VIDEO: Boeing CEO apologizes to families of 737 Max jet crash victims

Dennis Muilenburg was grilled at a Senate Commerce Committee meeting

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg faced withering questions from senators Tuesday about two crashes of 737 Max jets and whether the company concealed information about a critical flight system.

“We have made mistakes, and we got some things wrong,” Muilenburg conceded.

Some members of the Senate Commerce Committee cut Muilenburg off when they believed he was failing to answer their questions about a key flight-control system implicated in both crashes.

Boeing successfully lobbied regulators to keep any explanation of the system, called MCAS, from pilot manuals and training. After the crashes, the company tried to blame the pilots, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

“Those pilots never had a chance,” Blumenthal said. Passengers “never had a chance. They were in flying coffins as a result of Boeing deciding that it was going to conceal MCAS from the pilots.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Il., said Boeing “set those pilots up for failure” by not telling them how the response to a nose-down command on the Max differed from previous 737s.

“Boeing has not told the whole truth to this committee and to the families and to the people looking at this … and these families are suffering because of it,” a visibly angry Duckworth said as she pointed to relatives of passengers who died.

Muilenburg denied that Boeing ever blamed the pilots. Several times this spring and summer he said the accidents were caused by a “chain of events,” not a single factor. The comments were widely seen as deflecting blame, including to the pilots.

The CEO told senators Tuesday that Boeing has always trained pilots to respond to the same effect caused by an MCAS failure — a condition called runaway trim — which can be caused by other problems.

Muilenburg and Boeing’s chief engineer for commercial airplanes, John Hamilton, spent about 80 minutes at the witness table. The committee then heard from two safety officials who helped shape reports about the Boeing plane.

The hearing took place exactly one year after a 737 Max crashed off the coast of Indonesia and more than seven months after a second crash in Ethiopia. In all, 346 people died. Muilenburg’s testimony was the first by a Boeing executive since the crashes. The CEO is scheduled to testify before a House committee on Wednesday.

Indonesian investigators say Boeing’s design of MCAS contributed to the crash of a Lion Air Max last October. Ethiopian authorities are continuing to investigate the second crash, involving a plane flown by Ethiopian Airlines, which led to a worldwide grounding of the plane.

“Both of these accidents were entirely preventable,” said Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

More than a dozen relatives of passengers who died in the accidents attended the hearing. Wicker invited them to stand and hold up large photos of their relatives, which they had carried into the room. Muilenburg turned in his seat to look at them.

He told senators that Boeing is in the final stages of updating flight software to improve safety by adding redundancy — tying MCAS to a second sensor and second computer at all times, and making the system’s ability to push a plane’s nose down less powerful.

Chicago-based Boeing hopes to win Federal Aviation Administration approval by year end to return the plane to flight. The FAA is also coming under scrutiny for relying on Boeing employees to perform some certification tests and inspections.

READ MORE: Boeing, FAA both faulted in certification of the 737 Max

David Koenig, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Rep. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., displays an email exchange behind him as he questions Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg as he testifies before a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Just Posted

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

A fire broke out near the Willow Point Bottle Depot early on Jan. 22. Photo courtesy Ashley Laycock
Two injured in early-morning fire in Campbell River

Sailboat fire also attended by Campbell River fire crews

A Vancouver Island teacher has started a petition imploring B.C. Premier John Horgan to close provincial borders to non-essential travel and enforce stricter quarantine measures for travellers. (B.C. government)
Teacher launches petition for B.C. to close provincial border, impose stricter quarantine

Province says what works elsewhere may not work here as they look into legalities of such actions

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read