CEO Calhoun is the latest Boeing boss to be fired by scandal or disaster
CEO Calhoun is the latest Boeing boss to be fired by scandal or disaster

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun on Monday will soon join what has become an inauspicious group — the fraternity of former Boeing CEOs.

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

Over 28 years, the tenures of Boeing’s five leaders have lasted between 15 months and a decade. Take a look back at the dynamic, sometimes disastrous periods of these leaders.

Philip Condit, 1996-2003

Number of Boeing employees in Washington in the past year: 54,100

Condit’s tenure at Boeing transformed the company and ended after a year of ethical lapses and financial problems.

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

In its final year, Boeing’s military and space operations generated more money than commercial aircraft, and for the first time Airbus surpassed Boeing in commercial aircraft production.

He resigned in 2003 after Boeing Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears was sentenced to four months in prison for illegally soliciting the Air Force’s top 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 Stonecypher, 2003-2005

Number of Boeing employees in Washington in the past year: 62,100

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

The relationship did not affect Boeing’s business operations, an internal investigation found, but suggested problems of poor judgment. It was also seen as yet another ethical lapse for a company trying to shake off two years of scandal. Chief Financial Officer James Bell stepped in as interim CEO following Stonecipher’s departure.

James McNerney, 2005-2015

Number of Boeing employees in Washington in the past year: 79,200

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

McNerney, described as a relentless champion of efficiency and lower costs, redrawn the map of Boeing’s manufacturing and engineering facilities. He expanded Boeing’s South Carolina site into a full-fledged commercial jet assembly center, disrupting the Puget Sound region’s traditional hold on that central Boeing role and drawing criticism from the region.

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

The Renton 737 plant increased production to double the number of airplanes per month compared to when McNerney took over, and the number of Boeing employees in Washington state grew by nearly 40 percent.

Dennis Muilenburg, 2015-2019

Number of Boeing employees in Washington in the past year: 71,800

Muilenburg was grounded following the 737 MAX crashes that killed a total of 346 people, both of which were 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 pilots of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines as the crashed flights. He was fired nine months after all 737 MAX planes were grounded worldwide.

Dave Calhoun 2020-2024

Number of Boeing employees in Washington in the last year: 66,800 (in 2023)

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

The aftermath of a mid-air explosion on Jan. 5 of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 prompted its departure, plans for which were announced Monday. Calhoun will retire at the end of 2024.

More about Alaska Airlines and the Boeing 737 MAX 9

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