Boeing’s NMA Vice President Takes Over 737 Project Amid MAX Crisis

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Boeing’s 737 program manager, Eric Lindblad, is retiring. Taking over from him will be Mark Jenks, the current Vice President of the NMA ‘797’ program. The retirement has been planned for some time, and is not in relation to the grounding of the 737 MAX.

Boeing 737 MAX
The 737 MAX leadership will be taken over by the VP of the NMA development. Photo: Boeing

Eric Lindblad is retiring from Boeing following 34 years of service to the company. Although some might speculate that it’s a convenient time for the leader of such a contentious aircraft to quit, by all accounts his exit has been known for many months.

Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister sent a note out to all Commercial Airplanes employees, explaining that the retirement of Lindblad had been planned for some time. In it, he said,

“[Eric] shared with me his desire to retire last year, and we will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition plan.”

Goodbye to Eric Lindblad

Lindblad is a veteran of Boeing, having worked with the company for a grand total of 34 years. He arrived at Boeing as a liaison engineer and worked his way up the ranks to his current position of general manager of the 737 program and leader of the Renton site.

Eric Lindblad
Eric Lindblad will retire after 37 years at Boeing. Photo: Boeing

Prior to taking the helm of the 737 program, Lindblad led the 777X program also. He was heavily involved in the design and development of Boeing’s latest aircraft, in roles including wing general manager and deputy program manager since 2014. He began leading the 777X program in 2016, until moving across to the 737 team last year.

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McAllister thanked Lindblad for his service, saying,

“I am grateful to Eric Lindblad for his strong leadership and tireless drive over the past 12 months leading the 737 program, as he has navigated some of the most difficult challenges our company has ever faced.”

 Mark Jenks to take over

Replacing Lindblad will be the vice president of the New Mid-Market Airplane (NMA) program, Mark Jenks. In his role at the NMA project, a plane unofficially dubbed the 797, Jenks has led on all aspects of the development of the aircraft in a role he took up in late 2017.

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Mark Jenks
Mark Jenks will assume the role of general manager of the 737. Photo: Boeing

In McAllister’s statement, he said,

“Mark Jenks will step into the position to lead the 737 program and Renton site. 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.”

Mark Jenks has a long history with Boeing, and looks to be ideally placed to lead the 737 MAX through these times of crisis. Prior to moving into the NMA program, Jenks led the 787 Dreamliner program through, what McAllister says, were “some of its most challenging of years.”

Mark Jenks Dreamliner
Jenks previously led the Dreamliner through some tough times. Photo: Wikimedia

Records show he worked on that program between 2014 and late 2017, meaning he took up the helm roundabout the time the Dreamliner was returning from service after its grounding.  If you remember, the Dreamliner suffered from battery malfunctions, in some cases leading to a risk of fire. Although the type was ungrounded in April 2013, the fallout continued for several years.

As such, Jenks looks ideally placed to lead Boeing on restoring both operator and consumer confidence in the 737 MAX.

How will this affect the 797 development?

Boeing’s NMA or ‘797’ development has frequently been called into question since the grounding of the 737 MAX. With all available resources being diverted to the problems with the MAX, some have queried whether the 797 project would be mothballed. However, Boeing seems confident that development will continue.

Boeing 797
The 797 development will not be affected, according to Boeing. Photo: Dj’s Aviation via Youtube

In McAllister’s letter, he also announced Mike Sinnett to be moving into the VP role for the NMA project. This will be as an additional duty alongside his current job of leading the Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development Team. McAllister went on to say,

“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.”

Prior to leading the Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development organization, Sinnett was VP and chief project engineer on the 787 Dreamliner program. Boeing considers his track record of product development to be a great asset to the NMA team.

It remains to be seen whether the new VP’s combined roles in two departments has an impact on the timeline of the 797 development.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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