Boeing CEO apologises to Max 737 crash victims’ families

Dennis Muilenburg vows "resolute" action on safety going forward

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Boeing's chief executive publicly apologised to families of the victims in dual Max 737 deadly crashes but stopped short of resigning from the company.

Dennis Muilenburg vowed to take "resolute" action to ensure safety going forward, according to an interview with CBS Evening News late Wednesday. "

"I can tell you it affects me directly as the leader of this company, it’s very difficult," Mr Muilenburg said. "We can’t change what happened in these accidents but we can be absolutely resolute in what we are going to do on safety going forward."

The 34-year Boeing veteran is dealing with the worst crisis of the US company's 103-year history after aviation regulators grounded the 737 Max in March following two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.

"This has had the biggest impact on me [more] than anything that has happened," Mr Muilenburg said of the two incidents that occurred during his leadership of the Chicago-based plane manufacturer.

The executive, who worked for more than three decades at Boeing, also said he has no plans to leave the company.

"We apologize more broadly to the traveling public, where confidence has been affected," he said. "We impacted our airline customers, we regret that as well."

The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max has taken a toll on the airline operators, who have suffered a "significant" operational and financial impact, the head of a global airlines group said on Wednesday.

"[We] will organise a summit with regulators, the manufacturer and airlines to be able to make an assessment in five to seven weeks from now of what has been done and what needs to be done to prepare for [737 Max] re-entry," Alexandre de Juniac, chief of International Air Transport Association, told reporters on a call.

Mr de Juniac warned of disagreement among global aviation regulators on the conditions and timeline for the re-entry of the Max into service and predicted that the return of the jet to commercial flights is unlikely for another 10 to 12 weeks.

Boeing has been working to reassure regulators, pilots and travelers of its engineering capabilities and commitment to safety after a plane software system, called MCAS, was linked to the two crashes. The company is also facing a criminal investigation, in addition to civil inquiries from the US Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission, for its role in the accidents and close ties to the US aviation regulator.

"We’re stepping up, we’re taking responsibility, we know we have improvements we can make, we will make those improvements, we’re committed to safety for the long-run," Mr Muilenburg said.

Separately at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York on Wednesday, Mr Muilenburg said returning 737 Max to service is the company's primary focus and that Boeing is in process of applying for final software certification.

Boeing has been preparing for the Max's return to service one regulators lift the ban on the grounded jet, meeting with airlines and drawing up plans for suppliers, he said.

“We see this as a defining moment for the Boeing company,’’ he told the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. “It’s been a challenging few months.’’

To ensure the supply chain is stable before ramping up output, Boeing is deploying field service teams to each stored 737 Max.

It still plans to eventually ramp production up to 57 per month and doesn’t see storage capacity as an issue.

Boeing fell 1.7 per cent to $348.80 at the close in New York amid broad market declines. It was the third-biggest drop on the 30-member Dow Jones Industrial Average.