WASHINGTON – Boeing president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg told Congress on Tuesday that “mistakes” were made in the response to the deadly 737 MAX 8 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, and he apologized to the victims’ families.
“We have learned and are still learning from these accidents, Mr. Chairman. We know we made mistakes and got some things wrong. We own that, and we are fixing them. We have developed improvements to the 737 MAX to ensure that accidents like these never happen again,” Muilenburg said in his opening statement to the Senate Commerce Committee.
Muilenburg apologized to the families of the victims of the two crashes, which resulted in the grounding of the 737 MAX, the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing’s history.
“I wanted to let you know, on behalf of myself and all of the men and women of Boeing, how deeply sorry I am,” Muilenburg told the committee.
Muilenburg testified before the committee along with John Hamilton, the chief engineer for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
This marked the first time that Boeing acknowledged before Congress that errors were made in connection with the accidents, which killed hundreds of people and have cost the Chicago-based aerospace company billions of dollars.
The 737 MAX was grounded following a March 10 crash that killed 157 people in Ethiopia.
On Oct. 29, 2018, a Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in the Java Sea, killing 181 passengers and eight crew members.
“As we observe today the solemn anniversary of the loss of Lion Air Flight 610, please know that we carry the memory of these accidents, and of your loved ones, with us every day. They will never be forgotten, and these tragedies will continue to drive us to do everything we can to make our airplanes and our industry safer,” Muilenburg said.
Some reports have blamed a software glitch for the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 crashes.
Accident investigators in Indonesia blamed design flaws and flight certification errors for the crash of the Lion Air 737 MAX 8.
The design flaws were aggravated by insufficient pilot training in the use of the MCAS flight control system and maintenance problems on the part of Lion Air, among other factors, the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee said in a report released a few weeks ago.
The initial results of the investigation into the crash of the 737 MAX 8 in Ethiopia found that the crew followed all the established procedures but was unable to disable the automated stall-prevention system, which caused the plane to lose altitude.
The crew apparently turned on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which is designed to prevent the plane from stalling, once again and tried to cut off the power to the trim motor.
The MCAS, however, kicked in and continued driving down the aircraft’s nose. The same thing happened to the Lion Air crew.
Muilenburg discussed Boeing’s decision not to ground the 737 MAX 8 following the crash off Indonesia.
“I think about that decision over and over again,” the executive said.
Following the crash in Ethiopia, the 737 MAX 8 was grounded around the world.
“We also are learning deeper lessons that will result in improvements in the design of future airplanes. As painful as it can be, the process of learning from failure, and even from tragedies like these, has been essential to the advances in airplane safety since the industry began roughly a century ago,” Muilenburg said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for its part, said in June that it had found some possible problems with the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s software.