Boeing-Spirit Merger Sets Up Pat Shanahan as Next Boeing CEO?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | July 2, 2024

The merger between Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems could lead to Spirit CEO Pat Shanahan becoming Boeing’s next CEO. And he is an engineer.

The last few days have proved hectic for Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, AND Airbus. It was common knowledge that the three parties were having advanced discussions on this for months. Spirit’s Wichita facility used to be part of Boeing, along with other entities that are now part of Spirit.

Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

Completing the deal meant convincing Airbus to take on the Spirit facilities that build key parts for its aircraft. Spirit CEO Pat Shanahan, a former Boeing engineer, had a difficult balancing act to play, which involved compensating Airbus, so it would take on loss-making facilities.

All this brought Shanahan into focus. Well before the Spirit deal looked like an immediate prospect, Shanahan’s name figured among those of prospective Boeing CEOs, to replace Dave Calhoun, who will depart before the end of the year.

Boeing-Spirit Merger Sets Up Pat Shanahan as Next Boeing CEO?
Patrick (Pat) Shanahan, when he was Deputy Secretary of Defense. Photo: Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley, U.S. Air Force

Shanahan is just one of many such prospects. However, several other “big” names have since taken themselves out of contention. But according to a recent story in the Seattle Times, Shanahan hasn’t denied having an interest in the Boeing job.

Shanahan and Some Recent Boeing History…

Some might question the idea of putting a Spirit CEO in charge of Boeing. However, Spirit is a relatively new posting for Shanahan. He took on the job last October, following the departure of Spirit’s previous CEO, after multiple quality and production issues at the company.

Opened plug (left) and closed later (right) during interior work on the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX-9. Photos: Boeing via NTSB

This means that Shanahan joined Spirit around 2 weeks after Boeing reattached that door plug to an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX-9 (see above). But while he isn’t blamed for Spirit’s recent “sins”, some may object to posting him at Boeing as CEO, because of his previous positions with the aircraft manufacturer.

Before Spirit, Shanahan was the Deputy Secretary of Defense between 2017 and 2019. Before that, he had been a Boeing engineer since 1986. Shanahan had worked on multiple Boeing aircraft, earning the nickname “Mr Fix-it”, whenever aircraft programs ran into trouble.

Boeing-Spirit Merger Sets Up Pat Shanahan as Next Boeing CEO?
Photo (cropped): Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (taken by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro), CC BY 2.0

But with Boeing’s culture being a key focus recently, some wonder if Shanahan may have been a bit too close to the company in critical times. But a counter-argument is whether or not other strong prospects for Boeing’s CEO position, like COO Stephanie Pope or board chair Steve Mollenkopf, are even closer.

If Shanahan doesn’t get the CEO position, he could still get a higher role in the company, for example as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In any case, there are a lot of eyes on Boeing at the moment, with legislators, regulators, AND airline bosses, being quite vocal about what kind of CEO they want to see. The next few weeks at Boeing could be interesting.


Check out a recent MentourNOW video, looking at who could be the next Boeing CEO, here:

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