David Calhoun thinks the 737 MAX will return to service by midyear

Chicago, Illinois - Boeing’s new CEO thinks that global civil aviation regulators will allow the 737 MAX to return to service by the middle of 2020. Last week, the manufacturer gave its customers and suppliers that same timetable, which is months later than previously expected.

“Midyear is what we think we can do,” said Calhoun, a longtime Boeing board member, and former Blackstone executive, who took over as chief executive officer on Jan. 13 following the firing of Dennis Muilenburg.

“We put together a schedule we think we can make,” Calhoun said on CNBC's “Squawk Box.”

He said the company does not plan to change the name of the jet.
“I’m not going to market my way out of this,” he said. “The Max has something attached to it today, but again, we believe this airplane is safer than the safest airplane flying today.”

If the Federal Aviation Administration, which has not yet said when it will clear the plane for flight, provides more information, Boeing will change its timeline, Calhoun said. The American planemaker earlier Wednesday reported its first annual loss since 1997 as it deals with increasing costs from the 737 Max crisis.

Boeing posted a fourth-quarter loss of $2.33 per share, while revenue dropped 37% to $17.9 billion. Shares of Dow component Boeing, which initially fell about 2% in the premarket on the news, reversed course and moved 2.2% higher in morning trading.

The company has been under intense scrutiny after two of its 737 Max jets crashed within five months, killing 346 people. The second crash, in March, led to the mid-March grounding of the entire fleet. The global grounding has also dented airlines’ profits, rippled throughout the Boeing’s supply chain and even the broader economy.

Earlier this month, Boeing suspended production of the 737 Max.
However, Calhoun said the company is keeping employees on with the intention that they’ll return to the assembly lines soon.
“If we didn’t believe that we were going to field an airplane that was safer than the safest airplane out today, we wouldn’t do it,” he reiterated.

Looking to shore up its balance sheet, Boeing secured commitments of more than $12 billion in financing from more than a dozen banks, according to people familiar with the matter.