Back to Squawk list
  • 31

Can Boeing’s Misguided Leaders Be Stopped?

Can anything save Boeing from its management? The recent high-profile near-disaster involving an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX is just another small step in Boeing’s downward spiral, and it is far from clear what will arrest it. The safety concerns and manufacturing errors plaguing the company’s jetliner unit are just part of the problem. The production ramp-up has been a series of disappointments that will only worsen as regulators and customers scrutinize manufacturing and inspection… ( More...

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

a1brainiac 24
Corporate GREED....stop worrying about the stockholders and the CEO's bonuses...and start worrying about the people flying on your planes
Bob Denny 34
One of my coffee friends, a former inspector at Boeing's big helicopter plant here in Mesa, AZ, tells of "people from Seattle" pressuring him personally to sign off without actually performing the inspection in order to get the aircraft delivered. He refused. This happened multiple times. This is what happens when you remove aviation experts from management and replace them with bean counters.
Bill Bailey 3
It's not just the "Bean Counters, it's the pressure to deliver on time. My late "Brother from Another Mother" who worked the 737 floor back in the 1970s had the same issue and was kicked off the program when he wouldn't comply. He said "That's MY stamp, if anything happens to an airplane with MY stamp on it and I'm held in anyway responsible for it it's MY career, MY livelihood, and MY butt in court. NO WAY! So they moved him to the Navy Hydroplane program for a few years. He later went back to the 757 line under a diff. foreman and had no issues with him. But the issue kept coming up, so he quit Boeing and went to a overhaul facility and did the same job with a lot less hassles.
21voyageur 18
IMHO, the company (Boeing) may have finally "snapped" with the Alaska Air 737-9 Max event. The corporate culture appears to be beyond repair with stock prices and executive incentives now far more dominant than quality and safety. Perhaps this may be a tipping point that will drive Boeing to focus solely on the military market. Perhaps a generation down the road they can re-invent themselves but they appear, for right or wrong, heading towards being radioactive to investors and yes, the flying public. Lockheed Martin comes to mind as an example.

My 2 cents. No more.
HeissZephyr 8
Focus on the military market? That's the source of their largest losses.
Stefan Sobol 10
With all the problems with the KC-46, Starliner, AF1, etc. programs, the commercial business is keeping the company afloat.
Ed Allen 12
he may just stop himself !He is running the company into the ground. Any company that limits their choices down to two different types of aircraft are ridiculously stupid. yes they have a third but how many years of delay is that. It’s the new generation workforce that doesn’t give a damn like the other post say and it shows!! what’s the old saying in the past… if it ain’t Boeing, we are not going. Well they successfully changed it to if it’s Boeing hell no we’re not going. .
TWA55 6
It started with the airline CEO's and now has found its way to those who build the airplanes they fly. This is a terminal cancer which will need radical surgery from the top to bottom.

The old saying "if it ain't Boeing, I ain't going". Today, if it is Boeing, I ain't going. I have lost all faith in the airline system of which I was a member years ago. We had our problems, but not the sort of things we see today.
Steve Smith 6
Businesses usually start knowing they have to please customers. At a certain size though, customers are nothing but a resource to be squeezed like a lemon for maximum profit. If I were Southwest, e.g., I'd be planning for fleet conversion to A320s now. Free enterprise works when customers refuse to be treated as suckers.

Once Boeing loses half its customers, then they'll wake up and start getting management that understands there's more to running a business than cutting costs.

The Boeing/MD merger should never have happened. Consolidation ALWAYS makes this worse.
flyenlo1 5
Just need more lawyers and bookkeepers.
Companies that produce tangible products need competent engineers running them.
Rob Palmer 4
Years ago I worked at Boeing, and it appears that then it was an entirely different company. Not concerned with production, I was a mainframe computer programmer, on the 4th largest mainframe in the world. We all had great confidence in the products, and were proud to be working there. I have the feeling that eastern business school training is the culprit here. Bottom line - bottom line - bottom line! Maybe too many "old boys". Thank you Boeing for hiring me for a great, good paying job!
Bob Guzik 7
Sure, remove the bean counters from airplane design, engineering and manufacturing and put the engineers back in charge. Never did see a bean counter that understood the difference engineering principles. Their motivation is maximize profits and cut costs. Safety and robust design come in poor seconds. When's the last time Boeing designed a new airplane. NO, it's cheaper to take a 50 year old frame and just tweak it a bit. How well is hat working out?
Ricky Scott 7
MacDac Mindset.

Purge Boeing of ALL the MacDac employees especially the upper management and Executives.
Yes please !
Brian Freeman 3
You know the old saying "if it's Boeing I'm not going."
Ron Wroblewski 3
No, no they cannot, not without severe gov interference, like blocking/banning these craptastic airplanes from being flown/built.

You can look back on their last 15 years of both civilian and military programs and see severe quality issues stemming from their overwhelming desire to please their shareholders. You shouldn't need any more motivation than you know, literally not killing your customers, which def increases your chances of future sales, and yet, here we are.
Perry Hammons 3
What McDonnell did to Douglas, McDonnell Douglas did to Boeing. Congrats James McDonnell, you won.
brownbearwolf 3
Boeing originally were an OEM Of Aircraft. Then in an effort save money, they bought Jeppesen and other companies to lower their direct operating cost. IN doing that move, they changed the energy of the original Company and altered the companies energy resulting in the recent accidents-incidents. One sets a shop in an empty building to sell shoes. The last owner of the shop sold electrical components. The show seller will soon go out of business because the energy of building has been changed. If they sold electrical components, they would have some level of success. Boeing unless they change, will slowly go out of business.
Gary Kendall 12
The whole country's workforce has gone to a "don't give a damn" work ethic. Not just Boeing and their suppliers. Look at the number of recalls in the auto and truck industries. I used to be a QC inspector in a major electric motor manufacturing plant. There was pride in turning out a quality product. Sadly doesn't seem that way anymore.
M Steinke 2
That, and it started in the 1980's with business schools shifting to prioritize shareholder value/short-term profits above all else.
Rob Palmer 1
Tom Dunn is 100 and deceased; correct, let's shut them all down for a few years. Country should benefit.
Bill Overdue -6
Combine that with those people voting ... explains A LOT of what's wrong in America. Go Woke, Go Broke still rings loud and clear!
jeff creek 4
I guess Bill your not a fan of democracy.
Bill Overdue -6
Quite the contrary, I want to "keep" it, and won't stand in the shadows as it's summarily destroyed! I would encourage you to do the same,.else we'll look like Canada in a few years!
djames225 3
Excuse me??? ".else we'll look like Canada in a few years!"
Bill Overdue -2
You're excused. Yes, like Canada!
djames225 2
I didn't ask to be excused, especially by you! My guess is you, even thou you state otherwise, are not a fan of democracy.
So No, not like Canada!
Stock holders decide what a company does.
WD Rseven 9
Probably hedge funds in this case. And those funds are headed by people who care about only one thing - return on their investment. They will squeeze every last penny out of Boeing while it goes down the drain.
Jaime Terrassa 2
lawyers will be knocking at the door.
David Beattie 5
If they let me take over, the first thing I would do is move the HQ back to SEA!
djames225 5
If they let me take over, first thing to do is boot the board of directors. Pencil pushing bean counters who don't give a rat's butt about the production quality.

Then I would move HQ from Arlington back to Seattle and have a candid talk with all employees and suppliers to get back on quality track.
Rob Palmer 3
Yes! Their move to Chicago puzzled me greatly. Boeing is Seattle and Seattle is Boeing! Pacific Northwest culture is what created Boeing.
djames225 1
Their move to Arlington was even more puzzling.
Robert Graham 1
Boeing is going to focus on government contracts and getting closer to politicians. That’s my guess. So much for building reliable commercial aircraft.
TWA55 2
That would solve nothing. The board of directors would need to change followed by a lot head chopping within the company. This problem is so bad I don't think there is anyone who could fix it just because of what I just said. Until all of them feel the pocket book hurt nothing will ever change.
boughbw 3
So, let's actually think about things - not a popular idea, clearly.
1. The author of this piece offers no way to improve. It is not a critique so much as gratuitous insult. Take it that way.
2. DEI initiatives are not the problem. If you believe otherwise, turn off the right-wing media and alert your county clerk that you should not be allowed to vote due to your feeblemindedness.
3. No engineer would sign-off on "cutting corners" to "increase profits" if it meant knowingly jeopardizing lives. If you can prove otherwise, you should contact the FBI and provide them with this evidence. If you cannot, you probably should stop saying this.
4. The problems are not Boeing's alone and that is why this is a huge problem:
a) Boeing has to keep its customers happy, which means building planes they want. Southwest was a huge reason that Boeing's MAX cockpit updates were kept minimal and one factor behind the use of MCAS.
b) The same reason applies to pilot training. If Boeing pushes airlines too hard to have rigorous training for their pilots, they may stop buying Boeing aircraft.
c) Ditto maintenance and repair standards. By the way, these were contributing factors to the Lion Air (b) and (c) and Ethiopian (b) crashes.
d) The FAA does not have the capacity to carry-out its missions. Where Air Traffic Control is concerned, it is a major issue that everyone sees. Where development, testing, and enforcement of airworthiness directives and inspections and data review are concerned, it is hidden. This extends to oversight of manufacturing and quality control.
Seriously, the level of technical expertise required of the FAA bureaucrat is such that, if the person possessed such expertise, they would be making far more money working in the private sector instead of overseeing the manufacturers. There is the suggestion here that maybe the FAA people with such qualifications are either paper tigers or that they are not that good at their jobs or both.

I am not absolving Boeing of blame or even minimizing their role in their mess. But it is worth nothing that the primary reason it is their mess is that few others can actually be held to account. That needs to change.

1. Require all manufacturers of aircraft in the United States and of aircraft likely to fly to the US to provide engineers and design professionals to an oversight board. They will develop testing regimes for the certification of aircraft, oversee the implementation of such testing, and review all data produced in the process to determine whether the aircraft will be certified. They can also recommend/require changes be implemented in the airworthiness process. The FAA will be relegated to enforcement activities based on the panel's recommendations. Participants from the company whose plane is being reviewed will not be allowed to participate as reviewers.
2. Re-orient the FAA toward oversight of production. If there is something that the FAA can do, it is to monitor production activities to ensure that approved SOPs are implemented.
3. Set-out training standards and compel airlines to follow them or forsake delivery of aircraft from compliant manufacturers.
4. #3, but for maintenance and repair standards.
5. Lean on other regulatory bodies to help enforce these new requirements.

Remember: While so many people are dumping on Boeing for MCAS and door plug failures, the reality is grim that had those things not shown-up (but the problems remained hidden), we might well be cheering Boeing for their success.
Bill Bailey 2
Good observations on 1-5, although #2 is an issue in PNW (I used to live there) and good suggestions, but how do you get all of the above to comply?
People in power don't like to give it up, the FAA won't want to hand over that authority to the manufacturer, whoever it is. I totally agree with your suggestions # 3/4/5.
There has to be more oversight on the factory floor and ways to make sure that items that slip past the inspectors(?) DON'T. Not just the Max series, but the KC-46 program and others that the Lazy B is involved in. They now have a company wide issue with QC and between that and poor leadership it's going to kill the company. They HAVE to at least find a way to lessen the QC issues to help restore the public trust in the product.
boughbw 2
#2 isn't an issue and we know this because the South Carolina 787s are having a large amount of rework done up in Everett and Spirit Aero's MAX operations being in kansas. The eye-opener for me on the door-opener for Alaska was first that Spirit Aero had so many poorly done rivets and second that Boeing's mechanics didn't know how to reinstall the door plug. But even if kansas had DEI requirements, they wouldn't be able to fulfill them in Wichita because the population is homogenous.

The great thing about the FAA is that it has an overwhelming amount of pull due to its ability to regulate who and what has access to US airspace. The bad thing about the FAA is that this power goes to their head. So far as I can tell, the FAA has done little to nothing to address their swings-and-misses in catching the issues that allowed the MCAS to essentially evade review. We still need Congress restructure the FAA to make clear that the technical aspects of certification should be by a board and not by the FAA directly.
Bill Bailey 3
#2 is an issue in SEA and the area and has been for years even though it had no name back then. I know this 1st hand. I was fired from a job in 1991 and spent a year looking for a new one with no luck. Everywhere I went I was the wrong age (early 40s), wrong sex or the wrong color. "We're looking for a woman, black woman, someone a little younger, you're over qualified, blah, blah, blah. Even the P.O. with a military experience, I got beat out by younger black women who had little if any military experience by their own admission. It's there and it's been there for a long time.

Boeing knows how to install the door plugs if they didn't every one of them would have fallen out. Boeing has been riding Spirit about those issues for a while to no avail, having said that and having bucked and driven more than a few rivets myself I have to wonder what Boeing's criteria is for bad rivets. Loose, croocked, owl eyes, I don't know. Re the plug doors, Spirit does a lose installation, tight enough to keep the rain out. Boeing, when they get to interior installation take the door plugs out to make it easier. When they finish all the interior installation and before final interior close up are SUPPOSED to make sure the door plugs are properly re-installed. It's obvious they missed a number of them. It's the QC errors like this I was talking about. Basically Boeing designs & builds good, strong airplanes, but QC and corner cutting by management are going to be the death of the company. And that's going to leave the airline market to Airbus, the Chinese (who will probably buy out Boeing) and the smaller 2nd tier builders.
boughbw 3
The most recent reporting showed that the Boeing mechanics lifted the door for the Spirit contractors to re-do the improper rivets then failed to replace the bolts when the door was put back into place.
Bill Bailey 2
QC & Inspection failure.
David Restrick 4
1 Timothy 6:10 says, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." This sure applies to Boeing. The love of money for the shareholders has resulted in the 737 Max crashes in Ethiopia and Thailand, the slovenly assembly of the 787s, and now the near disaster of the 737Max9, and who know what else may come down the road. As we have seen, Boeing has "wandered from the faith," i.e. making the best airliners in the world! People used to say, "If it's not Boeing, I'm not going!" Now they are saying, "If it's Boeing, book me on a different flight!" The result is, or will be, that they share holders and directors of the company, and subsequently all their employees, have "pierced themselves with many griefs." We'll see this when the company folds, and it will affect the whole country as well. It will be a classic case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
Rob Palmer 3
When I worked at Boeing it was the major money making exporter in the country. Something like $100,000,000 a month. Many people simply do not realize this fact.
Philip Lanum 1
Boeing is still the leading industrial exporter in the US.
Boeing should stop trying to be politically correct in their workforce instead of focusing in racial and cultural diversity. Hire by job qualifications and psychological profiling. Missing bolts, loose bolts and missing washers are unacceptable in aircraft manufacturing. The rule applies everywhere, get woke and go broke.
trentenjet 1
Boeing is owned by Wall Street that is controlled by the Federal Reserve. The swamp they're not American.
Bob Denny's comment says it all
ksmith610 1
Yes they can, with the right caliber.
James Driskell 1
The company started going down hill when they moved their corporate HQ to Chicago, away from were the real work was going on in the factories in the NW. A bunch of corporate bean counters and other drones wound up deciding the technical questions that previously engineers were responsible for. But I don't blame them for the delays in the KC-46 program. It seems that the air force has problems with almost every new acquisition over the past few years. Politics has injected nonsense into almost every new program.
HeissZephyr 0
Calhoun must be fired. He is another Jack Welch disciple and we've all seen the aftermath at GE from these types.

Get to it Vangaurd and Blackrock before there is nothing left. Reassess the whole BOD while your at it.
boughbw 9
Yes, give it to an investment group as if vulture capitalism isn't a thing.
HeissZephyr 1
Vanguard and Blackrock are the two current top shareholders. Please explain what you mean by "give it to them."
Bill Overdue -3
Hmm, since Blackrock is the "bedrock" of DEI and Larry Fink "oversees" 9.1 Trillion, there's PLENTY to fund the groups DEI initiatives. Thankfully, a few sane corporations are rethinking this very dangerous initiative, but more is needed to turn the tide! We can only hope!
Jim Nichols -5
Diversity Diversity Diversity Operate like the government. Don"t mind if they are qualified or not.Just hire them anyway.
Bill Overdue -2
And now they are celebrated in both cockpit seats. Mathematically, it's just a matter of time!
Bill Overdue 0
Based on some of the analysis given, it sounds like there's several DEI recipients lurking here! Hang in there ...
Time to change back to pre-merger management.
Bill Overdue -1
Sadly, I believe the short answer is no, they cannot be stopped, not yet! As bad as this may sound, it's a matter of the number of people dying before any seroius attention is given to initiate change. And I don't expect it soon, even as deaths are certain to increase in the coming days. History will repeat itself. It's as if TSA and Border Security have forgotten 9/11 already! When was the last time you were told you had an option of being photographed or not before boarding a plane? I really do fear America's NEXT catastrophic event has already crossed the border, who's stopping them?
C J 0
Hey Billy...stop reading internet forums and watching OAN. Regurgitating that wet trash heap of info doesn't make you sound credible or intelligent. I get that you think you have the "inside scoop", but you're just drinking the kool aid. Want to take off the tin foil hat and have a real conversation?
Bill Overdue -1
Are you always this angry? I'm sensing you may be a little jealous of my intelligence? Do you really think your low IQ responses are relevant?
C J 1
Given that you're the one choosing to use unnecessary exclamation points in every one of your comments, I'd say you're the shouty angry one. You ok?

Also, I couldn't be happier that you boast about your IQ and intelligence. It's a clear sign that the Dunning-Kruger effect is real and that you're a prime example of it.
Tyler Ballance -3
W. Edwards Deming:

1. Do not use the logical fallacy of going from the specific to the general (e.g. A panel was installed incorrectly, therefore nothing is done correctly).

2. Adherence to statistical process control requires a well educated and well trained workforce.

My own opinion: You cannot fly with eagles when you work with turkeys. While this one incident is not a valid indicator of an overall lack of quality at Boeing, the company's slide into affirmative action hiring over MERIT based hiring and promotion is a trend that certainly casts doubt on the once great company.

A solution: If Boeing made a commitment to MERIT based hiring and promotion, as well as training their workforce to return to the correct use of Statistical Process Controls at every step of the building and repair processes, the company's reputation can be salvaged

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

rob strong 7
That you, Calhoun?
djames225 13
So that doorplug falling off Alaska airlines and those loose rudder trim bolts had nada to do with Boeing?? Those trim bolts were discovered during an initial craft maintenance check.

Funny how Alaska just took possession of their craft 3 months ago, yet it must be Alaska's fault when they haven't even worked on it yet Or United and their issues with loose hardware also discovered during an initial craft inspection etc etc etc etc etc.

STOP defending the bean counters! Hell they were all set to blame Spirit Aerosystem for the Alaska incident.
Philip Lanum 4
The Delta 757 is over 20 years old. The wheel falling off is not a Boeing issue it is a Delta issue.
jeff creek 7
Ignore the man behind the curtain.
jeff creek 6
And all of Boeing's MBA'S have come home to roost!
Ricky Scott 5
More like the MacDac Mindset taken over.
Bill Bailey 10
It started when the MacDoug brass took over from the Boeing brass. The Co. has been going to hell ever since.


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.