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CORRECTED-Boeing CEO says expects union deal in "few weeks"

Monday, 1 Oct 2012 | 8:40 PM ET

(Corrects reference to GE engines in paragraph 5, adds details in paragraph 6)

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct 1 (Reuters) - Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney said on Monday he expects contract talks with the company's 23,000 unionized engineers to result in a "successful resolution over the next few weeks."

McNerney spoke as members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace in Seattle were widely expected to reject Boeing's offer for a new contract to replace one that expires Oct. 6. The engineers can continue working after the contract expires, and a separate vote is required to authorize a strike.

McNerney called the union talks "not atypical," adding, "We're marching through a normal negotiation-type process."

Speaking at a business conference in South Carolina, he said "Boeing lives in environments that have unions and environments that don't have unions."

McNerney defended the 787 Dreamliners that were coming off the production line at the company's North Charleston plant, and said problems last month with General Electric's GENx engine are

"growing pains."

In July and August, Boeing found cracked fan midshafts in GEnx-1B turbofan engines in two 787s that had not yet flown. One of the 787s was performing a taxiing test at Charleston International Airport when metal pieces from the engine sparked a grass fire near the runway.

"Any new airplane program, particularly when you're building an airplane out of a completely new set of materials like this one, goes through some growing pains," he told reporters.

Charleston's "manufacturing process had to go through some growing pains, but I would categorize it more as normal than abnormal," he said.

McNerney said Boeing was working with regulators and anticipated the 787 Dreamliner production "will keep marching ahead."

The North Charleston plant has 6,000 employees.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Alwyn Scott and Jim Loney)

((alwyn.scott@thomsonreuters.com)(646-223-4000))

Keywords: BOEING MCNERNEY/

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