builds 2 1/2 of the airplanes per week, which amounts to about 120 aircraft per year after deducting for holiday shutdowns. To make up for delays, however, the company must increase production above 2 1/2 per week. That means stepping up not only Douglas assembly but deliveries from thousands of suppliers all over the world.

The delays are being exacerbated by a top-to-bottom management restructuring by Hood.

“There is no way you can go through major structural changes in your manufacturing process without some disruption,” Hanson said. “We knew we were going to have to bite that bullet.”

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Douglas said it expects “significant long-term improvements” from the organizational changes. It added, “The new emphasis on quality . . . is expected to yield significant improvements for next year and beyond.”


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