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

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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.

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,

“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.

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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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