No Guarantee Boeing 737 Will Ever Recover After Recent Crashes - Researcher

© AP Photo / Mulugeta Ayene / The winglet of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is seen as it sits grounded at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday, March 23, 2019
The winglet of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is seen as it sits grounded at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday, March 23, 2019 - Sputnik International
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The outgoing year was complicated for Boeing, as it had to deal with the suspension of the 737 MAX model following a deadly crash in Ethiopia – the second during the last two years – that resulted in 157 deaths. The company had to address the subsequent concerns and investigate alleged malfunctions that may have led to the catastrophe.

The corporation had to fire President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg following the crashes of the 737 MAX aircraft.

Giovanni de Briganti, a defence analyst and editor-in-chief of Defence-Aerospace.com, explained what the future holds for Boeing under new management.

Sputnik: Muilenburg has been widely criticised inside and outside the industry for unskilled cooperation with regulators and customers following the two crashes, which killed 346 people. Do you think Calhoun will be able to fix the problems that Boeing had previously?

Giovanni de Briganti: In late October, Calhoun told NBC in an interview that the board was confident in Muilenburg: "From the vantage point of our board, Dennis has done everything right", so, realistically, I don't think he'll have any more credibility than Muilenburg.

Calhoun has been on Boeing's board for a decade, he replaced Muilenburg as Boeing's chairman a month ago and supported Muilenburg until the very end. He's tainted with the same brush as the rest of the board, and his credibility is marginal.

© REUTERS / Sarah SilbigerBoeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg testifies before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a hearing on the grounded 737 MAX in the wake of deadly crashes, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 30, 2019
No Guarantee Boeing 737 Will Ever Recover After Recent Crashes - Researcher - Sputnik International
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg testifies before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a hearing on the grounded 737 MAX in the wake of deadly crashes, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 30, 2019

Sputnik: Boeing has repeatedly been accused of monopolising contracts with the Pentagon. For example, according to a Politico report, former US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who had previously worked at Boeing, during Defence Department meetings disparaged Lockheed Martin in favour of Boeing. How do you assess the level of lobbying by Boeing within government structures? How do you think it will change with Calhoun becoming their CEO?

Giovanni de Briganti: All major US defence contractors have people at the top of the Pentagon, but it won't make much difference now. Boeing was caught up in a corruption scandal around the US Air Force's tanker contract a few years ago, and now we know internal memos about the 737 MAX problems were suppressed, so people are scrambling to dissociate themselves from Boeing, and its influence is fading fast.

Neither Calhoun nor anybody on Boeing's board can do much to salvage the situation. The entire board has to go and must be seen to be replaced, not by managers, but by people with unimpeachable integrity and with technical credibility - engineers, pilots and/or regulators.

Sputnik: Do you think Boeing will be able to return the 737 MAX for use next year and offset financial losses?

Giovanni de Briganti: Politically, the FAA must show that it doesn't do Boeing's bidding, so I think the 737 MAX won't be cleared to fly much before Easter.

And then foreign regulators - Europe's EASA first and foremost - will have to agree, and then pilots will have to be re-trained, then the over 400 MAX already built will have to be delivered - if airlines still want them - and then passengers will have to agree to fly on them. So it will take at least a few more months, and that's assuming no new scandal erupts.

Financial losses are potentially huge and there's no guarantee the 737 will ever recover, because on top of the MAX, there are new technical problems with the 737 NG as well.

The best solution is for a new board to take over, kill the entire 737 programme, take a big financial charge, clean house very publicly putting engineers back in charge, and then retrench on the rest of the product line while developing the New Midsize Airplane (NMA), the 737's long-deferred successor.

And, symbolically it should move its HQ back to Seattle, where it belongs, near its factories and its employees. That's what Airbus did a few years ago, when it moved its world HQ from Paris to Toulouse, its main production centre, and it was seen as a positive step.

© AP Photo / Mulugeta Ayene / An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 sits grounded at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday, March 23, 2019
No Guarantee Boeing 737 Will Ever Recover After Recent Crashes - Researcher - Sputnik International
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 sits grounded at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday, March 23, 2019

Sputnik: Sales records from Boeing and Airbus show that the Airbus A320 family has officially received more orders than the Boeing 737 family, despite the fact that the 737 came out nearly 20 years earlier. Given the leadership change at Boeing, how do you think the Airbus-Boeing competition will develop in the near future?

Giovanni de Briganti: There has been no leadership change at Boeing - Calhoun the CEO is the same man as Calhoun the chairman, and the rest of the board is unchanged.

In my view, Boeing has already lost the competition for the single-aisle segment, which will now be even more dominated by the A320 and its variants, including the latest, long-range A321XLR.

The 737 is just dead weight now, and the NMA is Boeing's only hope of remaining competitive. If not, Boeing will become tomorrow's Bombardier.

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