New Boeing CEO Calhoun speaks about the 737 MAX plans & the NMA project

The new CEO of Boeing, David Calhoun, took the reins of the Boeing organisation last week on January 13, 2020. This came on the back of the earlier CEO of Boeing being fired in December 2019.

The new CEO has a long and winding road in front of him, untangling the 737 MAX affairs and ensuring a return to service and recertification of the 737 MAX when the FAA and Boeing are ready. Not just that, he needs to ensure that the 777X programme, which was hit with snags on account of the GE9X engine, setting back the timeline of first delivery by about a year from 2020 to 2021. Not just that, there is a CST-100 Starliner somewhere, which needs to be fixed up after the testing not delivering the desired results last year for US space missions. And then there are challenges on the military programmes and the long-overdue integration of Boeing and Embraer.

The long-time member of the Boeing board, and now CEO, has already put some wheels in motion, it seems.  He had a company-wide town hall, and right after, he did a press conference over the telephone with select media. Dominic Gates of Seattle Times, Jon Ostrower of The Air Current and others were on the call. You can read their complete texts following the links. Here is a brief excerpt of what the Boeing CEO is putting the company towards:

  1. Boeing’s extension of the timeline when the MAX will come back into service: The Boeing CEO is essentially getting to the point that Boeing is far more confident in getting the MAX recertified sooner than this timeframe of six months through June 2020, however leaving it to the FAA to finally decide the timeline. Having said that, the CEO indicated that the longer timeline is to account for the fact that with sim training now being recommended, it will take airlines time to retrain their pilots before entry into service. Instead of pushing the timeline slowly, they did want to “provide a realistic timeframe” to customers and the regulators. Boeing CEO also maintained that the assembly line won’t be shut for that long, and the supply chain would be activated quickly as well. So, give it a few months.
  2. Boeing wants to rebuild trust within the company and outside: The Boeing CEO hinted that the outrageous emails were not a reflection of the whole company, but a minor subset in the company. Having come in from a call with the company employees, he wanted to build upon the fact that the company will earn its reputation back inside and outside the company, and repair the culture. Not just that, he mentioned that Boeing won’t be renaming the MAX anytime soon and that they will win the confidence back, “one pilot at a time”.
  3. Boeing puts the New Midmarket Airplane on a clean sheet: The new aircraft from Boeing, which was supposed to be competing with the (now) released Airbus A321XLR, will now be pushed back and a fresh start to the project. As per the Boeing CEO, Boeing needs to account for new things in the design now, such as what will be coming out of China, as well as the change in the “competitive landscape”. Not just that, it is the first time a Boeing CEO hinted about the “flight control philosophy” being looked into before they make the move on the NMA. For instance, Airbus has used the sidestick along with a computerised fly-by-wire for long, while Boeing has been moving forward with the Yoke design even now, with more mechanical inputs than the Airbus computerised approach. This might mean a rethink of that strategy.

Ultimately, it is also being looked at as Boeing trying to preserve cash right now and not invest in a new aircraft, and putting it behind the focused approach, but one gets where they are coming from as well. The company is emerging out of so many things at the same time, that they need to sort things out with these projects before they focus energies on a new one. Also, I don’t believe that Boeing will not create a new aircraft. They will, but, perhaps it won’t be the NMA anymore. In the words of Calhoun, “a little less visioning and little less long term planning”, please.

What do you make out of the comments of the Boeing CEO?

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