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Boeing CEO to step down, board chairman will not run for reelection

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The head of Boeing is stepping down. The company announced this morning that CEO Dave Calhoun will leave his job at the end of the year. NPR transportation correspondent Joel Rose has been following this. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What is the move that Boeing is making here?

ROSE: This is a management shakeup at the highest levels of the company. Really the whole leadership team is affected. As you said, Dave Calhoun, the CEO, will step down at the end of the year. But he is not the only big name who is going to leave. Also, the chairman of the board, Larry Kellner, announced he will not seek reelection and the head of the Commercial Aviation Division, Stan Deal, is retiring from Boeing, effective immediately. Calhoun is staying on until the end of the year in order to quote, "stabilize and position the company for the future," unquote. That is according to a statement they released this morning.

INSKEEP: I like the word stabilize 'cause it immediately makes me think of trying to stabilize an airplane going through turbulence in flight, but also because that seems to refer to the trouble the company has had recently.

ROSE: It does. And I think that's, you know, they refer to it obliquely - right? - I mean, they don't really say why any of this is happening, but the company has been under pressure, obviously, since the incident on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 back in January when this door plug panel blew out of a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet over Portland, Ore. The National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts that are - were supposed to hold that panel in place were not there when the plane left Boeing's factory.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

ROSE: The NTSB says Boeing has not been totally forthcoming during the investigation, which the company denies. And now also, the Justice Department has launched its own criminal investigation into that Alaska Airlines incident. The FBI has begun contacting passengers who were on that flight. You know, through all of this, Calhoun has insisted that Boeing does make safe planes and that the company is going to come out of this better. But - and he repeated that again today in this announcement, you know, that he will not be there beyond the end of the year.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Well, I'm wondering why Boeing would do this now. I mean, some of these problems have unfolded over months and he's saying he's not leaving for months.

ROSE: Yeah. I don't know exactly what has changed, to be honest with you. I mean, the board - what would have caused the board to lose faith in Calhoun now? But we know that there has been mounting pressure from the airlines that are Boeing's biggest customers. Boeing's production schedule has slowed way down as they've been focused on quality and safety. They're not delivering as many planes. They have a very yearslong backlog of planes already that airlines are waiting for and maybe waiting for even longer now. And so airline CEOs are beginning to, you know, air their concerns about Boeing in public. Here's an example from Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan. He was speaking at an industry conference earlier this month.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB JORDAN: I, and I know other CEOs, have told Boeing, get the issues understood and get the issues fixed because we all need Boeing to be stronger two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now.

INSKEEP: I guess we can see this as an effort to show that Boeing is on top of it.

ROSE: Yeah. I mean, I think maybe the board is trying to calm the concerns of those airline CEOs and others that there is a plan and that they're, you know, the company is going to be able to get its house in order. I guess - I think we can safely say that the pronouncements that the industry has heard so far, were not, you know, were not doing the job.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should remember that this has been a long-running problem for Boeing, going back to some crashes five, six years ago.

ROSE: Exactly. I mean, Boeing has been under enormous scrutiny since those two 737 Max 8 jets crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing a total of 346 people. You know, and the family members of those killed were among those who have been pushing for a change in management like this one, including Michael Stumo, who's the father of Samya Stumo. He told me this morning that this move was, quote, "necessary and overdue" and that Calhoun had been there a long time.

INSKEEP: NPR's Joel Rose. Thanks so much.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.