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Boeing’s CEO was supposed to take accountability. Instead, he said he’s proud of the company’s safety record

here. New York CNN  —  For all the mistakes and safety problems Boeing has managed under CEO Dave Calhoun’s watch — resulting in a dozen corporate whistleblowers, multiple groundings and a chunk of a plane’s fuselage literally blowing off in midair — virtually no one has held him to account. Not Boeing’s board of directors, which has responded by lavishing him with a salary and stock options worth more than $20 million a year, plus a $45 million golden parachute when he retires later this year. Not its customers, aka airlines — and that’s by design. People often call Boeing and Airbus a duopoly, but that suggests there’s some kind of legit competition happening. Once an airline commits to a tribe, it can’t just switch if it decides the other one is making better planes, because that’d involve a ton of money and time retraining staff who tend to specialize in one or the other. And naturally, we the flying public can cry all we want and it won’t matter a lick to Boeing, because we have even less choice than the airlines to pick the aircraft we fly. Until recently, the government had also been largely snoozing. Calhoun was supposed to be overseeing efforts to reform a safety culture that was so broken, Boeing has acknowledged its lapses led to the deaths of 346 people in two separate crashes in 2018 and 2019. It wasn’t until January 5 this year, when a Boeing jet’s door plug blew off shortly after takeoff, that regulators and lawmakers appeared to snap to attention. Getty Images Related article Boeing hid questionable parts from regulators that may have been installed in 737 Max planes, new whistleblower alleges Tuesday marked the first time ever that Calhoun has had to testify before lawmakers. He faced an intense grilling, fielding one biting question after the next from both Republican and Democratic senators. Calhoun mostly said the right things: He apologized to families of victims of two 737 Max crashes that took place before he became CEO. In the understatement of the century, he said Boeing is “far from perfect.” And he acknowledged that the company has a lot of work to do to regain public trust. But when pressed on taking personal responsibility, Calhoun deflected, over and over. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley came in hot, pressing Calhoun about Boeing’s abysmal financial performance, the fact that he got a 45% raise just last year while Boeing’s machinists got 1% over eight years, and why he hasn’t just resigned already. (Calhoun, who announced in the spring that he would retire at the end of 2024, responded that he’s “sticking this through.” In one of the more head-scratching moments, Calhoun actually defended Boeing’s culture, saying he was proud of the company’s safety record. “I am proud of every action we have taken,” Calhoun said when pressed by Hawley on how he could possibly be proud of Boeing’s safety culture. Calhoun at one point said, “I believe strongly in accountability.” And yet he was repeatedly unable to provide Senators answers about company policies and actions, including how many whistleblowers it fired and whether the company held any individuals responsible for safety lapses. Near the end of the two-hour hearing, Hawley accused Calhoun of trying to shift blame to Boeing’s employees. “I don’t think the problem’s with the employees, actually, I think the problem’s with you. It’s the C-suite, it’s the management, it’s what you’ve done to this company,” Hawley said. “Your engineers, they’re probably the best in the world, your machinists, they’re outstanding. You’re the problem. And I just hope to God that you don’t destroy this company before it can be saved.” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal didn’t hold back, either, calling the hearing “a moment of reckoning for Boeing.” “I think that you’ve certainly demonstrated that you can talk about these changes,” Blumenthal told Calhoun. “But making the changes may well require a different team.” Calhoun may not have been accepting personal responsibility Tuesday, but the government may get the last word, anyway: The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing Boeing’s recently submitted plans to fix its safety problems. And the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the Jan. 5 incident. Tuesday’s hearing put some well deserved fire under Calhoun’s feet. But it seems unlikely that he’ll shoulder any real responsibility for the mess he’s made and the messes he failed to clean up. “I’m not sure what will change as a consequence of this,” Richard Aboulafia, managing partner for AeroDynamic Consultancy, an aerospace advisory firm, told my colleague Chris Isidore. “[Calhoun] needs to go.” Aboulafia said. “He has shown a strong desire to double down on what’s bad.”