Boeing Appoints Special Adviser Amid 737 MAX 9 Controversy and Investigation

Boeing has appointed retired U.S. Navy admiral Kirkland H. Donald as a special adviser to CEO Dave Calhoun, following the 737 MAX 9 planes grounded following an in-flight cabin panel blowout on an Alaska Airlines jet. The incident has rekindled concerns about Boeing's jets and potential delays to aircraft deliveries. The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety chief will brief senators on the investigation on Wednesday. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy and the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety David Boulter will meet with Senate Commerce Committee members to inquire about the incident and their respective investigative actions and processes.


Kirkland Donald will lead a team of outside experts in evaluating quality practices at Boeing Commercial Airplanes and its supply chain and provide recommendations to Calhoun and Boeing's board of directors. Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at consultancy AVITAS, criticized Boeing's pick of an adviser without a background in aviation. Ongoing MAX 9 investigations could ratchet up the pressure for management changes among Boeing's top executives, analysts said. Boeing shares are down more than 22% since the new year.

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Wells Fargo analysts downgraded the shares on Tuesday, citing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's announcement that it will review Boeing's inspections of the MAX 9 planes before allowing planes to fly again. The drop in share price on Tuesday may reflect the frustration of investors who are thinking, “If I buy this stock, I don't know what we'll find out tomorrow.”


Both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the two U.S. carriers that fly the 737 MAX 9, have canceled flights through Wednesday. Boeing CEO Calhoun will visit Spirit AeroSystems production facilities in Wichita, Kansas, to speak with employees alongside that company's CEO, Pat Shanahan. Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary called for a revamp of Boeing's management, though he said senior leaders should stay at the company. Boeing referred to a letter to employees written by Deal on Monday, where he laid out additional steps the company would take to improve quality assurance, including additional 737 inspections at Boeing and Spirit facilities.

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