Eric Lindblad, Vice President and General Manager of the 737 program, which includes the MAX, is leaving Boeing in the middle of a crisis lasting since mid-March following two crashes that killed 346 people.

Lindblad is the first top manager to leave the aircraft manufacturer since the global grounding of the entire 737 MAX fleet. In an internal memo sent to Boeing employees, the head of the civil aviation division Kevin McAllister announced on July 11, 2019, that Lindblad decided to retire after 34 years working for the manufacturer.

Lindblad had been at the helm of the Boeing 737 program for only a year. According to McAllister, the departure had been planned since 2018. 

Mark Jenks, who was previously Vice President for the New Mid-Market Airplane Program, should take over as 737 Program Manager in the coming weeks. He should also be in charge of the Renton plant near Seattle, where 737 MAXs are assembled.

Jenks will now have to manage the ever-increasing stock of undelivered 737 MAX and revive the production of the aircraft. With the deliveries suspended, Boeing had reduced the production of the 737 MAX by about 20%, with a monthly output of 42 aircraft, against 52 previously. Jenks will also have to supervise the final development of the 737 MAX 10, the largest aircraft of the family.

A second reshuffle

Prior to his role in the NMA program, Jenks was Vice President and General Manager of the Boeing 787 program, when the aircraft went through a crisis related to its batteries.

While Lindblad is the first to leave the company, it is not the first reshuffle of management for Boeing since the beginning of the 737 MAX crisis. In March 2019, John Hamilton stepped down as Vice President of commercial aviation division to remain solely chief engineer.

Hamilton had previously served as Boeing Vice President of Safety, Security and Compliance. In this position, he oversaw the Commercial Airplanes Organization Designation Authorization, a certification program on behalf of the FAA. He held that position from July 2013 to March 2016, a period during which the Seattle Times says the FAA delegated to Boeing engineers the certification of the MCAS, the system blamed for the crash of both Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

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Three different authority agencies announced on March 19, 2019, they would each review the safety of the MCAS independently: the Federal Aviation Authority, the European Aviation Safety Agency and Transport Canada. The same day, Boeing and the FAA reshuffled some of their management team.