Head of troubled Boeing unit ousted

 February 22, 2024

The head of Boeing's 737 Max program has been forced out as the aircraft manufacturer seeks to reassure the public that its planes are safe, following the widely publicized Alaska Airlines scare in January.

The 737 Max 9 came under scrutiny after a door plug blew out on a flight near Portland, exposing passengers to the open air. Thankfully, no one was harmed.

The incident underscored worries about aviation safety that have been building for months, putting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on the defensive.

18-year executive fired

Ed Clark has overseen the 737 Max program at Boeing's Renton, Washington factory since 2021. Clark took over 737 Max production in the shadow of two devastating crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people, with no survivors.

Boeing's then-CEO was forced out and the company ended up paying a $2.5 billion settlement to avoid criminal charges with the Justice Department.

Clark was with Boeing for 18 years. His replacement, Katie Ringgold, is the current vice president of 737 delivery operations.

Boeing also created a new senior quality control position, as the company's manufacturing comes under scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

An email to staff from Stanley Deal, head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the changes were aimed at "ensuring that every airplane we deliver meets or exceeds all quality and safety requirements."

"Our customers demand, and deserve, nothing less," he added.

Aviation safety under scrutiny

All 737 Max 9 planes were temporarily grounded by the FAA following the terrifying Alaska Airlines incident in January.

A preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found missing door bolts were to blame.

The Alaska Airlines incident came after months of growing concern about a rise in near collisions, a trend that has been tied to a shortage of qualified air traffic controllers.

With aviation safety a top concern, Buttigieg's focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in FAA recruiting has drawn criticism. But Buttigieg insists the FAA is doing everything it can to keep passengers safe.

"Boeing is of course under a microscope right now," Buttigieg said in a recent interview at Portland International.

"FAA is looking at every step of their process to understand how their — not just their quality control, but really their safety culture works, and what needs to change," he said.

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