Boeing faces 'pivotal moment,' new airplane chief says

Stephanie Pope replaced Stan Deal as the head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes earlier this week

Stephanie Pope, Boeing's newest airplane chief, told staff that the company faces a "pivotal moment" as it tries to ease concerns from regulators and rebuild its reputation following the 737 Max crisis. 

Pope was named CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes this week, replacing Stan Deal who spent four decades at the company. It was part of a larger overhaul of Boeing's management team that included CEO Dave Calhoun announcing his departure by year's end. 

"This is a pivotal moment for us, and we have serious work ahead to build trust and improve our operations," Pope, who previously served as the chief operating officer, said in a Wednesday letter to staff.

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Pope said that she will be meeting with the team as they "enhance and implement its safety and quality improvement plan" over the next couple of weeks. 
 
"Our path forward is clear. We will put safety and quality above all else in order to meet and exceed the expectations of our regulators, customers, flying public and each other," she said. "And most importantly, we will actively listen to our team on the factory floor and respond to feedback and improve."

In a separate letter sent to employees on Monday, Calhoun said the Jan. 5 incident where a door plug blew off Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 at 16,000 feet "was a watershed moment for Boeing." 



Stephanie Pope

Stephanie Pope, Boeing's new head of airplanes, gives a press conference at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport on June 20, 2023. (GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The door panel appeared to be missing four key bolts, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that was released in February. 

Since the incident, regulators have been putting pressure on Boeing to make "profound improvements" after quality issues were discovered in an audit of 737 Max manufacturing processes.

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FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, who took a recent trip to Boeing manufacturing facilities, said in an interview with "NBC Nightly News" that Boeing's "priorities have been on production and not on safety and quality."  

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He gave the airplane manufacturer a 90-day deadline to develop a comprehensive action plan that would address "systemic quality-control issues" in February after a production audit of the Boeing 737 manufacturing processes and its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, found multiple cases in which the companies allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.

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