Boeing taps retired admiral to lead review of commercial aircraft quality – Amid ongoing quality control issues, Boeing has appointed Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, U.S. Navy (Ret.), as a special advisor to Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun, effective immediately.

Boeing today named Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, U.S. Navy (Ret.) as special advisor to Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. Photo from Boeing.

Boeing has been grappling with a series of quality control problems, most notably the recent door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 flight. The incident, which occurred shortly after take-off from Portland, Oregon, resulted in the grounding of the aircraft worldwide. Boeing admitted fault in the incident, with Calhoun acknowledging the company's mistake.

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Boeing has also faced scrutiny over the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) in its 737 MAX aircraft. The MCAS, a computerized flight-control system, was implicated in two crashes in 2018 and 2019. These incidents raised questions about Boeing's management and oversight of its quality control systems.

Beyond the 737 MAX, the company also had issues over the quality control of its 787 Dreamliner and 777 aircraft. The Dreamliner has had issues with the seams on the fuselages, which led to inspections and subsequent suspension of deliveries. Furthermore, the 777 family has had problems with structural inspections due to errors in maintenance information developed by Boeing.

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Admiral Donald, along with a team of external experts, will conduct an in-depth assessment of Boeing's quality management system for commercial airplanes. This includes the quality programs and practices in Boeing's manufacturing facilities and its oversight of commercial supplier quality.

Calhoun stated:

Admiral Donald is a recognized leader in ensuring the integrity of some of the most complex and consequential safety and quality systems in the world. 

The company leader added: 

I've asked him to provide an independent and comprehensive assessment with actionable recommendations for strengthening our oversight of quality in our own factories and throughout our extended commercial airplane production system. He and his team will have any and all support he needs from me and from across The Boeing Company.

Admiral Donald brings a wealth of experience to this role. He served as a nuclear-trained submarine officer for 37 years and was the Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program for eight years. He is currently the Chairman of the Board for Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc., the largest military shipbuilding company in the U.S., and also chairs the board of the nonprofit Battelle.