CHICAGO: Boeing Co Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg will face shareholders on Monday for the first time since two fatal crashes that led to the 737 MAX’s grounding worldwide and triggered investigations, lawsuits and a sharp loss in share value.
Battling the biggest crisis of his tenure, Muilenburg will try to bolster investor confidence in the manufacturer’s future as well as that of its fastest-selling airplane as questions linger over the model’s safety.
Family and friends of 24-year-old American Samya Stumo, one of the victims of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX on March 10, will hold a silent protest outside the meeting site.
That crash, which killed all 157 on board when it plunged to the ground shortly after takeoff, came five months after a similar Lion Air nose-dive that killed all 189 passengers and crew.
Muilenburg will hold his first press conference since the grounding after the general annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, scheduled for 10.00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).
Boeing is under pressure to deliver a software fix and a new pilot training package that will convince global regulators, and the flying public, that the aircraft is safe to fly again.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration could clear Boeing the 737 MAX jet to fly in late May or the first part of June, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday, though Boeing has yet to submit the updated software and training for review.
Some pilots have warned that draft training proposals do not go far enough to address their concerns.
Meanwhile, deliveries of the 737 MAX, which airlines around the world had been relying on to service a growing air travel industry for years to come, are on hold.
Last week Boeing abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and said lowered production due to the 737 MAX grounding had cost it at least US$1 billion so far.
Shareholders have filed a lawsuit accusing the company of defrauding them by concealing safety deficiencies in the plane. The model is also the target of investigations by U.S. transportation authorities and the Department of Justice.
Muilenburg is Boeing’s chairman and president in addition to CEO, and faces calls that could strip him of one of those titles at Monday’s meeting. Boeing has recommended against the move.
Boeing must also contend with lawsuits filed on behalf of dozens of victims of the two crashes, including the family of Stumo, who are asking whether the Ethiopian disaster could have been prevented after what happened to Lion Air.
“Those in charge of creating and selling this plane did not treat Samya as they would their own daughters,” her mother Nadia Milleron told reporters in early April.
Shares in the company, worth US$214 billion, have lost nearly 10 percent of their value since the March 10 crash.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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