Boeing’s next CEO should understand past mistakes, airline chief says

By Tim Hepher and Lisa Barrington

DUBAI (Reuters) – Boeing’s next chief executive should understand what led to its current crisis and be prepared to look abroad for examples of best industrial practice, the head of the International Air Transport Association said on Sunday.

U.S. planemaker Boeing is embroiled in a sprawling safety crisis, exacerbated by the mid-air panel explosion in January on a nearly new 737 MAX plane. Chief Executive Dave Calhoun will leave the company at the end of the year as part of a broader management restructuring, but Boeing has not yet named a replacement.

“It’s not for me to say who should run Boeing. But I think understanding what went wrong in the past is very important,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh told Reuters TV at an airline conference in Dubai. adding that Boeing was taking the right steps.

IATA represents more than 300 airlines or around 80% of global traffic.

“Our industry benefits from learning from mistakes and sharing that learning with everyone,” he said, adding that this process should include “an acknowledgment of what went wrong, an observation of best practices and what others are doing.”

He said it was essential for the industry to have a culture “where people feel safe raising their hands and saying things are not working as they should”.

Boeing faces investigations by U.S. regulators, possible prosecutions for past actions and a drop in production of its best-selling plane, the 737 MAX.


Calhoun, a Boeing board member since 2009 and a former GE executive, was hired as CEO in 2020 to help turn around the planemaker after two fatal crashes involving the MAX, its best-selling plane.

But the planemaker has lost market share to competitor Airbus, and its shares lost nearly 32% of their value this year when MAX production plunged this spring.

“The industry is frustrated by the problems that Boeing has encountered. But personally, I’m pleased to see that they are taking the right steps,” Walsh said.

Delays in the delivery of new planes from both Boeing and Airbus are part of broader problems in the aerospace supply chain and aircraft maintenance industry that complicate airlines’ growth plans.

Walsh said supply chain problems are not declining as quickly as airlines want and could last until 2025 or 2026.

“It’s probably a good thing that it’s not getting worse, but I think it will be a feature of the industry for a couple more years,” he said.

Earlier this year, IATA brought together several airlines and manufacturers to discuss ways to alleviate the situation, Walsh said.

“We are trying to ensure that there is an open and honest dialogue” between them, he said.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher and Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Cawthorne)