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As the Boeing CEO stands down, a timeline of the planemaker’s successes and failures



The man in charge of Boeing when two 737 Max jets crashed, with the loss of 346 lives, has resigned as president and chief executive of the company.

Here are the key dates in the successes and failures of the giant airline manufacturer.

1985: Dennis Muilenburg, from Iowa, joins Boeing as an intern. At the time, the company’s main competitor is McDonnell Douglas. The main products are the 737, 747 Jumbo, 757 and 767 – the last designed in response to the Airbus A300.

1987: Airbus, a relatively small pan-European planemaker, launches a short-haul, narrow-bodied aircraft, the A320. It is designed to rival Boeing’s most successful plane, the 737.


1988: British Airways, predominately a Boeing airline, starts flying the A320 – after inheriting an order from British Caledonian, which it had taken over the previous year.

1995 (November): easyJet starts flying, using two leased Boeing 737s. Subsequently it acquires a fleet entirely comprising the twin jets.

1997: Boeing merges with McDonnell Douglas to become by far the biggest aircraft manufacturer in the world.

2001 (October): in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, while other airlines are cancelling orders, Ryanair buys 100 Boeing 737 aircraft with options on a further 100. The Boeing 737-800 is the only plane that Europe’s biggest budget airline flies.

2002 (October): easyJet orders 120 Airbus A319 jets – a shorter version of the A320 – with options on 120 more.

2003 (January): Boeing announces a new long-range aircraft, codenamed the 7E7; after a public poll, it is named the “Dreamliner”; it subsequently becomes the 787. The first flight of the first test aircraft is planned for 2007, with entry into commercial service the following year. 

2009 (December): Maiden flight of the Boeing 787.

2011 (June): Airbus announces record orders for its A320neo (“new engine option”).

2011 (October): First commercial flight of the Boeing 787.

2011 (December): Southwest Airlines of the US announces it will be launch customer for the latest version of the Boeing 737, which has the suffix Max.

2013 (January): The Boeing 787 is grounded after lithium batteries combusted. Commercial flights resumed in April 2013 after modifications. 

2013 (December): Dennis Muilenburg becomes president of Boeing.

2014 (October): Ryanair orders 100 Boeing 737 Max aircraft in a special configuration that holds eight extra passengers. The airline has subsequently ordered 35 more, with options on a further 75.

2015 (July): Dennis Muilenburg becomes chief executive of Boeing.

2016 (March): Dennis Muilenburg becomes chairman of Boeing.

2017: Norwegian and TUI start flying the Boeing 737 Max to and from UK airports.

2018 (October): Lion Air flight 610 crashes shortly after take off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, with the loss of 189 lives. Data indicates that in the minutes before the crash, the altitude of the Boeing 737 Max changed dramatically and repeatedly.

Initial investigations suggest anti-stall software known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), installed as a safety precaution and to help pilot familiarity, may have been involved.

2018 (November): In the wake of the tragedy, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues an Emergency Airworthiness Directive, the FAA warned that MCAS “could cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane, and lead to excessive nose-down attitude, significant altitude loss, and possible impact with terrain”.

2019 (March): Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, operated by a Boeing 737 Max, crashes shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa on its flight to Nairobi. All 157 passengers and crew die when the plane plunges into the ground. 

The FAA says: “Our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”

Within 24 hours the Boeing 737 Max is grounded worldwide.

2019 (June): IAG, the parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, signs a letter of intent (a non-binding order) with Boeing for 200 737 Max aircraft.

2019 (October): Dennis Muilenburg is demoted with the loss of his role as chairman. Later that month when he appears before a Congress committee, one senator, Tammy Duckworth (Democrat, Illinois) says: “You didn’t tell the pilots that MCAS was in there. Then you added an extra step that would trigger it again five seconds later.”

2019 (23 December): Dennis Muilenburg resigns. Boeing says: “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.”

The firm’s chief financial officer, Greg Smith, becomes interim chief executive.

Boeing says: “The 737 Max is the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing history with about 5,000 orders from more than 100 customers worldwide.”

2020 (13 January 2020): Boeing chairman David L Calhoun will replace Dennis Muilenburg as chief executive.

The respective aviation journalist, Scott Hamilton, asks: “Is Calhoun, an insider, the right person to pull Boeing out of its dive?”



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