Boeing says it will take time to win back confidence after Max crashes

The plane manufacturer's chief executive said the main focus at next week's Paris Airshow will be safety

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg says the company made a “mistake” in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in 737 Max jets ahead of two deadly crashes of the top-selling plane. AP Photo
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg says the company made a “mistake” in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in 737 Max jets ahead of two deadly crashes of the top-selling plane. AP Photo

The head of Boeing said on Sunday that it had made a mistake with a faulty cockpit warning system on the 737 Max, and that it would take time to rebuild the confidence of customers after two fatal crashes.

Chairman and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said the US plane maker failed to communicate “crisply” with regulators and customers.

But Mr Muilenburg defended the broad engineering and design approach to nose-down control software at the centre of investigations into the accidents, which led to the plane’s worldwide grounding.

Mr Muilenburg acknowledged the company made a mistake in failing to disclose a defective cockpit warning light on its 737 Max to regulators and customers, and said that failure had been part of reviews by global regulators.

He has been under fire over the Max design and Boeing’s handling of the crisis, but said “we are seeing over time more and more convergence among the regulators” on when the aircraft should return to service.

He said he expected the Max to return to service this year and that 90 per cent of customers had taken part in simulator sessions with its upgraded software, as the company works towards a certification flight with regulators soon.

Boeing says it followed long-standing engineering procedures when designing the 737 Max.

Asked how the procedures failed to capture apparent flaws in MCAS control software and sensor architecture, Mr Muilenburg said: “Clearly, we can make improvements, and we understand that and we will make those improvements.”

“When I make comments about the previous MCAS design and how we followed those processes, that’s something we put a lot of thought and depth of analysis into. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved.”

His comments on the eve of the Paris Airshow highlight efforts by Boeing to respond differently to the way it did in the days after the Lion Air crash in October, when it raised questions over pilot and maintenance issues.

Mr Muilenburg said Boeing expected to announce some orders at the show for wider-body jets, but that its main focus at this year’s industry gathering was safety.

He forecast a $8.7 trillion marketplace for Boeing’s products and services over a decade, up from the $8.1n it projected last year.

Mr Muilenburg predicted the world would need 44,000 commercial jets over the next 20 years, up from the 43,000 Boeing forecast in last year’s estimate.

He stuck to a previous timeline for the all-new 777X twin-aisle jet, which Boeing aims to fly this year and deliver to airlines in 2020.

He said a possible new jet dubbed "NMA" (new midsize airplane) had fallen behind the Max’s return to service as a priority, but that the timeline on decisions and entry to service remained unchanged.

He took aim at European rival Airbus’s planned new extended-range A321XLR, saying the aircraft would only “scratch an edge” of the market segment targeted by the NMA, which would replace Boeing’s 757s and 767s.

Whether Boeing moves forward with the new mid-sized plane is expected to reshape competition with Airbus, which dominates the top end of the medium-haul sector.

Asked whether he had been interviewed or submitted evidence in a criminal investigation launched by the US Department of Justice after the 737 crashes, Mr Muilenburg said: “We are fully supporting any government inquiries and providing information.”

Updated: June 17, 2019 08:25 AM


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