November 22, 2019 / 5:14 PM / 15 days ago

Boeing's top communications official to retire as 737 MAX crisis drags on

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co’s (BA.N) head of corporate communications, Anne Toulouse, elected to step down from her role and would retire next year, the world’s largest planemaker said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing logo pictured during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) at Geneva Airport, Switzerland, May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Toulouse, a 30-year Boeing veteran, is the second high-ranking female communications leader to leave the embattled U.S. planemaker as it fights to rebuild trust with airline customers and the flying public after two recent crashes of its 737 MAX killed 346 people in the span of five months.

Boeing said it would name her successor in the near future.

“This past year has been all-consuming and profoundly difficult for all of us at Boeing - albeit nowhere close to the experience of the families affected by the MAX accidents,” Toulouse said in a prepared statement accompanying a news release.

“As we look ahead, I am confident the hard lessons learned will make Boeing better and that we will deliver on our important commitments,” she said. “As we move into that next phase, I can best serve the company by turning over the role to someone with fresh perspective and, therefore, made the difficult decision to retire.”  

It was not clear whether Toulouse’s departure was the result of repeated criticism Boeing has faced over its public responses to the crashes. Some airline customers, corporate crisis experts, and victims’ family members criticized the company’s public comments as stilted and contradictory and appeared driven by company lawyers.

Separately on Friday, Boeing revealed the longest version of its single-aisle 737 MAX family, the 737 MAX 10, at its Seattle-area factory. The jet rolled out of a paint hangar in Renton, Washington, as thousands of employees gathered to mark the milestone, Boeing said.

The airplane, which can seat up to 230 passengers, will undergo system checks and engine runs prior to a first flight next year, Boeing said.

Toulouse, 61, became interim senior vice president of Communications in September 2018. She took over the permanent communications role in February 2019. After joining the company in 1989, Toulouse was responsible for Boeing’s brand strategy, global advertising, sponsorships, in-house creative team, and historical archives and corporate identity.

Boeing said last week that Linda Mills, the chief communications official for Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, was leaving the company.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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