Boeing chief admits ‘serious challenge’ ahead

Boeing chief admits 'serious challenge' ahead
The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage, is seen during its investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Portland, Oregon, U.S. January 7, 2024.Reuters

Boeing faces a “serious challenge” and uncertain outlook as it seeks to restore confidence, its boss Dave Calhoun admitted, announcing the firm’s latest financial results on Wednesday.

Trust in the firm has been shaken since a panel of one of its 737 Max 9 jets broke off in mid-air.

Mr Calhoun said the company’s “full focus” was now on improving the quality of its planes.

In a staff letter, he said it was “not the time” to offer financial forecasts.

“We will simply focus on every next airplane,” he said.

The message accompanied the firm’s quarterly update to investors, its first since the accident on the Alaska Airlines flight, which terrified passengers and forced an emergency return to the Portland, Oregon airport.

The harrowing accident, earlier this month, did not lead to serious injuries but it has renewed questions about Boeing’s manufacturing record, five years after two fatal accidents involving another version of its 737 plane killed 346 people.

At the time, a US investigation found the firm had put profit before safety. Boeing paid $2.5bn to settle the criminal probe over the crashes.

The company now faces another government investigation, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) probes its manufacturing process. The FAA has also barred the firm from expanding production of its popular 737 planes.

Mr Calhoun has pledged transparency and vowed to work cooperatively with regulators.

But some of the company’s biggest airline customers have expressed concerns, while other critics have called for him to step down, saying a string of quality issues with its planes in recent years points to ongoing wider problems.

Airline safety campaigners see the latest incident as the final straw for Mr Calhoun, who has served on the board since 2009 and was installed as chief executive after the earlier crashes.

“They had their chance. They failed. They are unable or unwilling to do the task and should leave,” said Michael Stumo, whose daughter was killed in the Ethiopia Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash and has now become a vocal airline safety advocate.

The investor update for the September to December period showed the manufacturing giant was currently producing 737 planes at a rate of 38 a month.

Revenue rose 10% to $22bn, while the company’s losses in the quarter narrowed to $283m.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman