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Boeing will lose on Capitol Hill, how much is up to David Calhoun

A political circus and national frustration await Boeing CEO’s senate testimony

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Release Date
June 17, 2024
Boeing will lose on Capitol Hill, how much is up to David Calhoun

June 18 will bring another in a series of unusual moments in the history of Boeing as the company’s CEO, David Calhoun, testifies in front of members of the U.S. Senate. It will be the first time since a newly-built 737 Max 9 lost a plug exit during an Alaska Airlines flight over Oregon on Jan. 5, kicking off a crisis that continues to bring upheaval to the aerospace giant — including Calhoun’s own hastened departure.

Boeing’s troubles of the last six years, most of its own making, are still firmly embedded deep in the American cultural zeitgeist and such hearings act as an indirect catharsis of national frustration. The question is not necessarily whether Calhoun will be bombarded — he absolutely will — but rather how he will respond. There is no winning for Boeing, only degrees of losing.

Related: U.S. airlines, fed up, forced change in the Boeing C-suite

In interviews with current and former senior Boeing and industry officials, it has become evident that how much losing will depend upon precisely which version of Calhoun shows up — contrite and reflective or grandstanding and defensive. His prepared remarks to senators, which were shared on Monday, will say that the company has begun to change and that “Our culture is far from perfect, but we are taking action and making progress. We understand the gravity, and we are committed to moving forward with transparency and accountability, while elevating employee engagement.”

Regardless, the Senate committee will not be providing him a warm welcome, as its chair said he soon plans to share claims from a new whistleblower. One retired senior Boeing executive who worked closely with Calhoun said the success of his testimony ultimately “depends on whether he keeps his composure and doesn’t try to defend his legacy.”

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