April 24, 2024

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Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is leaving the company as the company faces a safety crisis

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is leaving the company as the company faces a safety crisis
  • Written by Theo Leggett
  • Business correspondent, BBC News

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Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun

Boeing President Dave Calhoun will leave his post at the end of this year amid a deepening crisis over the company's safety record.

Boeing also said the head of its commercial airline division will retire immediately while its president will not run for re-election.

The company is under pressure after an unused door exploded on a Boeing 737 Max plane in January shortly after take-off.

No one was hurt, but the company's safety and quality control standards have come under renewed scrutiny.

Calhoun took over as CEO in early 2020 after the previous president, Dennis Muilenburg, was fired in the wake of one of the biggest scandals in the company's history.

Within five months, two new 737 MAX aircraft were lost in nearly identical accidents that claimed the lives of 346 passengers and crew.

When Calhoun took office, he promised to strengthen a “culture of safety” and “rebuild trust” at Boeing.

However, in January of this year, an abandoned emergency exit door on Alaska Airlines' new Boeing 737 MAX exploded shortly after takeoff from Portland International Airport.

A preliminary report by the US National Transportation Safety Board concluded that four bolts intended to securely attach the door to the plane were not installed.

Boeing faces a criminal investigation into the accident itself, as well as legal action from passengers on board.

“The eyes of the world are on us, and I know we will get through this moment in better company,” Calhoun said Monday.

In a letter to employees, he called the Alaska Airlines incident a “defining moment” for Boeing and one that needed to respond “with humility and complete transparency.”

He said he originally agreed to become CEO “because of the unprecedented circumstances the company was facing at the time.”

Boeing is struggling to rebuild trust between its airline customers and regulators in Washington.

The FAA said earlier this month that a six-week review of the 737 MAX production process at Boeing and its supplier Spirit Aerosystems found “multiple instances in which the companies failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.”

The findings came shortly after another report into Boeing's safety culture by a panel of experts, which found a “disconnect” between senior management and regular employees, as well as signs that employees were reluctant to report problems for fear of retaliation.

After the two planes crashed in October 2018 and 2019, it was found that faulty flight control software caused these accidents, which Boeing was accused of deliberately concealing from regulators.

The company agreed to pay $2.5bn (£1.8bn) to settle fraud charges and admitted deception, although it formally pleaded not guilty in subsequent court hearings.

It subsequently faced widespread accusations that it put profits before passengers' lives.

Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samia Rose was killed in the 2019 Boeing 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia, said Monday that the change in leadership was “necessary and long overdue.”

“They now need to search the world for the best CEO with proven performance in production quality and safety at the complex [manufacturing]”, he wrote on social media.

In addition to Calhoun, Stan Deal will leave his position as President of Boeing's Commercial Airlines Division, effective immediately. He will be replaced by Stephanie Pope, who has spent the past three months working as Boeing's chief operating officer.

Larry Kellner, the company's president, will also leave, and will be replaced by Steve Mollenkopf, the former head of Qualcomm who has been on Boeing's board since 2020. He will lead the search for a new CEO.

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