10 Things You Didn’t Know about Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg

There are people who just know what they want to do with their lives from Day One. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is one of those people. As you read down this list of unique things about his life, ask yourself how many people have been so focused with the commensurate achievements.

1. His career began as an internship with none other than Boeing.

That was back in 1985 when he was an aerodynamics intern after earning both an undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering and a graduate degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics. These days, internships are usually done as a student but Muilenburg seemed to have made the best decision if history is any indication.

2. He worked on the once fabled Joint Strike Fighter.

He was the leader of the weapons systems development area of the X-32, but that was not the reason Boeing lost out to Lockheed Martin. The performance problems were due to engine overheating, significantly reducing the X-32’s ability to maintain fighting capability.

3. He is familiar with the Washington D.C. political environment.

Boeing opened up an Air Traffic Management business in the area and ended up working with the FAA and the controller’s union. During his time in Washington he also worked with other airlines and has been credited with modernizing today’s air traffic control systems. You can’t stay long in Washington without picking up some essential politicking skills.

4. He has a history of dealing with jet fighter combat systems.

Adding to his experience in the X-32 program, he was instrumental in developing the Boeing Combat and Future Combat Systems. Though the technology was developed about 2 decades ago, it has proven itself over time and a good chunk of it is still used in Boeing’s defense portfolio in the development of fighter jets.

5. Muilenburg was critical in expanding Boeing’s global business footprint.

Once he was put in charge of the company’s Defense, Space and Security’s Global Services and Support division, it found its market share growing significantly. He worked out a collaborative relationship with the company’s Commercial Aviation Services that would increase the efficiency of the division. You can likely credit his accomplishments in part due to his Washington D.C. tenure.

6. He latched on to several significant government contracts in a difficult economic environment.

Despite an economic downturn, Muilenburg was key in getting awarded contracts for the Air Force Tanker program as well as aircraft and space contracts that would grow his division to include 53,000 employees and add $31 billion to Boeing revenues.

7. He would rise to become a member of Boeing’s Executive Council.

Once he arrived to become the President and Chief Operating Officer of Boeing, his positions gave him a clear view of the day-to-day operations of the company. He then focused on the broader company growth challenges and relationships with the customer base. This was a shift from his earlier years of involvement on the technical end of Boeing, and would be a bridge to take on his current responsibilities as CEO.

8. He believes Boeing will lead the way to Mars.

Not only does he believe it will be a Boeing powered rocket that will get humans to set foot on Mars, but he thinks it will happen within the next 10 years. Some may say that is a bit optimistic, but given Muilenburg’s significant technology background it is dangerous to argue with him!

9. His academic background continues to grow.

Clearly Muilenburg’s academic background is in aerospace technology, but he went to Iowa State and then to the University of Washington for his graduate studies, moving to a place he would soon call his career home. However, Iowa State has also awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree in view of his considerable contributions to aerospace technology.

10. He is committed to public service in a number of ways.

Currently, he is serving on the Association of the United States Army Council of Trustees as well as the University of Washington Board of Trustees. Add to that his Associate Fellowship with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Royal Aeronautical Society, and it is not hard to tell that being an aeronautical engineer has been one of his career goals even before graduating from high school.


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