Senators Slam Boeing CEO During Hearing

( – The chief executive of troubled airplane manufacturer Boeing has appeared at a Senate hearing, and he didn’t get an easy ride. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) was particularly critical, launching hard-hitting comments about the company’s safety record and the huge salary it pays its boss. Meanwhile, two US astronauts were stuck in space because their Boeing spacecraft malfunctioned.

Problems At Boeing

The Boeing company’s roots go back to 1916 when Seattle lumber dealer William E Boeing founded Pacific Aero Products. The next year, he renamed it Boeing Airplane Company, and since then, it’s grown to be one of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers. Boeing built the famous B-17 bomber in WWII and the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bombs.

Throughout most of the Cold War, the main US strategic bomber was the Boeing B-52. Now, after buying up many of its competitors, Boeing and its last real rival Lockheed Martin, produce almost all US military aircraft. At the same time, it has grown to dominate the global airline market, with the only real competition coming from the European company Airbus. Over the last decade, Boeing has even moved into building spacecraft, challenging Elon Musk’s SpaceX for NASA contracts.

Then, it all started to go wrong.

Over the last few years, Boeing has been troubled by persistent safety problems. Its 737 MAX line was grounded for most of 2019 and 2020. Then, this January, a fuselage panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX after Boeing workers apparently forgot to bolt it to the rest of the plane.

A series of whistleblowers have warned that the company is taking shortcuts with safety. Now, a Boeing Starliner spacecraft is marooned at the International Space Station after it suffered helium leaks and control thruster failures on the way up. Astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, who were due to return to Earth on June 14, will be stuck in orbit for an extra two weeks until the craft is repaired and certified for its descent to the planet.

Senators Skeptical About Company

On June 18, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun appeared in front of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee, which has been investigating safety claims made by Boeing whistleblowers. Senator Hawley put Calhoun under pressure by asking what he currently gets paid — a question Calhoun seemed reluctant to answer. Luckily, Hawley could help him out by reminding him that, this year, he’ll be paid $32.8 million, a 45% increase from last year.

The senator then tightened the screws even more, asking Calhoun what exactly he does to earn all that money. Calhoun weakly responded that he’s paid to run the company –- but Hawley then blasted him for a lack of transparency and accused him of cutting corners in a bid to squeeze out maximum profits. Calhoun denied that, saying he was “proud” of Boeing’s safety record. Incredulous, Hawley replied, “Wow. There’s some news for you.” So far, we don’t know what Williams and Wilmore think of Boeing’s safety record.

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