AerCap CEO dismisses calls for Boeing leadership changes

By Tim Hepher

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The head of the world’s largest aircraft lessor AerCap dismissed calls for leadership changes at Boeing and said the planemaker is under no illusion about what needs to be done in the wake of a door plug blowout on a Boeing 737 MAX 9.

“I don’t think that’s helpful at all. Do we really think someone else comes in tomorrow and is going to be able to just all of a sudden (perform) magic overnight?” AerCap Chief Executive Aengus Kelly told Reuters of calls by some analysts for leadership changes.

“I think knee-jerk reactions would be ill-advised at this point, but they know what to do….They know what has to be fixed but knowing it and fixing it are two different things.”

Kelly was speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the Airline Economics conference, the first major industry gathering since the Jan. 5 mid-flight scare on an Alaska Airlines jet that raised questions over quality controls.

However, he added that every plane that leaves Boeing factories has to be flawless and cautioned another incident would make the 737 MAX a “very hard sell”.

“They’re under no illusions about the severity of the situation. And every, every single thing that goes out the door there just has to be spot on.”

Air Lease Corp Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hay earlier questioned the strategic vision of Boeing’s board and management but stopped short of calling for personnel changes.


He warned that U.S. regulators who last week thwarted planned production increases would halt 737 output altogether in the event of another significant problem, and told reporters the incident was contained to the Renton plant outside Seattle.

After Boeing faced a barrage of criticism from regulators and politicians, the week-long Dublin finance gathering is seen as a test of confidence in Boeing among the owners representing more than half of the world’s airliner fleet.

Several industry commentators, including influential analyst Richard Aboulafia, have called on Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun or other executives and board members to step aside.

Boeing has declined to comment directly on such remarks.

Speaking in private, several delegates and industry officials said questions remained over the future of Boeing’s leaders amid the second 737 MAX crisis in five years.

“Behind the scenes everyone is livid,” a person familiar with lessor discussions with Boeing said.

Calhoun has pledged that Boeing will acknowledge errors and ensure that such an accident “can never happen again.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether bolts were missing or wrongly fitted in a door plug when the jet was delivered eight weeks before the Jan. 5 blowout.

Trade publication The Air Current reported last week the plug reached Boeing’s factory from Spirit AeroSystems with bolts installed, but that Boeing re-opened it to give access to nearby rivets that had been mis-installed by Spirit. Spirit and Boeing referred queries on the probe to the NTSB.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said on Jan. 18 it was too early to say whether the root cause of the blowout was missing or mis-installed bolts.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by David Evans and Sharon Singleton)