Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun to step down as company faces intense safety scrutiny

(Xinhua) 11:15, March 27, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun on Monday announced his decision to step down at the end of the year amid the planemaker's exacerbated safety crisis.


Boeing has grappled with significant quality and safety issues concerning its aircraft for years, leading to the prolonged grounding of specific models and halted deliveries.

From October 2018 to March 2024, the company faced several incidents that underscored concerns about the safety and reliability of its aircraft.

Notably, a Boeing 787-9 flying from Australia to New Zealand this month suffered a "technical failure" in flight, leading to severe turbulence within the fuselage and numerous injuries.

In January, a series of safety crises shook the industry's confidence in the planemaker.

On Jan. 20, a wheel in the landing gear of a Boeing 757 passenger plane fell off and rolled off the runway when the plane was taxiing and preparing for flight. On Jan. 13, a Boeing 737 was found to have a crack in the front glass of the cockpit during flight. On Jan. 5, a door stopper of a built-in emergency door fell off the side of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 shortly after takeoff.

A total of 346 people were killed in the crashes of Indonesia's Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively, both of which were Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, leading to a global grounding of the 737 MAX for nearly two years.

These incidents, spanning from engine troubles to structural failures, have raised significant concerns about Boeing's safety management processes and quality control and underscored the urgent need for stringent safety and quality checks within the aviation industry.


The startling image of a Boeing aircraft flying with a gaping hole in its fuselage has sent shockwaves around the globe. Equally compelling is the story of John Barnett, a former quality manager who worked for Boeing for three decades before becoming a whistleblower.

Barnett raised significant safety concerns about the company's aircraft. In 2019, Mr Barnett told the BBC that under intense pressure, workers had been deliberately fitting substandard parts to aircraft on the production line.

He revealed that he had uncovered serious problems with oxygen systems, suggesting that one in four breathing masks would be ineffective in an emergency.

He also said workers had failed to follow procedures to track factory components, allowing defective components to go missing.

Upon retiring, Barnett initiated an extended legal battle against the company, including allegations that Boeing attacked his character and hampered his career. The planemaker denied the allegations.

On March 9, Barnett was found dead in a vehicle from a self-inflicted wound in a hotel parking lot in the U.S. state of South Carolina.

Barnett's sudden death comes at a time when Boeing's production standards are under intense scrutiny. It has also sparked discussions about Boeing's safety practices and internal culture.

Boeing said it was saddened to hear of Barnett's passing.

In an interview with a local TV network, Jennifer, a friend of Barnett, claimed she didn't believe Barnett died by suicide.

Barnett "loved life too much" and "loved his family too much" to go through the act of taking his own life, she said, adding that someone "didn't like what he had to say" and wanted to "shut him up."

Barnett had warned her, "If anything happens to me, it's not suicide."


Dave Calhoun will continue to lead Boeing through the year to complete the critical work underway to stabilize and position the company for the future, Boeing said in an announcement.

Board Chair Larry Kellner has informed the board that he does not intend to stand for re-election at the upcoming annual shareholder meeting, it added.

The board has elected Steve Mollenkopf to succeed Kellner as independent board chair. In this role, Mollenkopf will lead the board's process of selecting Boeing's next CEO.

In addition to these changes, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal will retire from the company, and Stephanie Pope has been appointed to lead Boeing Commercial Airplanes as the new president and CEO, according to the announcement.

"It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve Boeing," said Calhoun in a letter to employees. "The eyes of the world are on us... We will remain squarely focused on completing the work we have done together to return our company to stability after the extraordinary challenges of the past five years."

The shift in leadership occurs against the backdrop of the Department of Justice's expanding criminal investigation into Boeing. The FBI informed passengers of the Alaska Airlines flight last week that they could be victims of a crime.

The New York Times has reported that several airline leaders have publicly expressed frustration with the manufacturer. The chief executives of many major carriers in the United States were set to meet with Kellner and other board members this week.

Boeing shares have lost roughly a quarter of their value since the start of the year. The aerospace giant's shares moved higher Monday after it unveiled the major leadership changes.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


Related Stories