Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now


You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.
11,856.80-80.7
Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

Boeing CEO knew about pilot’s warnings before second crash

Investigations by The New York Times have revealed that Boeing employees sometimes felt pressure to play down safety concerns and meet deadlines, that key FAA officials didn’t fully understand MCAS.

New York Times|
Oct 29, 2019, 11.08 PM IST
0Comments
AP
13
Boeing Company President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.
A pilot warned the plane was “running rampant.”

In November 2016, well before the 737 Max was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane’s chief technical pilot told a colleague that a new system on the plane was “running rampant” in simulator tests. The pilot, Mark Forkner, went on to say that he had unknowingly lied to regulators.

In a January 2017 email, two months after acknowledging that he “unknowingly” lied to regulators, Forkner again pushed the FAA to remove mention of the system, known as MCAS, from pilot training materials.

“Delete MCAS,” Forkner wrote. In aerospace speak, he described the system as “way outside the normal operating envelope,” meaning that it would only activate in rare situations that pilots would almost never encounter in normal passenger flights.

But the instant messages to his colleague show that Forkner appeared to realize in November that MCAS was causing issues in the simulator and making it difficult to gain control of the plane.

The messages, which were made public this month, raise serious new questions about what Boeing knew about the new system, known as MCAS, which played a role in both crashes.

During the hearing before Congress, Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive, said that the company had not been able to speak to Forkner, who now works for Southwest Airlines, about the messages.

However, when asked when he learned of the messages from Forkner, Muilenburg said: “I believe it was prior to the second crash.”

Lawmakers also asked why Boeing, which has known about the messages for months, waited so long to hand the messages over to Congress and the FAA.

“Boeing should have notified the FAA about that conversation upon its discovery immediately,” Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in his opening statement.

The Times was the first to report on Forkner’s involvement in the Max, revealing that during the plane’s development, he asked the FAA to remove mention of MCAS from the training manual.

The families of crash victims demanded accountability.

As Muilenburg left the room at the end of his testimony, Nadia Milleron, mother of Samya Stumo, a victim of the crash in Ethiopia, asked him to “turn and look at people when you say you’re sorry.” He turned around, looked her in the eye, and said “I’m sorry.”

Milleron said she wanted Muilenburg to step down. She and other family members of victims held posters of their loved ones.

“He needs to resign, I will say that to his face,” said Milleron, before Muilenburg began his testimony. “I think he’s very bad for Boeing, he’s very bad for the U.S., he’s very bad for safety. He should resign, the whole board should resign.”

Muilenberg admitted “we made some mistakes.”

Muilenburg, who has been criticized for his response to the crashes, appeared emotional in his opening remarks at a hearing of the Senate commerce committee.

“We are sorry,” he said, addressing his remarks to the families of the crash victims. “Deeply and truly sorry.”

Muilenburg outlined changes being made to the Max and the company in response to the crashes. “We’ve been challenged and changed by these accidents,” he said. “We made some mistakes, and we got some things wrong.”

His opening remarks came after Sens. Roger Wicker and Maria Cantwell made sharp opening statements about Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“One thing is crystal clear,” Cantwell said. “If you want to be the leader in aviation manufacturing, you have to be the leader in aviation safety.”

The FAA’s oversight of the plane’s development was a big focus.

As the 737 Max was developed, it was Boeing employees working on behalf of the FAA, not government inspectors, who signed off on many aspects of the plane. This system of so-called delegation, which lets manufacturers sign off on their own work, is under scrutiny.

Investigations by The New York Times have revealed that Boeing employees sometimes felt pressure to play down safety concerns and meet deadlines, that key FAA officials didn’t fully understand MCAS and that the FAA office in Seattle that oversees Boeing was seen inside the regulator as excessively deferential to the company.

“We cannot have a race for commercial airplanes become a race to the bottom when it comes to safety. The company, the board cannot prioritize profits over safety,” Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, where Boeing has its major operations, said in her opening statement.

Boeing and its allies in industry also waged a years long lobbying campaign to get the FAA to delegate even more to the company, an effort that paid off with the passage of last year’s FAA reauthorization act. Now, lawmakers are questioning whether the entire system of certifying airplanes needs an overhaul.

“No matter what we did last year, we need to be pulling some of that back into the public sphere, and take some of it out of the hands of industry,” Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., told The Times.

Also Read

Grounded Max has decades of use ahead: Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg

Software update on 737 MAX now complete: Boeing CEO

Boeing CEO sees air-taxi prototype ready for takeoff next year

Boeing CEO speaks to Donald Trump, says he’s confident of 737 Max safety

Comments
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.
Download The Economic Times Business News App for the Latest News in Business, Sensex, Stock Market Updates & More.

Other useful Links


Follow us on


Download et app


Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service