Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued an extensive statement concerning the preliminary report on flight 302 by Ethiopian Airlines. In it, he seems to apologize and accept blame for both the Lion Air and Ethiopian 737 MAX crashes. He also promises a quick software fix that will make the MAX “among the safest airplanes ever to fly.”
Unlike his last note, Muilenburg begins with an apology:
We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. 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. All of us feel the immense gravity of these events across our company and recognize the devastation of the families and friends of the loved ones who perished.
Then Muilenburg concedes that the MCAS system played a key role in both crashes:
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 Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information.
The history of our industry shows most accidents are caused by a chain of events. This again is the case here, and we know we can break one of those chain links in these two accidents. As pilots have told us, erroneous activation of the MCAS function can add to what is already a high workload environment. It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it and we know how to do it.
Note he is still obviously very careful in his words. While he concedes that erroneous angle of attack information triggered the MCAS, he implies it takes several links to cause accidents and that in “a high workload environment” it needs to make the job easier for pilots. That’s a subtle dig at pilots everywhere.
Then Muilenburg states that had software been in place, the Ethiopian plane would never have crashed:
From the days immediately following the Lion Air accident, we’ve had teams of our top engineers and technical experts working tirelessly in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and our customers to finalize and implement a software update that will ensure accidents like that of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 never happen again.
A solution to the MCAS problem will be available in weeks:
We’re taking a comprehensive, disciplined approach, and taking the time, to get the software update right. We’re nearing completion and anticipate its certification and implementation on the 737 MAX fleet worldwide in the weeks ahead. We regret the impact the grounding has had on our airline customers and their passengers.
This update, along with the associated training and additional educational materials that pilots want in the wake of these accidents, will eliminate the possibility of unintended MCAS activation and prevent an MCAS-related accident from ever happening again.
The question is how many weeks? Two weeks? Ten weeks? 52 weeks?
Muilenburg next underscores how safe the 737 MAX will be after the next software update:
We at Boeing take the responsibility to build and deliver airplanes to our airline customers and to the flying public that are safe to fly, and can be safely flown by every single one of the professional and dedicated pilots all around the world. This is what we do at Boeing.
We remain confident in the fundamental safety of the 737 MAX. All who fly on it—the passengers, flight attendants and pilots, including our own families and friends—deserve our best. When the MAX returns to the skies with the software changes to the MCAS function, it will be among the safest airplanes ever to fly.
He concludes the letter by offering additional platitudes on Boeing’s commitment to safety, which I won’t include. You can read the full statement here or watch it below:
I’ll give Muilenburg credit for not trying to avoid all blame. Whether the pilot should have been able to respond to the MCAS activation is another issue and does not fully absolve Boeing from a design flaw in its MAX series. Clearly, Boeing has moved on from the blame game and is now working on restoring trust and getting the 737 MAX back in the air.
What are your thoughts on the Boeing CEO’s latest statement?