Meet Stephanie Pope, the longtime Boeing exec about to become CEO of its commercial airplanes division

On Monday morning, embattled airline manufacturer Boeing announced its CEO, Dave Calhoun, would be stepping down at the end of the year. In the same release, Boeing said the firm’s current board chairman Larry Kellner won’t seek reelection, and Commercial Airplanes President and CEO, Stan Deal, would be retiring, and current COO and longtime Boeing exec Stephanie Pope will take his place, effective immediately. 

Leading Boeing’s commercial airlines division is no small task these days, but Pope, who has been with Boeing for three decades, may be the airliner’s best shot at steadying.

Pope joined Boeing in 1994 as a finance analyst, an area in which she served a smattering of managerial and directorial roles over nearly two decades. Then in 2017, per her LinkedIn page, Pope was promoted to chief financial officer of Boeing’s integrated logistics arm of its space & security defense department. 

Things sped up considerably from there. In 2012, Pope became VP of investor relations for the Boeing Company, then VP of finance and controller of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, where she previously ran integrated logistics. 

Then, in 2017, she became CFO of Boeing Global Services, before taking the same position at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Then she boomeranged back to Boeing Global Services, this time as its president and CEO. Boeing Global Services, under Pope’s leadership, was the company’s only business to report a consistent profit in 2023. Finally, in January of this year, she was named executive vice president and COO of the entire Boeing enterprise, the first person to have the position.

As the firm’s COO, Pope has been responsible for a wide array of business functions, including supply chain, quality, manufacturing and engineering. “Next year will be a significant transitional year in our performance as we continue to restore our operational and financial strength; and Stephanie will help drive the stability and predictability necessary to ensure we deliver on our customer, employee, regulatory, investor and other stakeholder commitments,” Boeing’s outgoing CEO Calhoun wrote in the January 2024 press release announcing Pope’s promotion. 

“We will continue to improve operating performance and remain committed to delivering for our customers, while ensuring the highest levels of safety, quality and transparency in all that we do,” Pope added at the time.

Pope is the executive sponsor of Boeing’s Women Inspiring Leadership ERG group, aimed at bolstering the firm’s female leadership. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southwest Missouri State University and an MBA from Lindenwood University.

Trouble at the top

Boeing and its manufacturing practices have been under fire for years now, mostly since two of its airplanes crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019, killing several hundred people. (Calhoun was appointed CEO after the ouster of its then-CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, following the crashes.)

“Change at Boeing must start from the top, so it’s positive that Boeing CEO David Calhoun will step down after the latest safety scandals,” Justin Green, a law partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, which represents 34 families who lost loved ones on Boeing’s flight in 2018, told Fortune in an emailed statement. “However, this decision comes quite late, since he served on Boeing’s board for both 737 MAX crashes and, like his predecessor, made millions without righting the ship.” 

Calhoun’s successor, who has yet to be named, must prioritize safety and transparency over profit, Green added. “For too long, Boeing has been avoiding public accountability and these leadership changes open a window for the company to do so.”

Things have only gotten worse at the manufacturer. The FAA recently audited activity at one of Boeing’s factories in Washington State where it builds 737 Max planes, which have recently experienced a spate of dangerous failures. Boeing was recently sued by passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines flight that sawa door blow off the plane mid-flight. The Department of Justice has also initiated a criminal investigation into Boeing, aimed at uncovering whether it was in compliance with a settlement resolving the federal investigation into its plane safety after the 2018 and 2019 crashes.

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