Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, October 24, 2021

Boeing Names New Software Chief 

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Embattled aerospace giant Boeing Co. has hired a former Google and SpaceX software development chief to oversee its troubled software engineering operations.

Boeing (NYSE: BA) on Friday (Nov. 6) named Jinnah Hosein its vice president for software engineering, reporting to the aerospace company’s chief engineer. The hiring of Hosein, who is widely respected in the aerospace engineering community, was announced as Boeing seeks to return to flight status its grounded 737 Max aircraft. The latest-generation aircraft has been grounded for more than a year after two crashes from 2018 to 2019 that killed 346 passengers and crew.

Hosein’s other challenge will be righting Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft program, which encountered a series of software glitches during a botched test flight last year. Boeing is also the prime contractor for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) that would return humans to the moon. Space agency auditors recently reported flawed testing of SLS software and Boeing’s failure to take advantage of lessons learned from the Starliner test flight last year when code errors prevented the uncrewed spacecraft from docking with the International Space Station.

Jinnah previously served as Google’s director of software engineering for cloud networking. He also was a member of its Site Reliability Engineering team.

At SpaceX, Jinnah headed software development teams for the commercial space pioneer’s Falcon and Falcon Heavy boosters, Dragon cargo ship and the Crew Dragon. In May, Crew Dragon delivered astronauts to the space station in an American-built spacecraft for the first time in nearly a decade.

Most recently, Hosein served as vice president of software engineering for Aurora, a self-driving vehicle developer based in Palo Alto, Calif. That work drew on previous experience at Tesla, where Hosein helped develop autopilot software.

Boeing said Jinnah would lead its engineering teams developing software embedded into its commercial aircraft and aerospace systems. He will report to Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief engineer and senior vice president of engineering, test and technology.

“Jinnah will be a transformational leader for Boeing," declared Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s president and CEO.

The reaction to Hosein’s hiring ranged from variations on “it’s about time” to “too little, too late.”

“It is much easier to grow into a role like this from within, where you build understanding and credibility over time,” one observer noted. It is “much harder to bring an outsider in, and hard for that outsider to get it right the first time.”

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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