Boeing 737 program manager to retire amid crisis over jet's grounding, memo says

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Boeing’s 737 jet program manager, Eric Lindblad, will retire in a matter of weeks after roughly 12 months on the job, according to a company memo seen by Reuters on Thursday.

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Lindblad’s departure, after a 34-year career at Boeing, comes as the world’s largest planemaker navigates one of the worst crises in its history. Boeing’s money-spinning 737 MAX jetliner has been grounded in the wake of two deadly crashes that killed nearly 350 people in the span of five months.

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Taking Lindblad’s place as the lead of the 737 program and the Renton, Washington, factory will be Mark Jenks, who has been leading Boeing’s potential new mid-market airplane (NMA) project, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Kevin McAllister wrote in the memo to employees seen by Reuters.

Eric Lindblad, Boeing’s 737 jet program manager, will retire after a 34-year career with the airline company. (Reuters)

Mike Sinnett, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of product development and future airplane development, will assume the role of vice president for NMA in addition to his current role, the memo said. Sinnett, who originally led preliminary work on the NMA, has been seen a figurehead of the program.

“Let me be clear - the NMA team will continue to operate as a program, and I am looking forward to Mike’s leadership in this important effort,” McAllister said in the memo.

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In naming Jenks and Sinnett to run marquee projects at such a crucial time, McAllister is choosing two of Boeing’s most high-profile engineers. Jenks has been credited with turning around the 787 Dreamliner program, and his appointment on the NMA was seen as key to putting the potential twin-aisle aircraft on a path to a rapid launch.

But industry sources say the launch of the NMA has been delayed by the 737 MAX crisis. The NMA program, if it goes ahead, will most likely not be launched before spring or summer of next year, the sources said.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Leslie Adler