Boeing CEO David Calhoun was critical of his predecessor Dennis Muilenburg in an interview published Thursday, ripping the airline executive’s failed efforts to lead the company through crisis following the forced grounding of its 737 Max aircraft.
Calhoun told the New York Times that he has worked diligently to revamp Boeing’s internal culture and rebuild relationships with airlines and regulators following Muilenburg’s resignation last December. Boeing has struggled to return the 737 Max to service after software glitches contributed to two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed 346 passengers.
“It’s more than I imagined it would be, honestly,” Mr. Calhoun said regarding the turnaround efforts. “And it speaks to the weaknesses of our leadership.”
The 737 Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019 following the fatal crashes. Under Muilenburg’s leadership, Boeing updated faulty software, crew manuals and pilot training for the 737 Max, but failed to secure clearance for flights. Repeated setbacks prompted Boeing to temporarily shut down production on the aircraft last December.
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Prior to assuming his role, Calhoun defended Muilenburg’s leadership. As Boeing CEO, Calhoun said that Muilenberg boosted the company’s production at the expense of aircraft quality and, later, pressured regulators as he sought to end the grounding.
“I’ll never be able to judge what motivated Dennis, whether it was a stock price that was going to continue to go up and up, or whether it was just beating the other guy to the next rate increase,” Calhoun told the Times.
In addressing the fatal crashes involving 737 Max aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia, Calhoun implied that pilot error may have played a role alongside the faulty software.
Boeing has ousted several top executives in recent months amid its recovery efforts. Company shares are down more than 20 percent so far this year.