- Boeing’s CEO offered his fullest apology yet for two fatal 737 Max crashes that killed just under 350 people.
- Dennis Muilenburg said Thursday that Boeing is “sorry for the lives lost” and that the “tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and mind.”
- The apology came hours after the preliminary findings from the Ethiopian government put the spotlight on Boeing.
- Boeing acknowledged that a software issue was a common factor in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
- Muilenburg said the company was working to make sure that that its software update “will ensure accidents like that of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 never happen again.”
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Boeing’s CEO offered his fullest apology yet after the investigation into the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash put pressure on the manufacturer for the disaster that killed 157 people.
Dennis Muilenburg said on Thursday that the company is “sorry” for deaths in the crash, as well as a fatal Lion Air crash that killed 189 people in October 2018, as he confirmed that both planes experienced similar issues with their software.
“We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents, he said.
“These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds, and we extend our sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.”
“I cannot remember a more heart-wrenching time in my career with this great company.”
In March Muilenburg published an open letter to Ethiopian Airlines and the wider aviation industry, where he said the company was “humbled” and “learning” as investigations into both crashes continue. At that point he did not say Boeing was sorry.
Thursday’s apology was a more direct acknowledgement, and took into account the preliminary findings of Ethiopian government investigations, who described how the plane’s MCAS automated anti-stall system forced the plane’s nose down before impact.
“The full details of what happened in the two accidents will be issued by the government authorities in the final reports, but, with the release of the preliminary report of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident investigation, it’s apparent that in both flights the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information,” he said.
Boeing confirmed on Wednesday an erroneous sensor triggered the MCAS system. The same issue was identified in the preliminary investigation report on the Lion Air crash.
The investigations into both disasters are still underway, and their final conclusions are not expected for many months.
Ethiopia’s preliminary report put the spotlight on Boeing as it found that the pilots had followed Boeing’s own emergency procedures but were still unable to control the plane.
It said the plane was deemed airworthy at takeoff and that the pilots were fully certified.
Muilenburg said that it was Boeing’s “responsibility” to eliminate any risk caused by the MCAS system.
“We own it and we know how to do it,” he said, pledging that its planned software update “will ensure accidents like that of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 never happen again.”
Boeing is currently working with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to secure approval for the new software, which will make the MCAS system easier to control.
737 Max planes around the world will remain grounded until the FAA and its international counterparts certify the software fixes.
Muilenburg said Boeing has had its “top engineers and technical experts working tirelessly” and that the company will give pilots “training and additional educational materials” to deal with the MCAS system.
Muilenburg went on a demo flight with the new software on Wednesday, where he said saw the update “performing safely in action.”
He also reiterated his company’s confidence in the 737 Max, and pledged to “earn and re-earn” trust from passengers.
Boeing faces an investigation from the US Department of Justice into how its planes were certified, and the US Senate is holding hearings on the Congress-mandated process that allowed Boeing to certify parts of its own aircraft on behalf of the FAA.
In its preliminary report, Ethiopia recommend that Boeing review the MCAS system and that aviation authorities review the new version before 737 Max planes can fly again.
Muilenburg said: “When the MAX returns to the skies with the software changes to the MCAS function, it will be among the safest aeroplanes ever to fly.”
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