David Calhoun hasn’t even officially been made the CEO of Boeing yet, but he’s already hard at work trying to rebuild the bridges the company has burned in recent years.
After last year’s fiascos with the 737 Max and issues with its Starliner, CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired on December 23, 2019. Boeing’s board decided that a leadership change was needed “to restore confidence on the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders.”
The board named Calhoun, a fellow board member, to the Boeing CEO position. He won’t officially be posted until January 13, 2020, but he’s been on the board since 2009, so he’s no stranger towards steering the behemoth aeronautics company.
“Dave has deep industry experience and a proven track record of strong leadership, and he recognizes the challenges we must confront,” said board chairman Lawrence Kellner.
He has some work to do to bring Boeing back to its former standing. Dozens or hundreds of apparent missteps have come to light since two 737 Max crashes in late 2018 and early 2019 that killed 346 people and grounded the entire 737 Max fleet. In early December, FAA administrator Steve Dickson took Muilenburg and the rest of Boeing publicly to task over rushing the approval of the aircraft and its software, and for making unrealistic promises about a timeline for getting the 737s back into the air.
One of Calhoun’s first acts as the new Boeing CEO was to contact the FAA personally, opening talks about how to ensure “a renewed commitment to full transparency, including effective and proactive communication with the FAA, other global regulators, and its customers.”
While he isn’t universally popular within the company, Calhoun was seen as a natural choice by the board, since he was already familiar with everything about the company’s situation and wouldn’t need much time getting up to speed. As he’s already proven.
“I strongly believe in the future of Boeing and the 737 Max,” Calhoun said in a statement. “I am honored to lead this great company and the 150,000 dedicated employees who are working hard to create the future of aviation.”
For decades, Boeing was “too big to fail.” The year 2019 proved that it is certainly not. While the most important thing to investors and analysts is knowing when the 737 Maxes will fly again, as well as a timeline for when Boeing’s other production will be back up to speed, the company’s future may also depend heavily on how Calhoun does in reforging Boeing’s partnerships with the FAA and other vital industry regulators.
Photo: An assembly line at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, factory. Credit: First Class Photography / Shutterstock.com