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As the newly-minted chief executive of Boeing, one of David Calhoun’s first acts was to kill the company’s growing effort to field an all-new airplane. It was January 22, 2020, one day after confirmation of the first U.S. case of COVID-19, and at the time Boeing was fumbling its way through the biggest crisis in its history — the grounding of the 737 Max. That was where the company needed to focus, argued Calhoun.

Related: New Boeing CEO says the future has to wait

Thirty-three months later, after surviving what he described as “these existential moments that we’ve had to face,” Calhoun said Boeing is no closer to an all-new airplane program and has pushed its arrival more than 10 years away.

In the company’s first Investor Day event since the comparatively halcyon days of 2018, Boeing and its leadership team sought to spell out how the 2020s will be its homework years, assembling the product and process foundation for that next effort — whenever it may come.

Related: First Biden budget to accelerate push toward Boeing 737 replacement

“We won’t contemplate a new airplane, we won’t even put it on the drawing board until we know we’re capable of doing that,” said Calhoun. “So this is strategy for us. Capabilities. And then there’ll be a moment in time where we’ll pull the rabbit out of the hat and introduce a new airplane sometime in the middle of next decade.”

Today, Boeing is still trying to untangle the intersecting threads of a COVID collapse and sharp rebound in demand, a 737 Max ramp up with a fragile supply chain, regulatory tumult with its remaining 737 Max variants and the 777X, returning to regular 787 output, liquidating an inventory of 270 Max and 115 787s, exclusion from China, and mounting losses and a financial hangover from fixed price defense contracts won by the company under former CEOs Jim McNerney and Dennis Muilenburg when Calhoun was a board member.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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