Boeing CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg has stepped down from his position "effectively immediately" following 14 months of headwinds triggered by two fatal crashes of the now grounded 737 Max line.
In a company statement, Boeing said that a “change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders.”
Current chief financial officer Greg Smith is to act as interim CEO until the 13 January 2020 when chairman David Calhoun will take over permanently. Calhoun was only made chairman in October when Boeing stripped Muilenburg of the title. Board member Lawrence Kellner has been made exec-chairman of the board.
Boeing said that under this new leader, it will “operate a renewed commitment to full transparency, including effective and proactive communication with the FAA, other global regulators and its customers”.
In a statement, Calhoun said that he “strongly believes in the future of Boeing and the 737 MAX,” adding that he is going to work with the firm’s 150,000 workforce to “create the future of aviation”.
It is the here and now that is the problem for Boeing: the 737 Max has been grounded since March by order of the Federal Aviation Authority, and confirmed this month it is to temporarily suspend production of its 737 Max jets following two crashes of the aircraft in October 2018 and then March 2019. Some 346 people were killed in those incidents.
The cause of those crashes has been attributed to the plane’s anti-death flight control software, the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), and the relatively low level of training pilots received.
The FAA hasn’t published its official report into those crashes and is anticipating an audit of the 737 Max’s certification process by the US Department for Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General. The model is also subject to probes by other regulators across the planet.
As we recently pointed out, the FAA has itself come under fire from Congress for not disclosing an internal study that predicted roughly 15 additional crashes over the estimated 45-year life of the 737 Max line because of the MCAS design flaw.
The 737 Max has caused billions of dollars in losses at Boeing, so the exit of its CEO isn’t a surprise. The way the next leader tackles the challenge facing the jet division is something Boeing's customers will be watching with interest, as they want to get their 737 Max’s passenger jets safely into the air as soon as possible. ®