Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg has been fired amid a deepening crisis over the firm’s grounded 737 Max jets in the wake of two deadly crashes.
The Chicago-based aviation giant announced that Muilenburg had stepped down Monday, a week after it announced plans to suspend production of the scandal-hit jet. Its directors asked him to quit with immediate effect, with company chairman David Calhoun taking over as acting CEO.
A Lion Air 737 Max smashed into the sea off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.
The 737 Max – which first took to the skies in 2016 – was grounded worldwide last March after a second plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.
Aviation experts suspect that the crashes may have been caused by insufficient training on how to use the plane’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
MCAS was designed in a bid to mitigate Boeing decision to moving the Max’s larger engines forward on its air frame, compared to previous generations of the plane whose engines fit comfortably underneath the wings.
But the pilots of both planes that crashed are believed to have struggled to control their aircraft after MCAS sent them into a steep nosedive from which they were unable to recover.
The first variant of the 737 took to the skies in 1966, with the Max’s much larger engines saving fuel costs and enabling the latest plane to fly greater distances.
It is already the most successful plane in Boeing’s history, having generated almost 5,000 orders, with 387 planes delivered before the jet was grounded worldwide.
The Max’s grounding has sparked travel chaos across the globe, with affected airlines forced to cancel and reschedule thousands of flights.
America’s Federal Aviation Authority, which oversees airliner safety in the US, now says it expects the Max to return to service during the first quarter of 2020.
But the plane seems certain to face a huge public relations crisis, amid fears many travelers will be too frightened to board them.
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