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Can new leadership restore Boeing’s reputation?

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April 1st 2024

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The latest claims by a Boeing whistleblower that the company took shortcuts in the manufacturing of its B787s and B777s – dozens are operated by Asia-Pacific airlines – are being investigated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Read More »

Boeing insists the aircraft are safe, but coming on top of the company’s latest problems with the B737 MAX, it is yet more negative publicity for one of aerospace’s manufacturing giants. There have been five years of ongoing controversy about Boeing’s production issues, beginning with the fatal crashes of two B737 MAX jets in 2018 and 2019, flown by Indonesian and Ethiopian airlines, respectively. They were tragedies, but more so because they were caused by a new system on the MAX that pilots did not know had been installed on the aircraft type

In January this year, after the mid-air blow out of a door panel on an Alaska Airlines B737 MAX, investigators found bolts that help secure the panel in place were missing after repair work at a Boeing factory. The findings of an investigation by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were damning.

Boeing passed 33 of 89 product audits. The FAA found multiple instances of failure to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements as well as non-compliance issues in Boeing’s manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage and product control.

Clearly, this is totally unacceptable in a company building passenger carrying jets for the world’s airlines.

It also highlights the critical need for leadership change at Boeing. It has finally happened. CEO of the company’s commercial airplane unit, Stan Deal, has gone. Boeing CEO, David Calhoun, will step down prematurely at the end of this year. Boeing chair, Lawrence Kellner, will not stand for re-election.

The question is: will Calhoun’s successor be from within Boeing or an outsider? There is no shortage of analysts who believe the latter is necessary to instill discipline into Boeing’s operations.

The aviation industry needs Boeing, but it needs a Boeing producing aircraft with the highest quality control standards. Repairing the company’s damaged image and restoring public and industry confidence in its airplanes will not happen overnight.

There is another lesson to be learnt from the Boeing crisis. A regulatory system that allows a company to be responsible for oversight of its own products comes with serious risk, particularly in a market that involves intense competition with such a rival as Airbus.

Governments, not only in the U.S., must sufficiently fund their aviation regulators to ensure they have the staff resources to provide independent oversight of all aircraft manufactured, whether it is Boeing airplanes or the aircraft of rivals, that roll off their Final Assembly Lines.

Associate editor and chief correspondent
Orient Aviation Media Group


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