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Boeing fires head of 737 Max program

Boeing Co. fired the head of its 737 Max aircraft program Wednesday, shaking its leadership amid the fallout of a midair blowout of an Alaska Airlines door plug in January.

Ed Clark, who headed the 737 Max division, will leave Boeing immediately, according to a memo from CEO Stan Deal.

Deal said the leadership changes are emblematic of the company’s “enhanced focus on ensuring that every airplane we deliver meets or exceeds all quality and safety requirements. Our customers demand, and deserve, nothing less.”

The Alaska Airlines incident resulted in an Federal Aviation Administration-mandated grounding of the 737 Max 9 aircraft and regulatory scrutiny that discovered numerous issues in the manufacturing process. The company recently announced it will completely overhaul its quality control process, especially at the Renton, Wash., factory where the 737 Max 9 aircraft are built.

Inspectors discovered loose and missing bolts in multiple 737 Max 9 aircraft, including inside door plugs, the failed part that caused the Alaska Airlines incident. Nobody was injured in that case, but it sparked public backlash against the company and hurt its stock price. The company’s stock has fallen about 12.5 percent since.

Flights began on 737 Max 9 aircraft for the first time late last month, following intensive inspections.

Clark took over the 737 Max program in 2021 after two crashes caused by a faulty autopilot system. The aircraft was grounded for nearly two years due to the crashes, which killed nearly 350 people.

“Ed departs with my, and our, deepest gratitude for his many significant contributions over nearly 18 years of dedicated service to Boeing,” Deal wrote in the memo.

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