LONDON - The head of Dubai's Emirates called on Thursday for changes at Boeing in the wake of criticism from U.S. regulators, but stopped short of calling for a shake-up in its management as the planemaker wrestles with its latest safety crisis.

Speaking in London, airline President Tim Clark also raised the prospect that first delivery of Boeing's 777X, the world's largest twin-engined jet whose development has already been delayed by five years, could slip into 2026 from late 2025.

"The (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration) said there was a disconnect between the management and the safety system. All this is something that some of us have been saying for a long time," Clark said during an event at the UK Aviation Club.

The FAA said on Wednesday Boeing must deliver "profound improvements" and develop a plan to address "systemic quality-control issues" within 90 days after last month's blowout of a panel on a 737 MAX 9 jet, apparently caused by missing bolts.

"They really need to do this. Whether this means a change in the governance model, I don't know. When you change the governance model, it invariably involves changing the people around the old governance model," Clark told journalists.

A Boeing spokesperson referred back to its response to the FAA on Wednesday, when it said its leadership team was totally committed to demonstrating the "profound change that Administrator (Mike) Whitaker and the FAA demand".

Clark said the pressures on Boeing management were "really, really, really acute".

"The pity about it is that the Boeing workforce and the technology and engineering skills of that company are second to none...The whole situation is salvageable. Just get the right people do the right things," he added.

Emirates is the world's largest operator of long-distance aircraft and industry veteran Clark carries significant clout with planemakers and other suppliers.


The latest crisis has increased scrutiny of Boeing's production plants, just as a previous crisis over fatal crashes that led to a 20-month grounding of the MAX in 2019 slowed certification of future planes, including the 777X.

"The 777X (delivery) is probably at the back end of next year and maybe 2026, if we're unlucky," Clark told the UK Aviation Club.

Emirates is the largest buyer of the roughly 400-seat plane which was originally due in 2020. Boeing has most recently said it expects first delivery in 2025 and last November, Clark said the first handover was scheduled for October 2025.

In a separate dispute over the competing Airbus A350-1000, Clark reiterated that Emirates will not buy the long-haul jet until its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines are proven.

At the Dubai Airshow in November, Clark held off placing an order for the jets, blaming significant extra maintenance downtime needed for their engines in the harsh local conditions.

In a Reuters interview, he later told the British engineering giant to "go back to basics".

Rolls-Royce has said the engine is performing well in moderate climates and that it aims to double the "time on wing" between repairs in harsh environments within the next 2-3 years. A spokesperson for the engine maker declined further comment.

(Additional reporting by Allison Lampert, Sachin Ravikumar and Muvija M; Writing by Joanna Plucinska, Tim Hepher; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Marguerita Choy)