Boeing Co. (BA) Chief Executive Harry Stonecipher (search) will step down in spring 2006 at age 70, according to an interview published in Monday's edition of the Seattle Times newspaper.

Stonecipher, who came out of retirement at age 67 to take over when Phil Condit (search) resigned amid scandals last December, also said simmering U.S.-European trade tensions could have been avoided through a partnership with rival Airbus SAS decades ago.

"One of the mistakes we have made in America is not being partners with them," Stonecipher told the Times. "I'm sure Boeing could have been a partner early on."

A Boeing spokesman did's mandatory retirement age.

Until now, Stonecipher has declined to specify when he would retire for good, typically saying he would serve as long as the board of directors wanted him to.

Boeing's board "will have choices, inside and outside" for a new CEO in 2006, Stonecipher told the Times, which cited commercial airplane CEO Alan Mulally and Boeing board member James McNerney, current 3M Co. (COMS) CEO, as top candidates.

Condit resigned one week after Boeing fired former Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears and Boeing defense executive Darleen Druyun (search) for discussing Druyun's job while she was still overseeing Boeing business as a Pentagon official.