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Boeing 737 Max

Boeing chief admits faulty cockpit system on 737 Max plane was ‘mistake’

Image credit: Richair | Dreamstime.com

Dennis Muilenburg, chairman and chief executive of Boeing, has said the US plane maker made a mistake in implementing a faulty cockpit warning system on its 737 Max passenger plane, predicting it would take time to rebuild the confidence of customers following two fatal crashes.

Muilenburg, CEO at Boeing, said the company failed to communicate “crisply” with regulators and customers.

However, he defended the broad engineering and design approach to nose-down control software at the centre of probes into the two fatal accidents which led to the plane’s worldwide grounding.

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

“We are seeing over time more and more convergence among the regulators,” he said when asked whether the Max should return to service.

He also added that he expects the Max to return to service this year and that 90 per cent of customers had participated in simulator sessions with its upgraded MCAS software. This process is being done while the company works towards a certification flight with regulators.

“Clearly, we can make improvements and we understand that and we will make those improvements,” Muilenburg said, when asked how the procedures failed to capture apparent flaws in MCAS control software and sensor architecture. He added that Boeing had followed long-standing engineering procedures when designing the 737 Max.

Muilenburg added: “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.”

The chief executive’s comments on the eve of the Paris Airshow (which runs from 17 to 23 June 2019) highlights efforts by Boeing to strike a different tone than it did in the days following the Lion Air crash in October 2018, which raised questions over pilot and maintenance issues.

Muilenburg also said the US plane maker expected to announce some orders at the show for wider-body jets. However, he enthused that its main focus at this year’s industry gathering was safety.

Over the next 10 years, he forecasts a $8.7tr (£6.9tr) marketplace for Boeing’s products and services, up from the $8.1tr (£5.4tr) it calculated last year.

Furthermore, 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 (2018) estimate.

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

He said a possible new jet dubbed NMA had fallen behind the Max’s return to service as a priority. However, he added that the timeline on decisions and entry to service remained unchanged.

In May 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced plans to approve the return of the company’s 737 Max to active service as soon as late June 2019, with representatives of the US air regulator informing members of the United Nation’s aviation agency.

Earlier that same month, Boeing said it had completed development on updated software for the 737 Max planes, all of which have been grounded worldwide since the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane in March 2019.

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