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Boeing CEO, president step down amid company turbulence

Mar 25, 2024, 6:34 AM

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Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun departs from a meeting at the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on Capitol Hill January 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Boeing CEO David Calhoun is retiring, effective at the end of the year, alongside commercial airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal, effective today, as the airplane manufacturer deals with several ongoing controversies.

Board Chair Larry Kellner also informed Boeing’s board that he will not run for re-election. Steve Mollenkopf is expected to succeed Kellner, while Stephanie Pope has been appointed to take over for Deal.

More on Boeing: Whistleblower found dead as the airline manufacturer’s issues snowball

“It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve Boeing,” Calhoun wrote in a letter to employees. “The eyes of the world are on us, and I know that we will come through this moment a better company. We will remain squarely focused on completing the work we have done together to return our company to stability after the extraordinary challenges of the past five years, with safety and quality at the forefront of everything that we do.”

Calhoun was CEO of Boeing for four years, since Jan. 2020, replacing Dennis Muilenburg. Deal took over as president of commercial airplanes just three months prior. Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane suffered two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, claiming the lives of 346 passengers and crew on board, causing a flurry of leadership changes within the company.

The tragic crashes led to multiple groundings for safety issues and more than $31 billion in cumulative losses, according to CNN.

More on Boeing’s fatal crashes in 2018, 2019: Families of Boeing 737 MAX crash victims file new claim against FAA

But Boeing faced several more issues under Calhoun and Deal’s leadership. On Jan. 5, a left mid-cabin door plug blew out of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 while in flight, causing the FAA to ground 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes. The FAA then conducted a six-week audit of Boeing and its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, finding both failed to comply with quality-control requirements. Of the 89 product audits, a type of FAA review focusing specifically on parts of the production process, Boeing passed 56 and failed 33.

“Everything that was going on since Alaska 1282 meant that Boeing was in a crisis from the leadership of BCA  — Boeing Commercial Airplanes — right up to the corporate level,” Aviation analyst Scott Hamilton told KIRO Newsradio.

An anonymous whistleblower subsequently placed the blame for a door plug blow-out solely on Boeing, slamming the company’s quality control process and calling the 737 production system a “rambling, shambling disaster waiting to happen.”

More on Boeing whistleblower: Boeing production a ‘disaster waiting to happen’

Additionally, the airplane manufacturer is being sued for not taking care of the safety of its employees —  resulting in a murder-suicide in 2022 — while facing another lawsuit from a transgender employee for harassment and failing to provide a safe work environment.

Deal had been with Boeing for 38 years while Calhoun first joined the company as a member of its Board of Directors in 2009. In 2022, Calhoun received $22.5 million from Boeing — $1.4 million as his base salary and the rest as estimated value of stock and option awards.

“One of the real problems that Boeing has had is that it’s had an incredibly thin bench for CEO successors. The last several CEOs, including the incoming CEO for Boeing Commercial Airplanes by the way, are all finance, MBA types,” Hamilton said. “I just think we need an airplane guy or gal in there.

“If another ex-GE person comes in, who was steeped in the culture of Dave Calhoun and Jim McNerney before him and Harry Stonecipher before him I would have a very difficult time seeing changes happening to the culture,” Hamilton added.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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