The head of the Boeing 737 program in Renton, Washington, Eric Lindblad, has decided to retire, according to a letter to employees from Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister obtained by AIN. Lindblad’s retirement comes less than a year after he assumed responsibility for the Renton plant as the 737 program struggled to overcome engine and fuselage supply shortages. But his success in guiding the program through the supply chain problems would become overshadowed by one of the most serious crises in the company’s history, following the second fatal crash of a 737 Max jet over the course of five months.
“I am grateful to Eric Lindblad for his strong leadership and tireless drive over the past 12 months leading the 737 program, as he has navigated some of the most difficult challenges our company has ever faced,” wrote McAllister. “He shared with me his desire to retire last year, and we will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition plan.”
Lindblad reconsidered his retirement last year when Boeing asked him to take control of the troubled 737 program in Renton, where the 57-year-old served 23 of his 34 years with the company.
NMA program vice president Mark Jenks will assume Lindblad’s role of 737 program head at Renton, reported McAllister. Lindblad has agreed to work closely with Jenks over the next several weeks “to ensure a seamless transition as we approach the safe return to service of the 737 Max,” he added. Jenks also led the 787 program during what McAllister called some of its most challenging years, and has held several leadership roles within Boeing’s defense and space businesses.
Jenks will face the considerable logistical challenge of placing into service what will be the hundreds of Max jets built and parked since the grounding once the model gains clearance from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other international aviation authorities such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
Separately, Mike Sinnett, currently leader of the Product Strategy and Future Airplane Development team, will assume Jenks’s role as NMA leader. The former chief project engineer for the 787 program, Sinnett will split his time between the two jobs, and continue his “outreach” efforts related to the 737 Max certification and return to service.
According to Boeing, Sinnett's replacement of a full-time NMA development leader does not necessarily signal a de-emphasis on that program as the company commits more resources to the Max. "Let me be clear—the NMA team will continue to operate as a program, and I am looking forward to Mike's leadership in this important effort," said McAllister.