The New York Times may change the headline later, but they most certainly lead with the word “fired”, something that you don’t see often when talking about CEOs of public companies:
Breaking News: Boeing fired its chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, in the wake of a prolonged crisis after 2 crashes involving its 737 Max jets. This is a developing story. https://t.co/V4XE5cqf2V
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 23, 2019
It’s worth noting that I am a shareholder in Boeing and may have some level of bias. We’re closing in on almost a year since the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded. I recall thinking at the time that it would be a fairly quick fix. Looking back on that, I realize I had no information other than Boeing’s history to support that opinion. Which brings me to a question….
Where Exactly Is Boeing?
As it stands now, Boeing has hundreds of deliveries of the 737 MAX that were already supposed to happen. If you search the internet, you’ll find pictures of undelivered 737 MAX planes parked pretty much everywhere Boeing could place them. The sheer number of planes built but not delivered was a factor in Boeing’s recent decision to halt thee 737 MAX production line.
There are multiple reports that Boeing’s ex-CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, was pushing the FAA to return the MAX to the air by the end of 2019. In a meeting with the FAA chief, it became clear that it wouldn’t happen this year. Most major airlines have removed the MAX from their schedule through the spring. However, if the FAA chief actually had to do some math to figure out when a recertification could happen, are we weeks away from the FAA certifying the MAX?
What Happens Next?
There’s no clear indication when the FAA will allow the MAX to return to service. It’s also still unclear whether other worldwide certification bodies will join the FAA in returning the plane to service. The 737 MAX was poised to have a significant impact on the fleets of airlines across the world. And yet, almost a year later, many questions remain.
Boeing executives and airline executives alike have said they’ll have confidence in the MAX when it’s allowed to fly. Some have gone so far as to say they’ll be onboard the first flights with their family. That’s a resounding vote of confidence, one that Boeing spent decades earning.
Will Customers Fly The MAX?
All indications are that the MAX will return to the air, and in a big way. With thousands of the plane type on order, they should become quite ubiquitous. Some airlines have already noted that they’ll initially allow customers to change their flights if they want to avoid the MAX. That’s a smart PR move. It’s also likely unnecessary. Given all the attention surrounding the MAX, I can’t imagine any country certifying it to fly unless they’re incredibly certain it’s safe to do so.
I’ll be comfortable flying the MAX when it returns to the air. I was on one of the delivery flights right when the plane launched, and I have confidence in Boeing and the FAA to return it safely to the air.
The Final Two Pennies
There are plenty of folks today who say that the decision to fire Muilenberg should have come long before today. From all of reports since the MAX grounding, it’s clear this is a very complex issue. How much Boeing’s ex-CEO contributed to those problems is unclear? Similarly, whether he should have been able to prevent some of the issues is unclear. And, how much the board of Boeing drove Muilenberg’s decisions versus the CEO driving the board remains a mystery. New leadership isn’t a bad idea to put a new public face on the solution. However, it still seems like Boeing has some work to do to deliver that solution.
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