CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has released a statement more than a week after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight which killed 159 people and later led to the grounding of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
The Associated Press also reported that the Justice Department has started a probe into the development of the jets.
“We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies,” Muilenburg said in part. “Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.”
The United States and many other countries have grounded the Max 8s and larger Max 9s as Boeing faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes in less than five months.
Both planes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Shortly after their takeoffs, both crews tried to return to the airports but crashed.
Boeing has said it has “full confidence” in the planes’ safety. Engineers are making changes to the system designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall if sensors detect that the jet’s nose is pointed too high and its speed is too slow.
Investigators looking into the Indonesian crash are examining whether the software automatically pushed the plane’s nose down repeatedly, and whether the Lion Air pilots knew how to solve that problem. Ethiopian Airlines says its pilots received special training on the software.
Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines pilot and a spokesman for their union, said Boeing held a discussion with airlines last Thursday but did not invite pilots at American or Southwest, the two U.S. carriers that use the same version of the Max that crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Tajer said airline officials told the unions that Boeing intends to offer pilots about a 15-minute iPad course to train them on the new flight-control software on Max jets that is suspected of playing a role in the crashes. He called that amount of training unacceptable.
“Our sense is it’s a rush to comply — ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,'” Tajer said. “I’m in a rush to protect my passengers.”
A spokesman for the pilots’ union at Southwest Airlines also said Boeing representatives told that union they expected the upgrade to be ready the end of January.
The spokesman, Mike Trevino, said Boeing never followed up to explain why that deadline passed without an upgrade. Boeing was expected to submit a proposed fix to the FAA in early January.
The full statement can be read below:
We know lives depend on the work we do, and our teams embrace that responsibility with a deep sense of commitment every day. Our purpose at Boeing is to bring family, friends and loved ones together with our commercial airplanes—safely. The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning. Our hearts are heavy, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.
Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone. This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities. We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies. Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.
Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Our team is on-site with investigators to support the investigation and provide technical expertise. The Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau will determine when and how it’s appropriate to release additional details.
Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots. This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident. We’ve been working in full cooperation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board on all issues relating to both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines accidents since the Lion Air accident occurred in October last year.
Our entire team is devoted to the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support. I’ve dedicated my entire career to Boeing, working shoulder to shoulder with our amazing people and customers for more than three decades, and I personally share their deep sense of commitment. Recently, I spent time with our team members at our 737 production facility in Renton, Wash., and once again saw firsthand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies. The importance of our work demands the utmost integrity and excellence—that’s what I see in our team, and we’ll never rest in pursuit of it.
Our mission is to connect people and nations, protect freedom, explore our world and the vastness of space, and inspire the next generation of aerospace dreamers and doers—and we’ll fulfill that mission only by upholding and living our values. That’s what safety means to us. Together, we’ll keep working to earn and keep the trust people have placed in Boeing.