SEATTLE -- After less than a year in charge in Renton, the Boeing vice president who runs the assembly plant there and manages the 737 MAX program is retiring. A factory operations expert, Eric Lindblad was brought in to fix manufacturing and supply chain issues but leaves as the jet program is engulfed by a safety crisis that has raised doubts about Boeing's design.
Lindblad, 57, who has spent 34 years at Boeing as a well-regarded manufacturing executive, took over the Renton plant and the 737 program last August following a series of issues with the supply of engines and fuselages that had slowed jet deliveries and led to a buildup of parked 737 planes.
However, within months his job was swiftly consumed by the crisis surrounding the 737 MAX following two crashes that killed 346 people.
In a letter to employees announcing the news Thursday, Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Kevin McAllister made clear that Lindblad is not being forced out, saying that Lindblad "shared with me his desire to retire last year, and we will now begin to embark on a thoughtful and seamless transition plan."
McAllister praised Lindblad's "strong leadership and tireless drive over the past 12 months leading the 737 program, as he has navigated some of the most difficult challenges our company has ever faced."
"We are grateful for his service and dedication," McAllister wrote.
In his own letter to employees, Lindblad confirmed that "I had planned to retire last summer. But having the chance to come to Renton and work with all of you was something I couldn't pass up."
"When I rejoined the 737 team a year ago, it was like a homecoming for me. I'm proud to say that 23 of my 34 years at Boeing have been spent here in Renton," Lindblad told employees. He added that "this past year has been one of the most challenging times the 737 program has ever faced."
Less than three months after he took over in Renton, charged with fixing the 737 supply chain problems, those issues paled into insignificance after a Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia at the end of October, killing 189 people.
Just a week after the crash, Boeing issued a bulletin to MAX operators highlighting a previously unknown problem with the plane. It told pilots that a failed Angle of Attack sensor on the Lion Air jet could have activated a new flight control system that repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down.