Boeing’s New CEO Starts Today & Has A Tough Time Ahead

David Calhoun has officially stepped into Dennis Muilenberg’s shoes today, as he takes the reins of CEO at beleaguered aircraft manufacturer Boeing. The new CEO might be a fresh face, but his job is filled with old troubles, as he’s tasked with driving the company out of the problems that plagued it over the past 12 months.

Boeing, 737 MAX, Court Case
David Calhoun has the 737 MAX to deal with, and other problems. Photo: Getty Images

First day nerves for the new Boeing CEO?

David Calhoun officially starts today as the new CEO of Boeing. As the company’s fourth CEO in less than five years, it’s hoped he has what it takes to turn things around for the beleaguered aircraft manufacturer.

His CV is impressive. Prior to Boeing, Calhoun (listed on Wikipedia as Dave) has been head of no less than 18 different companies. He has been CEO of Nielsen Holdings, Chairman of Caterpillar and chair of Gates Industrial. Most recently, he was an executive at Blackstone Group. Now, he’s in the cockpit of Boeing and preparing to fly the company out of danger. Hopefully.

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Dave Calhoun
Dave Calhoun has an impressive background. Photo: Blackstone

Calhoun is no stranger to aviation, however. He has served on the board of Boeing for a decade so has a solid overview of the issues the company faces. He also worked a stint at General Electric’s aviation unit, a job he took just before the September 11th attacks that rocked the aviation industry. His previous CEO, Steve Schwarzman, told NBC he was a great choice for the job, saying,

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“Putting in place a world-class leader like Dave at the helm of Boeing is good for the company and important to the country. His experience driving growth across Blackstone’s diverse portfolio speaks to his unusual capabilities as a CEO, which will serve him well in this complex situation.”

A tough to-do list

As Calhoun steps into his new role, he is already faced with one of the most intimidating to-do lists any CEO has ever had in front of them.

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Firstly, there’s the grounding of the 737 MAX. Overcoming the twin crashes of the Boeing built aircraft has been tough for the planemaker, and it’s still not out of the woods yet. With the regulator still to agree the aircraft is safe to fly, it’s up to Calhoun to provide confidence not just to the FAA but also to airlines and passengers regarding the plane.

Alongside this, the production of the 737 MAX  is currently halted. Calhoun will need to prioritize a restart of this, as soon as the FAA gives the nod to the aircraft. All the time that the plane is not being built, Boeing is losing money, as are its suppliers.

737 MAX Getty
Calhoun needs to get the MAX production restarted. Photo: Getty

With a strong focus on improving transparency at the company, Calhoun pushed for the release of previously redacted internal messages last week. This in itself has left a major mess to clear up, as employees have been found to have said the MAX was ‘built by monkeys’ and alluded to covering up issues in front of the FAA.

Numerous other problems require the attention of the new CEO, from issues with the quality of Dreamliner production to pickle fork cracks on older NG aircraft. Overall, Mr. Calhoun has many bridges to build in terms of the planemaker’s reputation, and needs to strive to improve the underlying culture in the Boeing workforce.

It’s an unenviable task that Calhoun has in front of him. What do you think his priorities should be? Let us know in the comments.

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Gerry S

After the internal document release which clearly shows employees disgruntled, the first priority should be restoring EMPLOYEES faith in the company. Morale has to be improved within the company. Then management should leave their swanky digs in high- rise Chicago and return to where their product is manufactured: Washington State. Internal investigation should be launched to discover what went wrong and who was responsible. At the same time he has to get his product back on line. Pretty daunting task, that. CEO is obviously qualified to do that. His workload will be tremendous. His current products have to be delivered… Read more »

MPM1World

Agree with Gerry S. Earning employees’ respect should be the first priority and it will translate into quality control and the bottom line.

martyn

His degree is in accounting so his job is to cut costs and boost profits so main cost saving cheaper workers doing more work, expect job losses except management !

Frank

If Calhoun was serious about putting Boeing back on track, he would get rid of all those bean counters who pushed for a re-engined 737 instead of a clean sheet design. He would then dedicate as many resources as possible to 1) getting the new design up and running and 2) getting customers to switch over from the Max.

Not gonna happen, but it’s nice to dream

MPM1World

Every effort should be made to build the 797 asap so those airlines that wish to upgrade from their pending MAX delayed orders can have a real choice to trade up….. Food for thought…..

Frank

797 & 737 are in a completely different niche

Richard Fuhr

Boeing corporate headquarters should immediately move back to Seattle from Chicago. This would be more than a symbolic move. While Boeing does engineering and manufacturing work in many locations, Seattle remains a center of decades of experience and expertise that demands that its top management also be located there. Such a move would not, by itself, guarantee that the company gets back on track, but it is a step in the right direction.

Gerry S

Hear! Hear!

mohave

The CEO and board should restructure Boeing. The commercial airplane company should be headquartered in Washington state. The government company, with a name other than Boeing should be based in DC or Virginia. The Max was a failure of governance and the board was overwhelmed.

Rex King

A daunting task for the new CEO. Perhaps he can resurrect the positive culture that Mulally fostered. Currently Boeing comes across as being infested with backbiting weasels. For a company entrusted with public safety to the extent they are, attitudes and accountability need to change!