Boeing set to move headquarters to Arlington, Virginia, sources say

US aircraft maker Boeing Co is set to move its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia, two people familiar with the matter have said. The move, expected to be announced as early as next week, comes as Boeing struggles to emerge from successive crises and industry issues that have deepened its focus on repairing relationships with customers, U.S. regulators and lawmakers.

The move to Arlington – across the Potomac River from the US capital – will put Boeing’s top executives close to the Federal Aviation Administration, lawmakers and the Pentagon. A Boeing spokesperson had no immediate comment.

Reuters reported last October, citing sources close to the company, that cost reductions and a more hands-on corporate culture have raised questions about Boeing’s long-term future in Chicago, and in turn the general direction Boeing intends to take as it tries to regain its stride. Boeing’s relocation decision was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Boeing is working to mend its relationship with the FAA after former CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired in 2019 after he clashed with the FAA over its review of the 737 MAX following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing already has an office in Arlington that opened in 2014 and has significant unused space. It is a few blocks from Amazon’s HQ2 building which is under construction.

The Chicago headquarters — a 36-story, $200 million waterfront skyscraper — has also been at the crossroads of a cost-cutting drive that has seen Boeing shed real estate, including its commercial aircraft headquarters in Seattle. Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago in 2001, leaving its Seattle home 85 years after its 1997 merger with St. Louis-based rival McDonnell Douglas – a move that angered basic mechanics and engineers.

Boeing was looking for a post-merger headquarters in a neutral location separate from these existing divisional power centers. Chicago, Cook County and Illinois gave Boeing more than $60 million in tax and other incentives over 20 years to move. Those credits have expired, although Boeing was due to receive funds for 2021 this year.

Some critics viewed the Chicago move as symbolic of a company that prioritized short-term profits and shareholder returns over long-term engineering dominance — an accusation repeated after the 737 MAX crashes. Once the symbol of a new Boeing, the vision of a corporate epicenter rising above its constituent parts has fallen at odds with the imperative to reclaim engineering dominance and mend relationships with customers and federal regulators.

Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun, for example, traveled frequently to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner factory in South Carolina to deal with production-related flaws that hampered the program. Calhoun is also working to get the larger variant of the 737 MAX certified before a new safety standard on cockpit alerts takes effect at the end of the year and hopes Congress will intervene.

The deadline for the changes was introduced as part of broader regulatory reforms at the Federal Aviation Administration following the fatal 737 MAX crashes.

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