Does Boeing Need New Management To Right The Ship?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | February 21, 2024

In the aftermath of the Alaska MAX-9 blowout, there have been some calls for Boeing to get new management. But this is not a universal view.

Back in January, Leeham News reported on the sour atmosphere at Aviation Week’s supplier conference in Los Angeles. Consultants like Richard Aboulafia and other industry insiders called for the ousting of Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and for further changes in the company’s management.

Does Boeing Need New Management To Right The Ship?
Photo: NTSB

But others adopt a more neutral tone, or perhaps a cautious one. While many agree that Boeing needs to make sweeping changes, it’s also worth pointing out that Boeing took over two decades to arrive at its present state.

This means that fixing Boeing will likely not be as simple or quick as a change in management. Also, it is not immediately apparent who could succeed Dave Calhoun or Stan Deal – the latter being the Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO.

Does Boeing Need New Management To Right The Ship?
Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. Photo: Narendra Modi, CC BY 3.0

Boeing Management Support – And Changes

Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a body representing multiple airlines, offered their support to Boeing’s current management and Calhoun personally.

IATA Director General Willie Walsh said that he disagrees with those saying that Boeing needs to remove Calhoun, adding that “he will fix it”. Walsh also pointed out that Boeing and its management are handling the latest crisis much better than after “other events”, referring to the 2018-2019 737 MAX crashes.

Image: Boeing

Before Walsh, lessors and other industry stakeholders also warned against knee-jerk reactions at Boeing and its management. But with production delays after January’s event, many lessors and airline executives are less than thrilled with the manufacturer.

On Wednesday, Boeing made a management change, replacing Ed Clark, the head of the 737 MAX program. Clark is an engineer who has worked at Boeing for almost 18 years but only became 737 MAX head in 2021.

Even so, Clark stayed in this position for a longer time than each of his last three predecessors. His successor is Katie Ringgold, who has a business background. She previously held other management positions at Boeing, including Senior Quality management in Charleston, South Carolina, until 2019. Before her latest posting, she was Boeing Delivery Operations Vice President.

Commenting on these developments, Richard Aboulafia said that Ed Clark’s departure wasn’t a surprising development. But he added that this move says very little on its own, saying: “The company’s problems are cultural, with the tone being set from the top.


1 comment

  • geoffrey nicholson

    Changing management positions might help if the change slowly filters down to shop-floor level, but it is at shop-floor level that this particular problem, and other problems, arose during FAA inspections.

    FAA have reportedly been more hands-off from Boeing operations during the last few years, reportedly due to manpower shortages. FAA have announced that they are to reverse this policy with more personnel in the supervisory role.

    My opinion is that FAA bear some serious responsibility for shortcomings in Boeing’s Quality Control, so maybe some of their management and those controlling FAA financing, maybe including politicians, should be accountable.

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