Boeing 737 Max chief retires as planes stay grounded

Eric Lindblad Boeing’s 737 jet program manager will retire after a 34-year career with the airline company

Taking Lindblad's place as the lead of the 737 program and the Renton, Washington, factory will be Mark Jenks, who has been leading Boeing's potential new mid-market airplane (NMA) project, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Kevin McAllister wrote in the memo to employees seen by Reuters.

Attorney General Bill Barr has recused himself from the ongoing Justice Department probe into Boeing that's connected to the two recent crashes of its 737 Max planes, a Justice Department official said.

Described as a "quiet, get-on-and-do-it" engineer, Jenks spent half of his 36-year Boeing career on the 787 and an earlier alternative that was never launched, the Sonic Cruiser. Jenks previously managed the Boeing 787 program.

The 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March after an Ethiopian Airlines plane plunged to the ground soon after take-off, five months after a similar Lion Air fatal crash off the coast of Indonesia.

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The decision had been expected after Boeing said on June 27 it would likely take until at least September to fix a fresh flaw in the grounded 737 MAX discovered by the Federal Aviation Administration last month.

The Max is critical to Boeing's future; the company has a backlog of about 4,500 orders from around the world. But the longer the grounding lasts, the more strain on airlines counting on fresh deliveries of the fuel-efficient MAX this year to renew and expand their fleets.

Lindblad, 57, "shared with me his desire to retire previous year, and we will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition plan", Kevin McAllister, who runs the planemaker's $60 billion commercial division said in a message to employees Thursday.

"There are still challenging times ahead once the MAX safely returns to service", he wrote. The stock had gained 1.9 per cent to close at $359.

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