Boeing chairman, president & CEO Dennis Muilenburg described his response to the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 and the subsequent grounding of the 737 MAX 8, as the US manufacturer finds itself scrambling to restore confidence in the type.
His remarks came during an April 11 speech at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas.
“I joined our Boeing test pilots last week aboard the 737 MAX flight for a demonstration of the updated software,” Muilenburg said. “During the flight, the crew performed different scenarios that exercise the software changes in multiple flight conditions. The software update functioned as designed, and I was impressed by the work and professionalism of our team.”
“Overall, our team has made 96 flights totaling over 159 hours of air time with this updated software,” he added. “They will continue additional test flights in the coming weeks and continue to demonstrate that we’ve identified and met all certification requirements.”
The Boeing chief also described an informational event the company hosted at its Seattle campus in March to brief more than 200 international regulators and airline officials about the planned software update and revised training requirements for the MAX 8. He said Boeing leadership has concluded similar meetings in the UK, Singapore and China with international airline pilots and investigators.
“Pilots and leaders in 67% of our more than 50 MAX customers and operators around the world have participated in simulator sessions that included the new software update. We want everyone to be confident that the additional training and educational resources we’re developing and deploying will do the job.”
The entire MAX fleet was grounded worldwide in March after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines’ flight ET302 shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. All 157 people onboard were killed. It followed the crash of Lion Air JT610, also a MAX, Oct. 29, 2018, killing 189.
Ongoing crash investigations have indicated the MAX’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) anti-stall software is a common link and Boeing is working on a fix that will need to be tested and certified before the MAX can re-enter service.
Muilenburg stressed the importance of communication during times of crisis, and described how he scrambled in the days and weeks following the Ethiopian Airlines crash walking the floor of his facilities and meeting with workers “on the frontlines” of the 737 program.
“In times like these, it’s not possible to over-communicate, and I’ve been updating our people frequently as details emerge—when it’s appropriate to do so—aligned with our international aviation protocol.”