VIDEO: Boeing CEO apologizes to families of 737 Max jet crash victims

Dennis Muilenburg was grilled at a Senate Commerce Committee meeting

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg faced withering questions from senators Tuesday about two crashes of 737 Max jets and whether the company concealed information about a critical flight system.

“We have made mistakes, and we got some things wrong,” Muilenburg conceded.

Some members of the Senate Commerce Committee cut Muilenburg off when they believed he was failing to answer their questions about a key flight-control system implicated in both crashes.

Boeing successfully lobbied regulators to keep any explanation of the system, called MCAS, from pilot manuals and training. After the crashes, the company tried to blame the pilots, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

“Those pilots never had a chance,” Blumenthal said. Passengers “never had a chance. They were in flying coffins as a result of Boeing deciding that it was going to conceal MCAS from the pilots.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Il., said Boeing “set those pilots up for failure” by not telling them how the response to a nose-down command on the Max differed from previous 737s.

“Boeing has not told the whole truth to this committee and to the families and to the people looking at this … and these families are suffering because of it,” a visibly angry Duckworth said as she pointed to relatives of passengers who died.

Muilenburg denied that Boeing ever blamed the pilots. Several times this spring and summer he said the accidents were caused by a “chain of events,” not a single factor. The comments were widely seen as deflecting blame, including to the pilots.

The CEO told senators Tuesday that Boeing has always trained pilots to respond to the same effect caused by an MCAS failure — a condition called runaway trim — which can be caused by other problems.

Muilenburg and Boeing’s chief engineer for commercial airplanes, John Hamilton, spent about 80 minutes at the witness table. The committee then heard from two safety officials who helped shape reports about the Boeing plane.

The hearing took place exactly one year after a 737 Max crashed off the coast of Indonesia and more than seven months after a second crash in Ethiopia. In all, 346 people died. Muilenburg’s testimony was the first by a Boeing executive since the crashes. The CEO is scheduled to testify before a House committee on Wednesday.

Indonesian investigators say Boeing’s design of MCAS contributed to the crash of a Lion Air Max last October. Ethiopian authorities are continuing to investigate the second crash, involving a plane flown by Ethiopian Airlines, which led to a worldwide grounding of the plane.

“Both of these accidents were entirely preventable,” said Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

More than a dozen relatives of passengers who died in the accidents attended the hearing. Wicker invited them to stand and hold up large photos of their relatives, which they had carried into the room. Muilenburg turned in his seat to look at them.

He told senators that Boeing is in the final stages of updating flight software to improve safety by adding redundancy — tying MCAS to a second sensor and second computer at all times, and making the system’s ability to push a plane’s nose down less powerful.

Chicago-based Boeing hopes to win Federal Aviation Administration approval by year end to return the plane to flight. The FAA is also coming under scrutiny for relying on Boeing employees to perform some certification tests and inspections.

READ MORE: Boeing, FAA both faulted in certification of the 737 Max

David Koenig, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Rep. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., displays an email exchange behind him as he questions Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg as he testifies before a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Just Posted

Best of the City: Breathe easy

Modo Yoga wins Best Yoga Studio category during challenging time for health and wellness businesses

Best of the City: How sweet it is

Burnt Honey Dessert Company serves up city’s favourite desserts

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Help keep customer service workers safe

Remember that people asking you to respect health guidelines are still people, says retail worker

Best of the City: Making a house a home

Dodd’s Furniture, voted Best Furniture Store, settles into new location in Nanaimo

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Best of the City: This year’s winners

Nanaimo News Bulletin presents full results of our 2020 Best of the City readers’ survey

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Snuneymuxw artist brings aquatic designs to Nanaimo’s Beban Park pool

Work by artist Eliot White-Hill is being installed at the pool this month

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read