Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg admitted for the first time that his company mishandled concerns over its 737 Max aircraft.
Boeing’s 737 Max jets have been involved in two recent air tragedies; in October 2018, a Lion Air crash claimed 189 lives near Jakarta, Indonesia, and in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines crash killed 157 just outside of Addis Ababa.
Investigators believe both accidents were connected to software and sensors Boeing used to make the 737 Max similar enough to previous versions that pilots would not have to be retrained. Following the crashes, serious questions have been raised about whether pilots and regulators really understood the new aircraft. Last week, US lawmakers revealed that Boeing had identified a faulty safety alert in 2017 but planned to wait until 2020 to fix it.
Muilenburg conceded to reporters today (June 16) that the company should have been more transparent and made mistakes. The executive admitted that Boeing’s communication with regulators, customers and the public “was not consistent. And that’s unacceptable,” AP reports. The CEO had initially tried to allay concerns about the company’s jets by blaming a software glitch he said could be fixed with a quick patch.
The concession comes the day before the Paris Air Show, one of the most important annual events in the aviation industry. Boeing rival Airbus is expected to unveil a more efficient, long-range version of its A321 aircraft at the conference, which would further increase competitive pressure on the US aerospace giant.
Muilenburg will spend the week reassuring aviation stakeholders of all stripes about his company’s engineering. He said that Boeing is focused on rebuilding trust after the crashes, which he called a “defining moment” that will result in a “better and stronger” organization. He also noted that the company was facing the crashes with “humility.”
Perhaps as evidence of this humility, Muilenburg said he doesn’t expect to see many orders for 737s at the air show. In April, the company said it would slow production of 737s, scaling back from 52 to 42 jets per month. The CEO did say he expected global aviation regulators to allow the plane, grounded since March, to fly again before the end of the year.