Boeing South Carolina (copy)

David Carbon (left), vice-president of 787 operations at Boeing South Carolina, points out features of the 787-10 Dreamliner to Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, during a plant tour in October 2017. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

The executive who led Boeing's North Charleston plant through its most recent production boost while battling a union's efforts to organize workers is leaving the aerospace firm.

David Carbon will return to his native Australia to care for his family, the company announced Wednesday. He has been vice president of 787 operations since 2016.

Darrel Larson, director of aft-body operations, will fill Carbon's role until a successor is named, the company said.

"David has worked tirelessly the past three years to improve our production system and help us achieve the highest wide-body production rate in history," Boeing said in a statement, adding he leaves operations in North Charleston "the healthiest they’ve ever been."

Boeing this year increased production of its 787 Dreamliner jets to 14 per month, split between the South Carolina factory and a West Coast manufacturing site in Everett, Wash.

The transition drew praise from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who touted the plant's "ongoing quality and productivity strides."

Carbon's tenure also has been marked by conflict.

He has helped lead Boeing's opposition to flight-line workers joining the International Association of Machinists. Carbon refused to negotiate with the labor group and called the union's assertion that those employees are separate from the rest of the production crew "frankly ridiculous."

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.


Flight-line workers voted a year ago to join the IAM but Boeing has appealed the election results. The National Labor Relations Board has not made a final decision on the appeal.

"While we hope this personnel move allows for more honest communication between labor and management, there are many Boeing South Carolina workers who are still waiting for a true voice on the job and the chance to negotiate work rules, pay and benefits through an IAM contract," said Mike Evans, the union's lead organizer. 

More recently, the North Charleston campus has come under scrutiny for repeated production mistakes that some workers told The Post and Courier are due to management's focus on profits and deadlines rather than safety. In the wake of those reports, Boeing has said it will beef up its quality inspection staff.

Carbon has been with Boeing since 2002, with positions at the company's sites in Sydney, Australia, Salt Lake City and the Seattle area. Before coming to North Charleston, he was senior director of paint, pre-flight and delivery for the Dreamliner program in Everett.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_