Boeing’s new fixer is not an engineer – and the industry is worried

Like Pope, chief executive Dave Calhoun, who will depart by December, holds a degree in accounting. Before joining Boeing in 2020 he worked for six years as head of portfolio operations at investment firm Blackstone. While he spent 26 years at General Electric, including the jet-engine arm, he worked mainly in finance and marketing roles.

Sir Tim Clark, the veteran head of Dubai-based Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul airline, said in comments after the reshuffle was announced that Boeing “needs a strong engineering lead as its head”, coupled with governance that prioritises safety and quality. He also backed calls from the US machinists union for a seat on the board, so that concerns from the factory floor can be better understood.

He said: “Time, unfortunately, is not on their side. I would suggest that some serious lateral thinking kicks in as soon as possible.”

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, was more conciliatory, releasing a video in which he said he looked forward to working with Pope, as well as Calhoun for the rest of his tenure, to eliminate 737 delivery delays.

O’Leary, who has said he’ll be looking for compensation for the impact of the delays on summer capacity, is himself a qualified accountant, having been employed at KPMG before working as a financial adviser to Ryanair founder Tony Ryan.

Unlike Calhoun and chairman Larry Kellner, who will exit after Boeing’s annual shareholder meeting in May, Deal departed straight away, leaving Pope to take immediate charge of the airliner division and its troubles.

Despite the industry’s reservations, she’s also being touted in some quarters as a possible successor to Calhoun himself, alongside General Electric boss Larry Culp, Carrier Global head David Gitlin and others.

A better choice for chief executive, Tusa says, might be Patrick Shanahan, chief of Spirit Aero, which Boeing is in talks to buy.

Shanahan has been in the top job at Spirit since October, when he was brought in on an interim basis to troubleshoot problems including earlier production errors concerning components supplied to the 737.

Prior to that he worked for more than 30 years at Boeing, occupying management roles across the full range of the company’s civil aircraft and leading the recovery of the 787 Dreamliner widebody programme after it was beset by production glitches that led to a three-year delay in service entry. He left in 2019 for a two-year stint as Donald Trump’s deputy defence secretary.

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