Two fatal crashes involving the 737 Max jet sent aeronautics manufacturer Boeing spiraling into an extended PR crisis. The company worked hard to save face even as national and international regulators grounded their planes consumers worldwide wondered if their next flight would be on a Boeing aircraft.
While the company attempted to weather the storm of ongoing PR problems, it became increasingly clear, as time progressed, that more definitive public action needed to be seen to be done. As a result, CEO Dennis Muilenburg recently announced his resignation. While this announcement doesn’t get one of Boeing’s marquee commercial aircraft back in the air, it does offer the company a much-needed place to start pushing back against the PR pressure and consumer doubt that’s been piling up since the first crash.
Beginning January 13, 2020, Chairman David Calhoun will take the helm as CEO, which was reported in a press release from the board, which also included this explanation: “A change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders…”
Given that message, some are questioning the appointment of Calhoun. While those eager for any change are mollified, others are wondering if this isn’t, essentially, just trading seats on the bus. What changes does Calhoun plan to bring that could restore consumer and investor confidence in Boeing’s future, especially as the 737 Max will be grounded for some time yet?
That question remains unanswered. To date, all Boeing says is that the company would “halt production” of the 737 Max beginning in January. Not surprising, since the company’s best selling commercial jet remains grounded, but a halt in production isn’t the kind of move that restores confidence after a major international PR crisis.
While, on paper, Boeing still looks sharp, posting strong financials overall, the company’s reputation is bruised, and they’re not moving very quickly to do much about that. In the statement, Boeing offered this in response to critics: “Under the company’s new leadership, Boeing will operate with a renewed commitment to full transparency, including effective and proactive communication with the FAA, other global regulators, and its customers…”
That, too, has people wondering about the “new” leadership. Calhoun, while imminently qualified according to all hands, has been on the board for a decade. He’s part of the current leadership, so, some are asking, how is this new leadership? It may well be that, under his guidance, Boeing will forge ahead with a renewed vision and mission, winning back doubters and soothing consumer worry. But it will take more than the current messaging to make that happen.