Boeing’s CEO Tells Congress He Won’t Resign

Boeing’s Chief Executive Officer, Dennis Muilenburg, weathered another stormy committee hearing yesterday, Wednesday, October 30, 2019, as politicians repeatedly took aim at his management of Boeing in the lead up to and aftermath of the 737 MAX crashes. But when responding to questions about his tenure at Boeing, Mr Muilenburg said he wasn’t planning on going anywhere.

“I don’t want to run away from challenges. My intent is to see this through.”

Boeing’s boss had a tough day at the committee hearings in Washington yesterday. Photo: Boeing

Is stepping down the right thing to do?

Dennis Muilenburg and some of his senior executives at Boeing are being questioned at length this week in Washington. Yesterday, at the House transportation committee hearing, Mr Muilenburg faced withering criticism of his performance as the boss at Boeing. But Flight Global is reporting on Mr Muilenburg resisting calls for him to step down. Mr Muilenburg says he feels “a responsibility to lead the company through its 737 MAX troubles.”

Florida Congresswoman  Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wasn’t so sure. She said to Mr Muilenburg;

“Mr Muilenburg, if you had an ounce of credibility, you would recognise that what is the right thing to do is to step down.”

The expectation that Mr Muilenburg will either resign or be forced out of his CEO’s office in Seattle is not just coming from politicians. The Flight Global report cites industry observers saying they were expecting Mr Muilenburg to go sooner rather than later. It is noted that in addition to the lives lost in the two MAX crashes and the fallout for their family and friends, Boeing has suffered severe reputational and financial damage and is now exposed criminally and civilly on a raft of legal fronts.

Boeing 737 MAX
Muilenburg is reluctant to step down. Photo: Boeing

Congressman Steve Cohen (Ten) asked Mr Muilenburg during the course of the day;

“What does accountability mean – are you taking a cut in pay? Are you working for free from now on until you can cure this problem? These people’s relatives are not coming back, they’re gone. Your salary is still on.”

Negligent, incompetent, or corrupt?

Midway through  a torrid day for Mr Muilenburg, Congressman Jesus Garcia (Ill) attacked Mr Muilenburg, taking it down and dirty;

“Mr. Muilenburg, you did everything to drive profits over safety. You skirted certification requirements or regulators at every corner, and your employees even admit to lying to the FAA. There are basically two ways that this plays out. You either truly didn’t realize that you had a defective plane, which demonstrates gross incompetence and or negligence, or you did know you had a defective plane but still tried to push it to market. In which case, in which case it’s just clear corruption.

Either way, Mr. Muilenburg, you’re still the captain of this ship. A culture of negligence, incompetence or corruption starts at the top and it starts with you. You padded your personal finances by putting profits over safety and now 346 people, including 8 Americans, are dead on your watch… I think it’s time that you submitted your resignation, don’t you?”

Icelandair 737 MAX
Should the Boeing chief resign? Photo: Icelandair

Mr Muilenburg digs in his heels

Mr Muilenburg has made it clear he wants to take Boeing through the course of the 737 MAX crisis. On one level, that’s fair enough – he wants to see something important through to the end.

And whilst the florid language and wild accusations at the committee hearings in Washington this week make for great reading, the underlying question it raises is a fair one. Given that Mr Muilenburg was in charge when this whole disaster unfolded, is he really the right person to take Boeing forward?

Mr Muilenburg seems to think so. Although after the battering he is taking right now, even the toughest man in the world would be questioning that decision.

What do you think? Is Mr Muilenburg the right person to take Boeing forward? Post a comment.