Firing of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg marks new effort by aerospace giant to recover from 737 MAX crisis

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg at the 2018 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Boeing fired CEO Dennis Muilenburg Monday morning, amid the continued fallout over two crashes of its best-selling plane, the 737 Max, that killed 346 people last year.

Boeing CFO Greg Smith will serve as interim CEO until Jan. 13, when David Calhoun, the company’s current board chair will take over the chief executive job. Boeing stock is up approximately 2 percent Monday in the wake of the news.

The 737 Max planes have been grounded since March, several months after the two catastrophic crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed hundreds of passengers and raised deep questions about the planes’ safety. Since that time, regulators have launched multiple investigations into the development and certification of the planes.

Last month Boeing announced it would suspend production of 737 Max jets starting in January and move the people working on them to other teams.

Investigators traced the root cause of the crashes to an automatic control system that pushed the planes into deep, unrecoverable dives due to faulty sensor data. Boeing says it has developed a software patch that should resolve the problem, but the Federal Aviation Administration has not yet signed off on the fix.

Over the weekend, Boeing had to cut short a test flight of its CST-100 Starliner space taxi due to a glitch with the craft’s timing system. Because of the glitch, NASA and Boeing had to forgo Starliner’s planned trip to the International Space Station. But the uncrewed transport still notched a first in space history nevertheless by becoming the first crew-capable U.S. space capsule to make its return from orbit on land.

Muilenburg is a Boeing lifer, who has been with the company since 1985, starting as an intern. He became CEO in 2015. In April, Muilenburg rebuffed the idea of resigning over the 737 Max issues.