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New Boeing CEO Gives Pep Talk To Employees And Addresses Media

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After an avalanche of bad news over the last year, Boeing's new chief executive is taking it head-on. Dave Calhoun met with the company's employees in Seattle today, and then he answered reporters' questions about the company's ongoing crisis with its 737 Max airplanes. The plane has been grounded for 10 months after two of the planes crashed, killing 346 people. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Just eight days into his new job, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun opened his conference call with journalists promising a new era of openness and transparency.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVE CALHOUN: First of all, welcome. I hope this is the first of many of these. And I commit to you to be more accessible than the team has been historically.

SCHAPER: Calhoun acknowledges the company's mishandling of the crisis and the resulting credibility problem.

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CALHOUN: You know, we were our own worst enemy on this one. We created our own problem.

SCHAPER: Boeing, yesterday, announced what Calhoun says is a more realistic timeline for regulators to begin approving the 737 Max's returned to service. He estimates it will be sometime this summer, likely June or July. But that leaves airlines shorthanded and without the plane during the busy summer travel season. Perhaps most telling today were Calhoun's comments about Boeing's corporate culture - one that critics say has changed in recent years to prioritize profits over safety.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CALHOUN: When your own employees ask you culture questions, it's really hard.

SCHAPER: As painful as that question is to hear, Calhoun denies that Boeing's priorities have changed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CALHOUN: I believe that this culture is a good one. Our employees care about safety first. They do that. They walk that talk, but their confidence is, right now, shaken. My job is to reinstill (ph) it.

SCHAPER: Ray Goforth heads the union representing Boeing's engineers and says, so far, he likes what he hears from the new CEO. His openness to hear dissent contrasts with Boeing's previous leadership during the development of the 737 Max. Goforth bets that Boeing will change its course.

RAY GOFORTH: I mean, the Boeing company knows how to do these things right. The Boeing company has created some of the most, you know, innovative and groundbreaking aerospace products throughout, you know, the 20th and now into the 21st century.

SCHAPER: The challenge for Boeing will be to refocus and pour more resources into creating new and safer planes as it works furiously to fix its past problems.

David Schaper, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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