In the space of just a few weeks, we've seen 737s lose their doors in mid-flight in two separate accidents; a 787 suddenly go into freefall after its navigation systems failed; a 777 lose a tire on take-off; and, a few days ago, another 737 run off the runway on landing.

We just learned that one of the main whistle-blowers in the Boeing case, engineer and former group employee John Barnett, was found dead last night. According to preliminary reports, the cause of death was a "self-administered" injury.

Coincidentally, the news comes at the same time as the initial findings of an FAA audit which revealed dozens of breaches of control and quality procedures in the group's production lines. This should give valuable ammunition to the lawyers of the automaker's customers, should they decide to take legal action against it. Will a hefty legal bill be added to its woes?

A second flagship company goes under

In certain respects, the Boeing case is not unlike that of General Electric. Here too, a deleterious and excessively bureaucratic corporate culture, a sickly desire to impress the financial markets, and an obsession with short-term gratification are at the root of the disaster.

To a large extent, it can be said that this American industrial flagship has completely scuttled itself. An edifying figure, symbol among others of its catastrophic management: Boeing spent more than $45 billion on share buybacks between 2013 and 2019, i.e. almost twice the cost of developing the Boeing 787, all at perfectly unreasonable valuations.

It has also taken on a great deal of debt in the process, exposing it to a cyclical downturn or an unpredictable event such as a pandemic in 2020. Deprived of the equity capital essential to its stability in these times of debacle, Boeing has had to take on even more debt, with the result that the group now has a net debt of $40 billion - whereas historically it was in a net cash position.

This puts the manufacturer in an extremely delicate situation, with five consecutive years in the red and a cumulative loss of $22 billion between 2019 and 2023. The destruction of shareholder value is therefore considerable, even epic.

Even in the context of a post-pandemic recovery, Boeing's sales and operating profit remain a long way from the levels they occupied during the previous cycle, before the 737MAX debacle. It's true that nearly two-thirds of Boeing's civil aircraft deliveries were variants of the 737MAX...

Boeing also has to bear $2.5 billion in interest charges, against a backdrop of generally rising interest rates. The company's management priority is to reduce debt, which deprives it of precious resources to launch new program development.

Finally, the Group is adopting the standards of the technology sector, and now pays a large part of its remuneration in stock options, which cost it a whopping $2.2 billion last year. Did it really need this to restore its image and attract the best aeronautical engineering talent? Perhaps, but this avalanche of additional costs comes at a very bad time.

Boeing still generates a third of its sales from its defense business - if it were a country, the manufacturer would be the world's fifth-largest arms dealer - and another quarter from its highly resilient services business.

Investors willing to bet on a "turnaround" are therefore betting on a genuine reinvention of the group in its civil aviation segment. Unfortunately, this may take some time, especially as Boeing now needs to finance the acquisition of Spirit AeroSystems.

Once a Boeing subsidiary, the fuselage specialist remained hyper-dependent on Boeing orders, which accounted for over two-thirds of its sales. However, the setbacks of its main customer have left it in a situation of virtual insolvency: reintegrating Spirit is an essential operation, even if it will further worsen Boeing's balance sheet.

In fact, current valuations do not really reflect this extreme level of stress. On the contrary, it seems to incorporate a rapid normalization and a return to historical profitability levels. As we have seen, the automaker is still in the midst of turbulence.

For further thoughts on the subject, don't miss Bloomberg's video: "Can Airbus profit from Boeing's misadventures?