By David Koenig
Boeing’s new chairman gave embattled CEO Dennis Muilenburg a vote of confidence Tuesday and said the chief executive is giving up any bonus this year.
David Calhoun said the Boeing board believes Muilenburg “has done everything right” and is positioning the Chicago company to return the 737 Max to service after two accidents killed 346 people.
A flight-control system called MCAS pushed the nose of both planes down before crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Boeing, which kept any explanation of MCAS out of pilot manuals, is now revamping the system to make it easier for pilots to override.
“Dennis didn’t create this problem, but from the beginning he knew that MCAS should and could be done better, and he has led a program to rewrite MCAS to alleviate all of those conditions that ultimately beset two unfortunate crews and the families and victims,” Calhoun said on CNBC.
Last week, several members of Congress challenged Muilenburg to resign or at least give up pay. Muilenburg’s compensation last year was worth $23.4 million, including a $13.1 million bonus and $7.3 million in stock awards.
Boeing has said recently that it expects the Federal Aviation Administration to approve its changes to the Max before year-end. Those changes include new retraining material for pilots and tying MCAS to a second air-direction sensor at all times so that a single sensor failure won’t push the nose down, as happened before both crashes.
Muilenburg has conceded, however, that fixing MCAS has taken far longer than Boeing expected. U.S. airlines aren’t planning on using the plane until at least January or February, and it could take longer in other parts of the world, where regulators want to conduct their own reviews of Boeing’s work.
Muilenburg testified last week before two congressional committees that are investigating Boeing and the FAA. He was asked several times whether he would resign. After several long and nuanced answers, he told one lawmaker simply, “No.”
The Boeing Co. fired the head of its commercial airplanes division last month, a move that was seen as a reaction to production problems with several planes, not just the Max. Also last month, the company stripped Muilenburg of the chairman’s title, giving that job to Calhoun, a senior executive at the private equity firm Blackstone.