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'This is a crucial time for Boeing,' new CEO says on first day

Jan. 13, 2020
3 min read
Boeing Holds First Test Flight For 737 MAX Aircraft
'This is a crucial time for Boeing,' new CEO says on first day
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"This is a crucial time for Boeing."

Boeing's new CEO did not mince words as he started in his position Monday.

In an email to all employees, which the company released publicly, David Calhoun acknowledged that Boeing has endured a "painful" period for the last 18 months, and he vowed to work on turning things around in 2020.

In October 2018, one of Boeing's best-selling 737 MAX jets crashed into the Java Sea, killing all onboard. About five months later, a second MAX crashed shortly after takeoff in Ethiopia. Combined, the two disasters left 346 dead, and resulted in the worldwide grounding of the narrowbody workhorse.

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Things have not been going well for Boeing since.

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The MAX's return to service has repeatedly been pushed back as the company struggles to address problems with automated flight control software that has become scrutinized in both crashes. Regulators have pushed Boeing to be more transparent, even as a steady drip of information suggested the company was not entirely forthcoming about the extent of the problems with the system, and how difficult it was to fix.

Last Tuesday, the manufacturer reversed its long-held position that MAX pilots should not need simulator training if they were already certified to fly previous versions of the 737. If its new recommendation in favor of simulator training is adopted by regulators, the jet's return to service could be further slowed even once it's cleared to fly as airlines scramble to re-certify pilots with a limited number of simulators available globally.

And last Thursday, unfiltered internal communications were made public. The messages showed the extent to which Boeing originally tried to dissuade airlines and regulators from requiring expensive, time-consuming simulator training for MAX pilots. The communications also included exchanges from employees that voiced skepticism regarding the MAX's safety as well as flippant exchanges about its design and certification process.

Related: Southwest CEO remains confident in Boeing 737 MAX

In his email, Calhoun said that a safe return to service for the MAX would be Boeing's top priority this year, after which, the company can start working to rebuild the trust he acknowledged it's lost with passengers, airlines, regulators and other stakeholders as a result of the debacle.

"My sleeves are rolled up," his message concluded. "I know yours are, too."

Featured image by Stephen Brashear