Pontifications: Boeing turns to US Navy Admiral for second time in MAX crises

Special Coverage of the Boeing crisis

Jan. 23, 2024, © Leeham News: When in trouble, Boeing turned to a retired US Navy Admiral for the second time.

By Scott Hamilton

Last week, CEO David Calhoun announced that Adm. Kirkland Donald was named as special advisor to Calhoun. “Donald and a team of outside experts will conduct a thorough assessment of Boeing’s quality management system for commercial airplanes, including quality programs and practices in Boeing manufacturing facilities and its oversight of commercial supplier quality,” Boeing said in a statement.

It’s the second time Boeing turned to an admiral in connection with 737 MAX crises. In September 2019, the company turned to one of its Board of Directors members, Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, to head a new board-level safety committee to review a plethora of safety items in Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg asked the Board the previous April to establish a Board committee to review Boeing’s safety practices and recommend next steps.

At the time, the MAX had been grounded for six months, with no end in sight. (Another year and two months would pass before the Federal Aviation Administration recertified the MAX.)

Donald and Giambastiani came from the nuclear navy, where safety measures are among the world’s best. Since the creation of the nuclear navy, there have been only two instances where ships were lost—and neither of them was directly related to nuclear power.

The submarine USS Thresher was lost on a test dive in 1963. The submarine USS Scorpion was lost in 1968. The Thresher’s loss was traced to disastrous flooding at a depth from which the sub could not overcome the flooding to surface. The Scorpion’s loss remains controversial to this day. Some believe it was sunk during the Cold War by a Soviet submarine. Others believe a torpedo suffered a “hot run” accident in the torpedo room and blew up before it could be disarmed.

The Navy’s safety standards

Adm. Hyman Rickover, the father of the US nuclear navy, tightened safety standards after the Thresher’s loss.

With Boeing turning to contemporary admirals for safety reviews, it might be useful to look at Rickover’s overarching rules.

Rickover’s 7 Rules

Rule 1

You must have a rising standard of quality over time, and well beyond what is required by any minimum standard.

Rule 2

People running complex systems should be highly capable.

Rule 3

Supervisors have to face bad news when it comes and take problems to a level high enough to fix those problems.

Rule 4

You must have a healthy respect for the dangers and risks of your particular job.

Rule 5

Training must be constant and rigorous.

Rule 6

All the functions of repair, quality control, and technical support must fit together.

Rule 7

The organization and members thereof must have the ability and willingness to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Another independent review

As the original MAX crisis continued, another independent safety review was named on Jan. 5, 2023, to review Boeing’s processes and culture. Ironically, the Alaska 1282 accident occurred one year to the day after this panel was named. The FAA grounded the MAX 9 fleet the next day.

The panel included MIT lecturer and aerospace engineer Javier de Luis whose sister was killed in a MAX crash, as well as experts NASA, the FAA, labor unions, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and FedEx. Airbus also was named to the panel, but it withdrew a week later.

The panel was given nine months to complete its review. LNA is told that the FAA is to receive a draft of the report later this month.

86 Comments on “Pontifications: Boeing turns to US Navy Admiral for second time in MAX crises

  1. As the first retired admiral clearly didn’t fix Boeing’s quality issues, we wonder what Calhoun is expecting from the second one. It feels like a lack of imagination on his part.

  2. Based on previous reports on this site, and comments from former employees, Rule 3 is a major area for improvement… And I doubt BCA (in recent… Decades) is unaware of their willingness to ignore bad news, and blame the messenger.

    Bringing in a new name is part of the solution (albeit shouldn’t be necessary in a well run company) if he’s let do his job, and those thousands below him are allowed to do theirs, without fear or reprisal. You’re not making toasters… You’re making passenger aircraft!

    Best of luck… And literally… God Speed.

  3. Both Admirals may have been excellent at what they did. And there is a clear liking in the USA for ex senior military in business, so their appointments could bring additional respect from those they deal with. But I strongly suspect they are not the right people and it all feels a bit virtue signalling. Bask in the glow of those medals. And now we’ve got two (read that, two) of them. Nah na na nah nah.

    Instead I really wish they’d appoint a) people with specific experience in and expertise about turning around failing cultures and systems, and b) people from relevant organisations (eg an operations bod from a Japanese manufacturer of complex, low production rate machines. Or, if miracles happen, ex Airbus).

    • Norm Augustine is a different aerospace calibre to give free hands to review Boeing commercial but is a bit old by now… But he is known for calling things with its right name.

    • Time to put Calhoun and Pope offices on the shop floor to oversee these problems If they are not capable, then they are the not the right people for their jobs They need to own the problems to fix them

  4. There is quite a difference for Boeing according to Admiral Rickover’s rule number 4:

    “You must have a healthy respect for the dangers and risks of your particular job.”

    Neither a mechanic nor a manager at Boeing is at any healthy risks due to their errors. For submariners safty is not related to money. It’s related to their lives.

    For the rest of the rules: to expensive for bean counters.
    E.g. “highly capable” worker expect an appropriate salary.

  5. another pessimistic possibility is: hire a high-level, respectable military officer to facilitate lobbying at FAA, etc.

  6. Similar to the Biden Administration, NOBODY (and I’m looking at you two, Austin-x2- and Milley, primarily after the fall of the ‘Stan) of consequence at BA has the honor and self-respect to “fall on their sword”, and resign! Yep, this shows the slow, but inevitable decline in American civilization.

    • “.. after the fall of the ‘Stan .. ”

      There never was any intention by the US of doing good or just being sensible.
      Afghanistan was an uncontrolled “portal” into the interstices between China and Russia and there probably are more vectors for Borgia activity in that area.

      currently the US seem set to turn the globe into a radiating pyle just to stay in top.

      • US in Afghanistan is strange. You could think they could do a “West German” solution and run and defend the approx 3 western regions leaving the rest to the Taliban & co: letting educated Afghan men, women and children have a free future there in peace. Having one way check points into the “Free & democratic western Afghanistan”.

        • No way. Both the army + air transport operate on fossil fuel, what if the Taliban control the life blood? 🤔

          Furthermore, no one in public office can explain to Americans why soldiers have to be there “indefinitely”, Vietnam II scenario.

  7. In other news, United’s CEO hinted to dropping MAX10 order and looking at alternative(s) due to B’s manufacturing issues.
    Wonder what aircraft could be considered, due to wait times at AB…. COMAC anyone?

    • -> NEWS: United has removed the 737 Max 9 from its capacity guidance for January and had previously expected 31 from Boeing this year, but says that figure is unlikely to materialize in 2024 and evaluating its 2025 fleet plan with implied 737 Max 10 delays. “We can’t count on it, so we’re working on alternate plans,” said United CFO Mike Leskinen.


      • Those who rule us do seem very invested in the destabilization of the West. Interesting.

    • United dropping the MAX10 and considering alternatives? There’s not many alternatives.

      However, there is one thing about United buying more A320neos/xlrs. If United wanted to buy more A320neos instead of 737s, Airbus would really, really want to sell them at least some, to make it look like 1) they’re helping out, 2) to get United used to the idea of ordering more Airbuses, 3) to get United benefiting from the switch even if its only a few aircraft at first, to reinforce that positivity.

      Okay, all that below is just wild speculation. I’ve no idea what is going on in board rooms. However, if one were to ponder what possible events in the industry could start boards thinking along these lines, Boeing losing the confidence of the US population would be pretty high up that list.

      Might Airbus want to close such a deal so much that it might negotiate with another customer who has early production slots booked and paid for? They may be willing to make it worth their while waiting longer than planned, in order to liberate some for United.

      Or, Airbus might just have been canny enough to leave just a bit of spare capacity in its production schedule for just this eventuality? I doubt it, but spare capacity right now could be extremely valuable to Airbus in the long run.

      Or, Airbus might decide there’s no need to go for Boeing’s jugular; they might be content to let Boeing keep doing what they’re doing to themselves, knowing that there’s a good chance everyone will be headed to Airbus, eventually. That way it is also possible to be the honest broker; better to arrive in the position of being a global monopoly through being passive, rather than having the reputation for cutting Boeing’s throat whilst they were at their absolute weakest.


      I’d love to know if Ryanair really will send engineers over to Boeing (in response to the request it was reported Boeing made).

      If I was a large Boeing customer, with a large back order, the opportunity to put my own engineers into Boeing would be a fantastic way of assessing whether or not there’s any chance of that back order actually being usefully fulfilled. If my engineers came back with something well short of reassurance, I think I’d be immediately hopping on a flight to Toulouse with a very large expensive presentation bottle of Scotch (or, carefully chosen equivalent) for Airbus’s Head of Sales.

      If there’s to be a stampede to Toulouse, getting there first will matter a lot. Arguably, waiting for one’s own engineers to form an opinion may be too slow.

      • Ryanair is said to double its engineers on site at Boeing, but I doubt how much they can do.
        According to a poster’s account, the lines are pretty chaotic and depends on if they have access to Boeing’s info/messaging system, how much do they know.

      • The easiest way for United to mitigate its Max10 deliveries is to hold onto its existing fleet of B757

        • The 757s are getting old in the tooth and far less efficient than even NG x 737.

          757 is one of my top liked aircraft but its day is done and gone.

          • United has a lot of old aircraft…wikipedia lists 53 B767 and 19 old-time B777-200. I guess a lot of it is going to come down to how much those aircraft would need to be warmed over for a few year.

          • Delta 757-200 (built 1992) experienced the separation of a nosewheel during line-up for take-off at Atlanta. The wheel rolled down an embankment.

            In 2022, United has to remove a 767 (built 1992) from fleet after extensive corrosion found during repaint.

      • united has an A320 fleet segment
        _and_ has standing orders for A321NEO (+XLR)
        The A321NEO are already coming in
        the XLRs are planned to come in this year ( we’ll see ..)

        • Right now there’s not much UA’s top mgmt can do other than delay aircraft retirements and/or slow expansion plan.

          It’s even a bigger headache for AS as they have one basket where all their eggs are.

        • >united has an A320 fleet segment

          I know, but they’re surely wishing they’d ordered more than they have.

          • Delta also has it share of old aircraft and a large open order for Max10. Seeing 127 B757 still in service. At least they are getting a regular stream of A321neos.

  8. IMHO re “admirals” and submarines vs airplanes.
    a_ Nuke systems and submarines are NOT produced at x per month
    b-Nuke systems and submarines do not change crews a few times/day
    c-Submarines do not surface and dock several times a day nor do they travel thru several time zones or major weather changes several times a day
    Thus we have people who are not used to daily/hourly chances of error by hundreds of people with different levels of experience making decisions and
    ‘ twisting wrenches/controls” on a virtual minute by minute schedule trying to understand- advise- control a system which does ALL of the above in hundreds/thousands of ‘ vehicles ‘ ( airplanes ) every minute of every day.

    Submariners (crew ) are ALL well trained and are chosen re merit and demonstrated ability.

    Few of the items apply to thousands of aerospace workers,and even fewer apply to Bored of directionless

    Just my .00000002

    • Bubba 2:

      You might want to review your view of command level in Submarines.

      The SFO hits a rock ion the middle of the Pacific barreling along in a non aproved route . All against the regs and both the command and COB had to have kept quiet at best

      One sub rammed a Japanese tour boat off Hawaii and killed a number of people, all against regs of how to conduct a surfacing.

      The Connecticut (a rare and uber capable/tasked sub) had an allision (yes that is right) in the Western Pacific. The commander, first officer, COB were all canned (may have been others).

      I recall at least one incident off Japan and it may have been several.

      Subs are built in limited numbers and extremely over designed (US).

      Aircraft have to endure many cycles s and have to be economically operated so there is a trade off there.

      I saw the First Officer of a Sub try to drown himself on a checkout dive in calm waters (Hawaii). The crew referred to him as Tommy Tinkle. He was horribly smart but a klutz.

      Yea I know a bit about sub service, my brother was a Nuke. Some of the failures on boats are scary and the one sub had as I recall a lithium bromide circulation system, which seized up mid Pacific.

      For the most part the crews were highly motivated and hard working (read that also abused as well). But they are not perfect and only the massive over building of the plants saved them more than once.

    • @Bubba2: you asked me to give some examples of 737 that had its fuselage broken on crashlanding, and I answered there.

  9. I’ve worked on ships and in aerospace. If he was serious about fixing the problems at Boeing, and he wanted ex-military, he should have looked to the Air Force.

    And if he was really serious, he should have gotten a philosophy professor who teaches ethics…

    • Sam W:

      Have you followed the Air Force and its weird change their plans twice a day?

      Yes I had an outstanding ground school instructor who was a retired Air Force Colon – but he was a rare one who retired and then went into teaching that did not pay anything because he wanted to give back.

      What you need is someone with a technical background, it does not have to be aviation and ethics.

      But what you really need is skip that and fire Calhoun and keep going while you re-build the company.

      Ford is a great example. Clay Ford tried to fix the company and failed, MuLally came in with carte blanch to either save it or see it sink but it was sinking regardless.

      Ford never went bankrupt like GM and Chrysler did.

      That is what is needed, a 2nd party is not going to fix anything and like Ford, any efforts get sabotaged. Mullaly just fired people who got in the way. He had a vision and a focus and that is what is needed.

      • “Retired Air Force Colon..”

        oh, please tell us more (or not).

        Some few commenters here could not be trusted to find their backsides with *both* hands.
        Did the “Colon” also “loose” something or other? I sure hope not..

      • What about Richard Aboulafia? He’d be a number’s guy, but he would also be thinking long term and not the next earnings report…

      • I concur with your recommendation that the reviewer of production systems needs to be technical. Since it is a specialized product, generic solutions would be not worth more than the status quo, so I’d insist on not just any background in aviation, but someone who UNDERSTANDS what a certificate of airworthiness means. Engineering recognizes that the design type certificate certifies that only the performance of the airplane built as-designed was evaluated and found to be compliant with the requirements and safe for use, but I don’t believe Boeing EXPLAINS to the various types of manufacturing staff who produce an airplane why it is critical that each step of the manufacturing process be followed; not just the machining of parts or the sequence in joining them together, but also the handling of parts, storage and use of chemicals, verification of electrical bonds, reporting of accidental damage, substitution of parts, revision of manufacturing plans, calibration and maintenance of tools, etc. Because an airplane built without 100% compliance to that process cannot be issued a certificate of airworthiness, because its performance as-uniquely-built has not been evaluated. And an airplane that has not been certified as airworthy must not be flown. I believe Boeing management often fails to recognize that a person can get so much more job satisfaction and take pride in their work when they know how critical and valuable their contribution is to the big picture, than from just being a cog in a gear train with no idea whether their effort ultimately drives the big hand on Big Ben to tell everyone the time or spins the wheels of an ambulance rushing someone to a hospital.

        I’m also assuming you intended your last sentence to be parsed as “…someone with [a technical background—it does not have to be aviation], and [ethics].” I did a double take when at first glance I mentally parsed it as “… someone with [a technical background], it does not have to be [aviation and ethics].” 😵‍💫

  10. I hope the hiring of the latest Admiral makes a positive difference, but it strikes me as more high-profile theater.

    They better get it together, before they have another crash.

  11. Ugh! More of the same old McBoeing bs, different day.

    Another round of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic after it already struck the iceberg.

    Another blown opportunity by the same people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to do the one thing that can actually work towards fixing what they broke:

    Resign en mass so that a new team of senior management and a new board can replace the dead wood that continues to flail and fail in turning the company around.

    Simply put, expecting the same people who destroyed the company “to fix” what they broke is a fool’s errand.

    When will enough be enough? They got lucky with the AS1282 door plug blowout incident.

    Are they really tempting fate by waiting for loss of life before making long overdue, wholesale changes in the C-Suite and boardroom?

    [Immoral at best; at this point, borderline negligent]

    Why are they allowed to continue prolonging their inevitable replacement after more “mulligans” (aka “do overs”) than virtually anyone else would have if they had even a fraction of the opportunities to clean up messes they made, but failed repeatedly?

    I mean, when does the “definition of insanity” principle (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome) finally apply to those who run this badly mismanaged company?

  12. Fixing Boeing is actually rather easy. Finding the money to do it is hard. Finding the right leaders to guide the company through what needs to be done would be even more of a difficult challenge. Let me pick on the commercial side, but the approach needed could easily be repeated everywhere in the company.

    1. (Sorry bubba2, I’m about to disagree with you, which is super rare) – shut it down. In other words quit pretending that Boeing’s production process is capable of producing world class anything, let alone top quality super safe transportation equipment that is a flight crew’s best friend when they are having a bad day.

    2. Form large classroom-like groups of employees at each site and go all the way up to the beginnings – receiving and spar load. Have the folks who work there teach everyone what they do and what sort of challenges they face. Then move onto the next stations.

    3. Repeat, except this time let everyone help, and build one perfect plane. It really doesn’t matter if it takes six months or a year. Walk everyone through what it takes to be excellent and produce something that deserves the Boeing name without that damn swoosh attached to it. Once work cell has produced one perfect product to be delivered to the next cell, give them a monster sized plaque of the old Boeing totem. That totem belongs to the next cell to which their work is delivered, which retains the right to pull it back – unannounced and with great ceremony.

    4. Once the whole site as a team knows how to produce one perfect plane, do it again. Maintain Kaizen boards listing things to be fixed or improved at each cell as issues and opportunities are identified.

    5. Slowly pick up the pace, but simply not allow any travelers – period. The line stops for all imperfections. That way, everyone is connected, and everyone knows where help is needed. Stopping the line is an event to be celebrated. Have an actual formal celebration and have the managers lead a cheer. This would be very similar to the way the employees at Toyota began to shout “Kaizen” after they went back to work after the 1949 labor agreement was adopted. Shouting or saying “good change” became a a visceral slogan of of their new direction, which they were doing together as one team.

    This process would have the effect of throwing away at least one full year’s worth of production. In return for that investment, the culture that is producing the planes would be capable of doing the kind of work would restore the second “not” to what has become a perversion of the old phrase “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going” to it’s current form which sadly has become “If it is Boeing, I’m not going.”

    Like I said, it’s easy. First teach everyone what one what it takes to build one perfect plane. Then build one perfect plane. Then another, and then another.

    • RTF:

      While that would work if the top was changed, you can’t start at the bottom or mid level.

      You need an full on board CEO committed to acually fixing Boeing. Then the rest can occurs but not until you get a CEO that can and is committed to it not paying lip service aka Calhoun and Muilenberg.

      • I agree TransWorld. I would never suggest that this clown car of a C-suite is capable of leading their way out of a wet paper bag in a monsoon.

        The problem they face now is that they have managed to completely destroy the company’s name as a symbol of quality anything. Earning that back is now more than just treating the employees as treasured resources (basic people first stuff). They are now in a spot where it is necessary to prove themselves to the whole world. Nothing incremental is going to ever accomplish that. So they need a monster injection of capital. I don’t see how that can happen using the capital markets.

        I keep coming back to the Delaware problem and the way the United States has allowed corporate chartering and governance to become a pathetic joke. Charters are licenses granted by governments. They are social contracts, and right now the public is getting screwed in a one sided deal. And this company is producing products that wantonly kill people.

    • Change can be very difficult as when lots of routines and practices are “in the walls” and assumed to work and not in detailed instructions. I agree that a “Toyota transformation” could be useful. Lots of companies has gone this route, just look at GM where a Cadillac in 1959 was way above the rest and the then the route to bankruptcy started ending with a government bail-out to begin a crawl back up the hill again.

  13. What has not been noted is the Admiral is the Chairman of IHI (Ingels Hunting Industries)

    They build ships.

    Another case of revolving door where you go to work (actually put in charge) of the Industry you are supervising. So, what do you get?

    Nothing wrong with a Nuke Safety guy, its the reality that he no longer is a safety guy and is an Industry guy. Nuke safety and aircraft have a lot in common. You build both to be ubber safe (or should) so there are not failures down the road and when there are, you have layers of safety that keep it from being fatal.

    But as noted, just because the Nuke plant is fine does not mean you will not have failures and not having a Nuke failure is more the image than killing a crew. Its an ugly truth. Nuke boats (and carriers) operate all over the world and you will not get either into a foreign port of they fail the Nuke plant.

    The bottom line is a fellow Chairman is not the answer, its someone who has no dog in the fight relationship wise. Boeing provides ship board weapons, its not a non relationship hire.

    I don’t hold any hope out as what you need is a new CEO with a mandate from the Boeing Board to clean house.

    This is the 2nd time the MAX has failed and the 787 just got out of jail and the 777X is not in service. Houston, we got a problem.

    • Don’t pardon the pun, but a sub note.

      Once you get to be a Captain of a ship, its a full on political career patch.

      Some are honorable with it and too many are not. If you look at the various defense program failures it does not endear anyone to the system has issues (dfesen always has issues).

      But once you take the political path, that is your future. You don’t suddenly discover integrity.

      you need to note the US armed forces are a dog eat dog world at that level (Captain Navy or Colonel Army or Air Forces). If you don’t get promoted, you are booted out (3rd time you fail promotion I believe)

      There is no, ok, we can shuck you off to the side promotion wise, you have vast skill we desperately need and should not loose that, but they do.

      There are only so many ships, squadrons, Tank Troops to command and its vicious politics at that level.

      Machiavelli had nothing on the military (US, I don’t talk for anyone else – its my armed forces and I can criticize them as much as I wantr)

  14. For this to be seen as something other than a stunt, it kinda matters what the remit given to the former Grey Funnel Line sailor Adm Donald (retd) is.

    Personally speaking, I’d not take on the job unless I had some sort of guarantee that if I recommended closing down the company that it would actually close down. Of course, one hopes it wouldn’t actually come to that, but if the management is not actually prepared to contemplate and commit to the ultimate terminal outcome (something that might actually represent the best possible shareholder value), one has to question their commitment to go through with any other recommendation. And if there is any possible question about the management’s commitment to carry out recommendations, then there’s no point doing anything in the first place.

    Sure, there’s an aspect that Adm Donald (retd) is probably getting well paid, but if I’m any judge of the character of military personnel then the one thing I’m certain of is that having their time wasted is something they generally dislike, at any price… If Adm Donald’s engagement with Boeing is short lived, abruptly curtailed with no adequate explanation, I think it’d be safe to read quite a lot of adverse conclusions into that. The first thing Adm Donald is likely to do is (if possible) look up Adm Gaimbastiani to inquire as to what happened before.

    Ex services personnel are also generally patriotic (it goes with the job), and a retired Admiral is going to be aware of the military and economic strategic aspects of the company’s position. Calhoun might find that Adm Donald (retd) ends up making recommendations to the US gov too, some of which if enacted may have outcomes not as Calhoun would wish.

    • I guess you did not read the layout on military personal at the Captain rank in the Navy and Colonel Rank and above in the others.

      A retired US Admiral has no need for another job. They get hired for being able to work the system they supervised.

      For those who go onto that sort of job, its all about the money.

      Patriotism is a many splendor thing but you do not have to be military to have it, nor does being military show that you had more than anyone else.

      And no, the remit would never be to shut down Boeing nor do most people e want that.

      What needed is Boeing making aircraft at the same level that Airbus does.

      And its going to take a clean-out of the Boeing management and system corruption that has been put in its place, its easy to wreck something but its not easy to fix it. It would be a long term project, easily 5 years with full authority to do something about it, which is a CEO and the management group at the top to start with working on down the ranks to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    • >I think there’s going to be fallout like we haven’t seen since…

      And that’s probably correct.

      I’m beginning to wonder if the World needs to start putting together a “Boeing Failure” contingency plan. The capacity of the aviation industry is a key component of the world economy. If that takes a big step back because, for example, Boeing goes badly wrong, it will have a big impact and there will have to be some rapid action to repair the damage done.

      What that action actually is going to be radical, complex and no doubt contentious. It will definitely take a while to get it sorted.

      So, better start now?

      Just to keep things more or less on track, a replacement production capacity have to be found capable of whatever Boeing were supposed to be sustaining. Airbus and its suppliers could do it (especially if Boeing were no longer a customer), but even so it would take quite a few years before any appreciable extra build capacity came online. How long did it take Airbus to get Mobile up and running?

  15. I hope EASA & CAAC technocrats are very impressed too by US Navy Admirals. Considering they were raised outside the USA.

    • “We don’ need no steenkin’ bolts! said one expert- as one of two Boing nosewheels rolled
      down an embankment..

      Safest, most-scrutinized aircraft ever. Mister Calhoun said so..

    • At some point one has to assume this stuff is intentional / ruling-class trolling.

      There’s something bigger going on, I think.

      • IMO given the recent negative responses from Alaska and United – BA has to be seen doing something.

        I really don’t believe that mgmt has a handle on what is going on. In sporting parlance, they’ve lost the locker room. The rank and file couldn’t care less, following 5 years of the c-suite getting paid, losses mounting up and the company being in dismal shape.


        (I’m gonna pull a Trans World here, and tell a related story)

        My brother in law was a lifer at one of the big 3 auto makers in the states. Got shuttled from plant to plant, after closures. Tells me a story of a new guy who was brought in as plant manager – thought he was the cat’s pajamas and took a hard line stance. Had an all hands meeting from Day 1 and read them the riot act on how things were going to be, from now on.

        Production has some JIT stuff. Timed to perfection; trucks backed up, plates went down, lifts went in and pulled the stuff straight to the production line.

        Wouldn’t you know it, but after that meeting, stuff started to come out in the wrong order, loads got moved to the wrong places, guys took their breaks exactly when scheduled with loads on their forks, and the line got shut down repeatedly – with the new guy running around, trying to figure where everything was.

        He lasted a whole month, before someone with a softer touch was brought in to work WITH the employees.


        I think they’ve had enough enough of Calhoun and his cabal of pressure from the top, mgmt style folks.

        • +1

          thank you. I hope it makes a difference- Calhoun is an obtacle to a solution, as I see it. There are powerful [WS] forces wanting to keep him in place, which are not to be underestimated. Meanwhile, “inefficient, socialist” Airbus laughs..

          • Fully agreed.

            The nice thing about a production operation is you can have an immediate affect and it gets attention.

            Amazing to see people behind the scenes (supposedly maint) do little or no work and it was fine.

  16. The beating (i mean the meetings) will continue until the employees fix the problems I caused.


    Well meetings in DC when it should be about fixing his end that is the employees fault and the gap no one noticed on the -9 Door Blanks.

    Alaska and United and hopefully more are putting the squeeze on and Calhoun may be gone at this point.

    As to it fixing the issue, that is different as it all depends on who replaces him with what mandate and background to execute.

  17. I will be very surprised if MisterCalhoun is dumped- except to be replaced with a ditto-head type
    like S. [“I have an MBA!] Pope. That surely would not help, but then Boing *is* looking hopeless at this juncture. Too bad.. I am sorry
    for those who do the line work (some soft-handed entities call them”laborers”).

  18. To look at what’s “happening” right now at Boing is not that useful, I think.

    Mid-March seems like a good time for an overview- at which time I expect almost nothing
    will have changed at that company. I hope I’m wrong, but that large transnational corporation has friends in the highest places. “Doing it Wrong Until Total Collapse” seems a decent moniker, for the present.

  19. Perhaps Boeing is going back to its core competency: building boats 🙂

  20. The story picked up by D Gates.

    -> Scoop

    The door plug that blew off the
    @AlaskaAir MAX 9 was removed for repair then reinstalled improperly by Boeing mechanics at the Renton assembly plant […]


    “The Seattle Times does not know the identity of the whistleblower.

    However, the details provided about the manufacturing process failures that led to the door plug blowout appear authentic and authoritative. The Seattle Times confirmed with a Renton mechanic and a former 737 MAX production line manager that the whistleblower’s description of how this kind of rework is performed and by whom is accurate.

    The Times also confirmed that the whistleblower accurately described the computer systems Boeing uses to record and track 737 assembly work, systems that mechanics and engineers sign into every day when they begin work.

    • I wonder how much UA and AS CEO did yesterday was trying to frontrun the story from the Seattle Times today. 🤔

    • In a previous post a guy called Throwaway Boeing described what happened. It tracks so I tend to believe what he wrote.

      Also he wrote about the two systems involved in an issue, one an official log and the other a chat type.

      There is a variation here in that Boeing installed the door wrong.

      I can see that being swept up in the door was put back but not installed (i.e. the 4 bolts not put in).

      Failure to install the bolts is one of those areas where you can pass the tests and still not have a correctly assembled airplane.

  21. from Aviation Week article “Opinion: Can Boeing’s Misguided Leaders Be Stopped?” by Richard Aboulafia…..last paragraph of the article

    “Thus, we may be witnessing the slow (but perhaps accelerating) demise of what was once the world’s greatest aerospace company, with few if any identifiable roadblocks to an act of self-immolation.”

  22. Boeing’s ability to sell airplanes has been severely impacted and will take a generation to recover. As so many posters have stated, there is no quick fix.

    Alaska Airlines bet the company on Boeing. Other airlines have major dependencies on Boeing as a supplier. And all airlines depend on competition between their suppliers to keep their costs manageable and innovation moving.

    Boeing’s failure is a major threat to the success of Alaska Airlines. No wonder CEO Minicucci is ‘frustrated and disappointed’. His organization made a decision to go exclusively Boeing and now they are paying the price. Any growth plans will need to be scaled back drastically. You gotta think Ryanair is very nervous.

    Airline stocks are gonna tumble, if they haven’t already.

  23. Well while we are telling stories, I spent almost all of my 31 years at Boeing doing skunkworks types of projects in plain sight, mostly within the programs, roughly split half in defense and half in commercial. They all had to do with some sort of systems stuff that was headed into IT operated infrastructure upon completion. The IT folks didn’t like that, and at one point hired a guy whose only job was to keep track of what I was doing. Three times they ended up trying to get me to come over to IT (BCS and AR&T when it was part of BCS). I turned them down once, accepted once (lasted five years before they had enough, but got a job setting their R&D agenda – you should have seen the grovelling), then one more time a reorg after the merger put me back with them again. Their big problem was a near total lack of understanding of how the company worked or what was needed from them, and almost zero interest in finding out. They loved customer requirements documents so they could blame their crappy work on their customers. It was truly pathetic. So this secondary reporting and status visibility system in Renton is not at all surprising. That sort of insanity has been routine ever since Seattle Services Division was disbanded and BCS/IT was setup.

    The folks in IT need to understand that they can’t do good work if they don’t show an interest in actually learning what is needed from them, and that sort of thing can’t be delegated to some sort of customer focals. Knowing what good work looks like is everyone’s job, and that requires studying the customer’s needs up close. Mulally’s legendary customer visit with those two engineers at Ford is a great example of how to do it right.

    Oh, and while I agree with the notion that Calhoun needs to go, getting rid of Kellner is even more critical. He is the one who is responsible for the misplaced values that have been guiding what Dave and Dennis have done in the wake of the disaster created by Stonecipher and McNerney.

    • RTF:

      This is where an effective action is open to an opinion and what would work.

      Frankly I do not know what Kelner take on this is. I view it as he is pretty new to the position and he has to work with a board, so unfortunately there is politics involved but that is true once past a worker level.

      That said, the Board will determine is Calhoun goes and who replaces him if he does go (I tend to think he is gone, its just a matter of getting to where the Opera lady sings). The screw ups by Calhoun in his tenure on the board and then not correcting Boeing have gotten to firing levels.

      That said, the board elected not to clean house and put Calhoun in charge and expect what? Kind of like expecting a snake to fly, Calhoun is a typical money grubber bean counter. To expect him to be anything other than that is misplaced.

      Someone wrote that the typical route for this stuff is you fire the CEO, then you fire the next one and then maybe, you hire a CEO that will fix things but you also have to support that CEO.

      The problem with IT is they are a world unto themselves and no one outside that world understands it. As time went on and microprocessors and programs took over from relay logic in controlling equipment. The IT types got hired because they could write programs not because they knew what those programs were supposed to do.

      They did not know how stuff worked, so the programs were junk.

      Part of the issue is having IT serve the bossiness not the bossiness exist as a employment center for IT.

      You need sharp people who understand the tech and can tell if a program is not doing what it is supposed to.

      • I completely agree with this TransWorld. For about ten years before I retired, there was an IT immersion program run by Tim Ellis that embedded IT people within commercial programs, primarily in the factories in Renton and Everett. People would apply to get into the program, and their home organizations had to agree to fund them for the year they would be gone. The customer demand for these people was insatiable. It gave them a much more effective input into IT while at the same time training some IT people about the realities of the company. Sadly, the program came to an end when Tim retired.

        I used to give walking tours of the factories for any IT people who asked for it. One thing I had a lot of fun with on those walks was introducing people to embedded computing and networks. Virtually none of them had ever seen anything like that stuff before or had a clue as to why it needed to be thought of in ways very different from normal desktops and servers.

        The factory server farms were always an eye opener. Site services got to be very good at maintaining systems that were within their control such that IT could not detect their existence. It was a critically necessary defensive measure just to keep the factory systems operational.

        • What kind of factory systems were kept operational by these critically necessary defensive measures?

          • Pete P. Let’s not go there on this forum. The last thing I want to do is give the idiots a roadmap to do more stupid things.

            I will describe one that was only semi-critical and what a particular site services group (I won’t name the site) did as a result. Right after the merger, they put a pompous fool in charge of all IT – initials JP. He was taking a tour of the Bellevue data center and was appalled to see all the empty space, but was told that many servers were now (1998) at the department level. So feeling his oats and acting with no data he gave an order to put sniffers on the network, find them all, seize them, and rehost whatever was running on them at a new data center in the Phoenix area.

            Well at this one site all of the site’s systems drawings were hosted in a CAD program that was setup with its data files on a server, and ran its visualization and client tools on a PC. This included the drawings for HVAC, electrical, plumbing, drainage systems (think hazardous materials containment around paint and seal and the paint hangars), flightline dog houses, and in a few cases, support for ME systems. Well, all of those drawings were immediately rendered unusable. The load time just startup for the HVAC drawing tree went to 20 minutes. Did JP care or even know about the many things he broke with his ego driven stupidity? No, he was too busy brown nosing Harry (yes I still get angry about the total incompetence of those fools). So anyway, site services immediately went and bought themselves some new servers and networking equipment at a local store; setup their own network and server farm again, but this time air gapped from the general purpose building network, and then they moved their PC’s over to is just so they could do their jobs. Now of course that cut off their PC’s from automated support for things like virus profile updates, but being air gapped was pretty good protection so long as they were careful about any portable media they used.

            Now this was a system on the side – not something that was running heavy equipment. So you can imagine the issues that they had fighting fires with that stuff as well. It cannot be stressed enough just how completely clueless and incompetent these GE trained fools are. A bunch of kids from a high school could do their jobs better, mainly because they would have the good sense to be respectful and cautious.

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