President Trump called Boeing a “very disappointing company” Wednesday after the planemaker pushed back the return of its troubled 737 MAX jet.
“This is one of the great companies of the world, let’s say as of a year ago, and then all of a sudden things happened,” Trump said in an interview with CNBC.
The president was reacting to Boeing’s Tuesday announcement that the 737 MAX would likely not return to service until the middle of 2020 — more than a year after authorities grounded it in the aftermath of two crashes that killed 346 people.
The Chicago-based company said the new timeline accounts for regulators’ “rigorous scrutiny” of the plane’s flight control system and the process for determining pilot training requirements.
Trump suggested that Boeing has held back the US economy amid the Federal Aviation Administration’s review of the jet. Boeing shares closed down 3.3 percent Tuesday at $313.37 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 152.06 points, or 0.5 percent.
“When you talk about growth, it’s so big that some people say it’s more than a half a point of GDP,” Trump said. “So Boeing — big, big disappointment to me.”
The lengthy process for getting the 737 MAX ungrounded led Boeing to suspend production of the plane this month. Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems has had to lay off about 2,800 workers because of uncertainty about when the jet would return.
Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But the company said in a Tuesday statement that it regrets “the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 MAX has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers, and the flying public.”
Trump’s dig at Boeing came a week after he ribbed newly minted CEO David Calhoun about the crisis at a ceremony celebrating the US’s phase-one trade deal with China. Calhoun took over Jan. 13 for ousted chief Dennis Muilenburg, who was at the helm for the fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
“Let me tell you: It’s not your fault. You just got there,” Trump told Calhoun, who started on Boeing’s board of directors in 2009, at the Jan. 15 ceremony. “You’ll straighten it out quickly, please.”
The Republican president also offered Boeing some marketing advice last April — about a month after the MAX was grounded — telling the company to “REBRAND the plane with a new name.”
“No product has suffered like this one,” he tweeted April 15. “But again, what the hell do I know?”