Boeing Fires C.E.O. Dennis Muilenburg

Soon after the spacecraft was launched, it went off track because a clock was not set correctly, failing to reach the correct orbit and rendezvous with the International Space Station. The botched Starliner mission was a crushing blow to company morale, with employees desperate for good news after a difficult year.

Yet Mr. Muilenburg, who updated the board about the mission, remained positive and emphasized what had gone right, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. His response was seen as another sign of his being overly optimistic about the company’s challenges.

On Sunday morning, The Times published an article detailing Mr. Muilenburg’s tattered relationship with the F.A.A. and airlines. In it, Gary Kelly, the chief executive of Southwest Airlines, which is Boeing’s largest 737 customer, said of Boeing that “this hasn’t been their best and finest hour.”

By the end of the day, Mr. Muilenburg was out.

Boeing said in a statement on Monday that its board “decided that a change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers and all other stakeholders.”

Mr. Calhoun, an experienced executive who was elevated to chairman in October when the board stripped Mr. Muilenburg of that title, is viewed internally as a more natural public communicator than Mr. Muilenburg. In the course of the board’s routine succession planning in recent months, Mr. Calhoun was identified as the likely successor if Mr. Muilenburg needed to be removed.

Mr. Calhoun spent Monday calling government officials, including the head of the F.A.A., Stephen Dickson; members of Congress; the chief executives of major airlines; as well as Boeing investors and executives for the company’s suppliers, pledging to keep the lines of communication open, a Boeing spokesman said.

Yet some key lawmakers remained skeptical.

“What is most dispiriting is appointing Calhoun as C.E.O. after he said that Dennis was doing everything right,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “That certainly leaves the impression that it will be business as usual. What’s needed now is a complete house cleaning, not only in personnel but in culture.”


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