The announcement of the move of Boeing’s headquarters from Chicago to Arlington is not well received by observers who believe that the group “should focus on manufacturing safe planes and not on lobbying”.
Boeing is moving a little further away from its geographical and industrial origins. The aeronautical group created in Seattle where its main factories are still located, had set up its headquarters in Chicago in the early 2000s. It has just announced its move to the East Coast of the United States in Arlington. The city, which is close to Washington, is known to be that of the Pentagon. It is also close to the FAA, the American aeronautics regulator.
The company’s leaders will thus join the headquarters of the division dedicated to defense, which has been located there since 2017. The group also plans to create a research and technology center there. With defense and space, Boeing intends to make up for the losses in civil aviation caused by the Covid crisis, but above all by two fatal accidents involving its 737 MAX plane in 2018 and 2019 which created a crisis of confidence among customers.
“It makes strategic sense to locate our global headquarters in the region given its proximity to our customers and decision makers, and its access to world-class technical and engineering talent,” commented the director. General, Dave Calhoun, in the release.
For aeronautical experts, this transfer was not the decision to make. Ron Epstein, aerospace analyst for Bank of America, recalls the already powerful presence of Boeing in Congress with more than a hundred lobbyists and a budget of more than 13 million dollars, the 5th largest for a private company.
“Who would accuse Boeing of not having enough of a presence in DC,” Ron Epstein told CNN, adding that he thinks “it won’t do them any good!”.
Cut yourself off from your roots
The criticism is sharper for Domhnal Slattery, CEO of Avolon, one of the world’s leading aircraft leasing companies and a major Boeing customer. He believes that Boeing is misguided. Ditto for Peter DeFazio, Democratic Representative from Oregon who chairs the House Transportation Committee who makes a scathing attack.
“By going to Chicago they had already strayed from their roots. It was a tragic mistake that empowered the bean counters on Wall Street than the engineers who made Boeing’s reputation,” Peter said. DeFazio in a statement. “Boeing should be focused on making planes safe, not lobbying federal regulators and Congress,” he concluded.
The attack relates not only to accidents of the 737 20MAX, but also to the quality control of aircraft such as the 787 Dreamliner or the problems of the 777X, the passenger version of which will not arrive until 2025, i.e. two years of delay which will benefit the Airbus A321 XLR.
The first test flight of the European aircraft is scheduled for June. Airbus boss Guillaume Faury confirmed that “its operational commissioning should take place in early 2024 in order to meet the certification requirements” of the authorities. Initially, this commissioning was planned for the end of 2023.
By approaching the Pentagon, does Boeing declare itself defeated by Airbus in civilian life? In 2021, the sales gap between the two competitors has been dramatic. More than 600 aircraft delivered last year for Airbus and only 340 aircraft for Boeing.