The chief executive of aircraft giant Boeing has been fired a week after confirming production on its 737 Max planes will be suspended.
Dennis Muilenburg’s position has been under immense pressure since the planes were grounded in March following the Lion Air crash last October and the Ethiopian Airlines disaster in March.
The crashes killed everyone on board both Boeing’s 737 Max aircrafts, a total of 346 people.
The company said the decision to sack the chief executive “was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders”.
Angle-measuring sensors in both planes are known to have malfunctioned, alerting anti-stall software to push the noses of the planes down.
The pilots were unable to take back control of the aircraft in both cases.
In October, an Indonesian investigation into the Lion Air flight found that it was doomed by a combination of aircraft design flaws, inadequate training and maintenance problems.
A final accident report said Lion Air flight 610, from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta to the island of Sumatra, crashed because the pilots were never told how to quickly respond to malfunctions of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet’s automated flight-control system.
Chairman David Calhoun steps up as chief executive and president from January 13, with finance chief Greg Smith serving as interim boss while “Mr Calhoun exits his non-Boeing commitments”, it added.
Speculation that Mr Muilenburg was expected to be fired intensified in October after the board took away his chairmanship title.
Last week manufacturing was suspended by Boeing on the 737 Max, the first time in 20 years that the company has taken such a measure.
The planes have been grounded for a year by authorities over two crashes that claimed 346 lives.
Boeing added: “Under the company’s new leadership, Boeing will operate with a renewed commitment to full transparency, including effective and proactive communication with the FAA, other global regulators and its customers.”
Mr Calhoun said: “I strongly believe in the future of Boeing and the 737 Max.
“I am honoured to lead this great company and the 150,000 dedicated employees who are working hard to create the future of aviation."
Plans to suspend production of the 737 Max came as United Airlines said it would pull the Boeing 737 Max from its flight schedule until June.
The same day, Spirit AeroSystems, which makes fuselages, said it would end deliveries intended for the Max in January, and Boeing’s new Starliner capsule went off course on a planned trip to the International Space Station.
Board member Lawrence Kellner will become non-executive chairman of the board.
“On behalf of the entire board of directors, I am pleased that Dave has agreed to lead Boeing at this critical juncture,” Mr Kellner said in a prepared statement.
“Dave has deep industry experience and a proven track record of strong leadership, and he recognises the challenges we must confront.
“The board and I look forward to working with him and the rest of the Boeing team to ensure that today marks a new way forward for our company.”