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By Doug Cameron
Boeing Co. said the head of its 737 MAX program will retire after less than a year leading the division engulfed in crisis following two fatal crashes of the aircraft.
Eric Lindblad will be replaced by Mark Jenks as vice president of the huge Boeing plant outside Seattle in Renton, Wash., that produces the 737, Boeing said.
Boeing said the departure of Mr. Lindblad, a 34-year company veteran, wasn't a consequence of the fatal crashes of 737 MAX planes operated by Indonesia's Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines that together killed all 346 people on board.
Regulators around the world grounded the MAX after the second crash in March. That has snarled schedules for airlines that fly the aircraft. Boeing has slowed production of the planes while the timing has slipped on fixes to flight-control systems that have to be approved by regulators, allowing the plane to return to service.
The company already has taken a $1 billion hit on the production cut and also faces compensation claims from airlines and lawsuits from families of the victims. Analysts expect its closely watched free cash flow to turn negative when Boeing reports second-quarter earnings on July 24.
Boeing hasn't fired any staff over the MAX crisis, though the company has said some have been redeployed.
Mr. Lindblad wasn't involved in the development of the MAX. He took charge last August as production of the plane was slowed by supply-chain kinks including late delivery of fuselages and engines. Partially finished jets piled up on runways near the Renton plant as the production problems mounted. Most of the problems have since been resolved, in part because of the production cut.
Mr. Jenks takes over as Boeing wrestles with having to cut production again as a backlog of 150 completed MAX jets continues to build and the timing of the MAX's return to passenger service remains uncertain.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister said in a letter to staff Thursday that Mr. Lindblad had said last year that he wanted to retire.
"We will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition," Mr. McAllister said.
Mr. Jenks previously led the team developing Boeing's proposed New Midmarket Airplane. Boeing hasn't decided whether to launch the jet.
That role will be taken over by Mike Sinnett, who is expanding his brief as head of all of Boeing's new jetliner development.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 11, 2019 18:09 ET (22:09 GMT)
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