Boeing CEO loses chairman title

In a statement, the Chicago-based company said Dennis Muilenburg would remain as president and work to “return the 737 MAX safely to service.”

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Dennis Muilenburg speaks during a news conference after Boeing’s annual shareholders meeting.

John Gress/Pool Photo via AP

Boeing’s chairman has lost that title but will remain as CEO and president in a move the aircraft manufacturer said would allow him “to focus full time on running the company.”

Dennis Muilenburg also will remain a director of the company, which has had a rocky time dealing with the controversy over its 737 MAX passenger jet.

The Chicago-based company’s board of directors elected board member David L. Calhoun as the firm’s new non-executive chairman.

Boeing’s statement said Muilenburg would work to “return the 737 MAX safely to service, ensure full support to Boeing’s customers around the world, and implement changes to sharpen Boeing’s focus on product and services safety.”

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide earlier this year after crashes by models of the plane operated by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines. Regulators must approve Boeing’s long-awaited fix to the software before it can return to the skies.

In June, Muilenburg, speaking at the Paris Air Show, said the company made a “mistake” in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in the Max before those two crashes killed 346 people, and he promised transparency as the aircraft maker works to get the grounded plane back in flight.

The company discovered in 2017 that a warning light designed to alert pilots when sensors measuring the angle of a plane’s nose might be wrong worked only if airlines had purchased a separate feature.

The angle-measuring sensors have been implicated in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October, and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. The sensors malfunctioned, alerting software to push the noses of the planes down. The pilots were unable to take back control of the planes.

The Max, the newest version of Boeing’s best-selling 737, is critical to the company’s future. The Max was a direct response to rival Airbus’ fuel-efficient A320neo, one of the European plane maker’s most popular jets; Airbus has outpaced Boeing in sales in the category.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than a year that the safety indicator in the cockpit didn’t work as intended.

Boeing and the FAA have said the warning light wasn’t critical for flight safety. But the botched communication has eroded trust in Boeing as the company struggles to rebound from the passenger jet crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

“The board has full confidence in Dennis as CEO and believes this division of labor will enable maximum focus on running the business with the board playing an active oversight role. The board also plans in the near term to name a new director with deep safety experience and expertise to serve on the board and its newly established Aerospace Safety Committee,” Calhoun was quoted as saying in a company news release.

”I am fully supportive of the board’s action. Our entire team is laser-focused on returning the 737 MAX safely to service and delivering on the full breadth of our company’s commitments,” Muilenburg was quoted as saying in the same release.

Contributing: Associated Press

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