Boeing CEO Calhoun Becomes the Latest Executive to Fall Victim to Scandal or Disaster

Boeing CEO Calhoun Becomes the Latest Executive to Fall Victim to Scandal or Disaster

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun on Monday will soon join what’s become an inauspicious group — the fraternity of former Boeing chief executives.

Since Philip Condit’s appointment in 1996, four of the five CEOs have left in the aftermath of professional or personal scandal. Calhoun is among them; brought in after two fatal 737 MAX crashes, his departure follows an in-flight blowout believed to have been caused by assembly mistakes made at the troubled aerospace giant’s Renton plant.

Over 28 years, the five Boeing leaders’ tenures lasted between 15 months to a decade. Take a look back at the dynamic, sometimes-disastrous periods of those leaders.

Philip Condit, 1996-2003

Number of Boeing employees in Washington during final year: 54,100

Condit’s tenure at Boeing reshaped the company, and ended following a year of ethical lapses and financial woes.

Condit engineered the merger with rival aerospace giant and defense contractor McDonnell Douglas in 1997. In the Northwest, though, he may be best remembered as the leader who in 2001 moved Boeing headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.

In his final year, Boeing’s military and space work generated more money than commercial airplanes, and, for the first time, Airbus surpassed Boeing in commercial airplane manufacturing.

He resigned in 2003 after Boeing Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears was sentenced to four months in prison for illegally offering a job to the top Air Force procurement officer. He offered his resignation “as a way to put the distractions and controversies of the past year behind us,” he said in a statement at the time.

Harry Stonecipher, 2003-2005

Number of Boeing employees in Washington during final year: 62,100

Stonecipher, the former president and CEO of McDonnell Douglas, and Boeing president and COO from 1997 to 2001, lasted 15 months as Boeing CEO. He resigned on March 6, 2005, at the company’s request because of what the company called a consensual relationship with a female executive.

The relationship didn’t affect Boeing business operations, an internal investigation found, but suggested issues of poor judgment. It was also seen as another ethical lapse for a company that had been trying to put two years of scandal behind it. Chief Financial Officer James Bell stepped in as interim CEO following Stonecipher’s departure.

James McNerney, 2005-2015

Number of Boeing employees in Washington during final year: 79,200

McNerney retired as CEO after a decade of record aircraft sales, though that included several years of troubles with the 787 Dreamliner program where jet deliveries were delayed and Dreamliners were grounded for three months because of overheating batteries.

McNerney, described as a relentless pusher for efficiency and lower costs, redrew the map of Boeing’s manufacturing and engineer sites. He expanded the South Carolina Boeing site into a full-fledged commercial-jet assembly center, breaking the Puget Sound region’s traditional hold on that central Boeing role and bringing criticism from the region.

Boeing acquired the South Carolina 787 plants not out of any grand McNerney vision, but because its outsourcing partners had failed.

The Renton 737 plant raised its production to double the number of jets per month compared with when McNerney took over, and Washington state’s Boeing employee count grew by nearly 40%.

Dennis Muilenburg, 2015-2019

Number of Boeing employees in Washington during final year: 71,800

Muilenburg was ousted in the aftermath of the 737 MAX crashes, which killed a combined 346 people, and were both initiated by a malfunctioning sensor.

He drew condemnation for his handling of the crashes, initially refusing to accept any blame and instead pointing to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines pilots in the crashed flights. He was fired nine months after all 737 MAX airplanes were grounded worldwide.

Dave Calhoun 2020-2024

Number of Boeing employees in Washington during final year: 66,800 (in 2023)

Appointed in the midst of the MAX disaster, Calhoun’s tenure was immediately rocked by a second calamity — the COVID-19 pandemic, which curtailed global travel.

The fallout from a Jan. 5 midair blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 prompted his departure, plans for which were announced Monday. Calhoun will step down at the end of 2024.

More on Alaska Airlines and the Boeing 737 MAX 9

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