Thursday, July 11, 2019

Boeing's 737 program leader to retire

The head of the Boeing Co.’s troubled 737 jet program will retire from the company in the coming weeks.

Eric Lindblad, who has led the 737 program for less than 12 months — brought in last year to lead it when the company's biggest concern was ironing out supply chain issues — will depart after 34 years with Boeing.

Those concerns were soon overshadowed, however, by two deadly crashes of the jet in five months.

The CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Kevin McAllister, notified employees of the change in a memo provided to the WBJ by the company following initial media reports Wednesday afternoon.

“I have admired Eric’s resolve and drive, and we are grateful for his service and dedication,” McAllister said, adding that Lindblad had already expressed a desire to retire last year.

The 737 MAX, Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft ever, has been grounded since the middle of March.

Lindblad will be succeeded as the head of the 737 program by Mark Jenks, who had previously been leading the company’s development efforts of a potential new mid-market airplane (NMA).

“He will work closely with Eric over the next several weeks to ensure a seamless transition as we approach the safe return to service of the 737 MAX,” McAllister said.

Mike Sinnett, vice president of product strategy and future airplane programs for Boeing, will take the lead on NMA.

Wichita’s largest employer, Spirit AeroSystems Inc., builds around 70 percent of the structure on the 737.

While Spirit continues to build on the program at the rate of 52 aircraft per month, Boeing has trimmed its own monthly output on the 737 to 42 jets. Spirit is holding the excess components in inventory and still being paid by Boeing for the work.

Not all of the 737s still being delivered are MAXs, though the new variant was expected to account for around 90 percent of program deliveries this year.

Boeing has halted its own MAX deliveries to airline customers amid the grounding, which stretches on without a known timeline for when regulators expect to sign off on Boeing’s proposed upgrades and return the jet to service.

Company CEO Dennis Muilenburg confirmed last month at the Aspen Ideas Festival that some employees had either been fired or reassigned due to the MAX crisis, though he declined to elaborate beyond describing them as “personnel changes” in an on-stage interview with Axios.

(Daniel McCoy - Wichita Business Journal)