Boeing on Tuesday replaced the head of its commercial plane division, the most significant executive departure since the 737 MAX grounding plunged the company into crisis seven months ago.

Kevin McAllister, head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes since November 2016, will leave the company effective immediately, Boeing said on the eve of a key quarterly earnings announcement.

Boeing continues to target the fourth quarter for regulatory approval to return the 737 MAX to service after two deadly crashes Boeing continues to target the fourth quarter for regulatory approval to return the 737 MAX to service after two deadly crashes Photo: AFP / Jason Redmond

McAllister will be replaced by Stan Deal, who has been chief of Boeing Global Services.

The top-selling 737 MAX has been grounded since mid-March following two crashes that killed 346 people. The company has been in close contact with the Federal Aviation to have the plane recertified in a process that has dragged out much longer than initially expected.

Kevin McAllister, head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes since November 2016, will leave the company effective immediately, Boeing said Kevin McAllister, head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes since November 2016, will leave the company effective immediately, Boeing said Photo: AFP / ERIC PIERMONT

"Our entire Boeing team is focused on operational excellence, aligned with our values of safety, quality and integrity and we're committed to delivering on our commitments and regaining trust with our regulators, customers and other stakeholders," Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.

Muilenburg was stripped of his title as chairman earlier this month but kept on as CEO and a board member. McAllister is the most senior figure to exit Boeing in the wake of the crisis.

Boeing has faced new scrutiny following the disclosure of text messages between two Boeing pilots in 2016 that suggested the company was aware of problems with a flight handling system that has been blamed for both crashes.

Shares rose 2.3 percent in afternoon trading to $338.60, recovering some of the losses since disclosure of the text messages led to deep declines the last two days.