After less than a year in charge at Renton, the vice president of Boeing who runs the assembly plant there and manages the 737 MAX program is retiring. Eric Lindblad, an operations expert at the factory, was hired to solve manufacturing and supply chain problems, but withdrew due to a security crisis that has raised doubts about Boeing's design.
Lindblad, 57, who has spent 34 years at Boeing as a well-regarded manufacturing executive, took over the Renton plant and the 737 program last August after a series of problems with the supply of engines and fuselages that They had slowed aircraft deliveries and led to an accumulation of 737 parked aircraft.
However, within a few months his work was quickly consumed by the crisis surrounding the 737 MAX after two crashes that killed 346 people.
In a letter to employees who announced the news on Thursday, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Kevin McAllister clarified that Lindblad is not being expelled, saying that Lindblad "shared with me his desire to retire last year, and now we will begin to embark. in a reflection and transition plan without problems ".
McAllister praised Lindblad's "strong leadership and tireless drive over the past 12 months leading the 737 program, as he has navigated some of the toughest challenges our company has faced."
"We are grateful for their service and dedication," wrote McAllister.
In his own letter to employees, Lindblad confirmed that "I had planned to retire last summer. But having the opportunity to come to Renton and work with all of you was something I could not pass up. "
"When I joined the 737 team a year ago, it was like a homecoming for me. I am proud to say that 23 of my 34 years at Boeing happened here in Renton, "Lindblad told employees, adding that" last year was one of the most difficult times that the 737 program has faced. "
Less than three months after he took office in Renton, accused of solving the problems of the 737 supply chain, those problems paled to insignificance after a Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia in late October, killing 189 people.
Just a week after the accident, Boeing issued a bulletin to MAX operators highlighting a previously unknown problem with the plane. He told pilots that a failed Angle of Attack sensor on the Lion Air jet could have triggered a new flight control system that repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down.
With that, the focus of Boeing and Lindblad shifted towards the search for an engineering solution for this vulnerability. But before that was achieved, the second accident, of an Ethiopian Airlines plane in March, killed 157 other people and led to the MAX grounding of the world.
Since then, 737 MAX parked have been accumulating around the Puget Sound region and further afield, in what has become the biggest crisis Boeing faces in decades.
Prior to taking over the general charge at Renton, Lindblad ran the new 777X van jet program in Everett and had previously created the new 777X composite aileron center in Everett.
Prior to that, he had been vice president of manufacturing operations at Renton, where he oversaw the successful automation of assembly processes there and an unprecedented increase in production.
To replace Lindblad, McAllister named Mark Jenks, who had been in charge of the development of Boeing's new propulsion program, the New Midmarket Airplane or NMA. Lindblad said that over the next few weeks he will work closely with Jenks "to ensure a smooth transition."
McAllister said that Jenks "ran the 787 program during some of his most difficult years, and has held several leadership positions within Boeing's space and defense business" and that his experience would help the 737 program "as we will return to 737 MAX carefully and completely to the service. "
The NMA program in place of Jenks will be Vice President Mike Sinnett, who currently directs the long-term product strategy of Boeing and Future Airplane Development, and also the technical leader that Boeing has appointed to speak publicly about the design of the control system. flight that went wrong in the MAX.
Sinnett will maintain its long-term strategic role and will also lead the NMA program, which could suggest that the NMA approach is being eliminated until the MAX crisis is resolved. McAllister in his letter to employees tried to counteract any inference.
"Let me be clear: the NMA team will continue to operate as a program," McAllister wrote, adding that Sinnett's experience as vice president and chief project engineer for the 787 Dreamliner program would help NMA advance.
However, when he announced the leadership change, McAllister reiterated that MAX remains Boeing's top priority:
"These are unprecedented times for us, as our main focus remains the safe return of service for the 737 MAX and the quality and safety of driving in everything we do," he told employees.