October 29, 2019

Boeing CEO Confronted on ‘Stunning Pilot Messages
(Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. President Dennis Muilenburg testifies before lawmakers in both houses of Congress this week for the first time since a pair of the planemaker’s 737 Max jets crashed, killing 346 people.He was questioned Tuesday by the Senate Commerce Committee and is scheduled for an appearance Wednesday before the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel.Here are the latest developments:Hearing Ends With Warning on ‘Human Factors’ (1:18 p.m.)Boeing’s test of an MCAS failure in flight simulators didn’t anticipate the complex emergency that occurred in both accidents, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt told senators.As the planemaker assessed whether the system implicated in the crashes was safe, it didn’t replicate the confusing cacophony of alarms in the cockpit, Sumwalt said.That test helped lead Boeing to conclude that pilots could handle such an emergency, but in all three cases -- the accidents and an incident on a Lion Air flight a day before its crash --pilots didn’t initially recognize what was happening and had a delayed response, Sumwalt said.“We did identify holes,” Sumwalt said of NTSB’s review of the plane’s certification. The safety board issued recommendations to Boeing and FAA last month.Christopher Hart, a former NTSB chairman who led the Joint Authorities Technical Review that issued a cutting report earlier this month on how the plane was certified, said pilots weren’t told about the system and couldn’t practice how to respond.“It’s also seeing it for the first time without training,” Hart said.He said the future of aviation safety will likely have less to do with mechanical failures that were common in past disasters, but rather the interaction of pilots with the equipment: “the human factor.”\-- Alan LevinCEO Confronted on Messages Called ‘Stunning’ (11:53 a.m.)Senator Ted Cruz took one of the hardest lines with Muilenburg, often raising his voice in heated questioning about what called “stunning” instant messages released recently in which a senior Boeing pilot told a colleague he’d unknowingly lied to regulators.The Texas Republican who chairs of the Senate Commerce Committee’s aviation panel read portions of the messages aloud and grilled Muilenburg about why company only recently provided to FAA and lawmakers, months after Boeing gave the correspondence to the Justice Department.He also criticized Muilenburg over his admission that he’d only recently learned the details of the exchange.“You’re the CEO. The buck stops with you. Did you read this document and how did your team not put it in front of you and run in with their hair on fire saying ‘We got a real problem here?”’ Cruz said.Muilenburg said he was made aware of “this kind of document” earlier this year and said he counted on lawyers to handle the situation appropriately.\-- Ryan BeeneCEO Asks Himself Whether 2nd Crash Avoidable (11:15 a.m.)Could Boeing have done more after a Lion Air jet plunged into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia a year ago to prevent a second fatal crash less than five months later?The company quickly convened a broad technical team, issued a bulletin to operators warning of a flight-control system in the Max that pushed its nose down, and started working on a redesign of MCAS, the system.But the jet wasn’t grounded until after the second crash, involving an Ethiopian Airlines plane.“I think about that decision over and over again,” Muilenburg said. “If we knew then what we know now we would have made a different decision.”\-- Julie JohnssonEngineer Says Boeing Erred in Test of Key Sensor (11:03 a.m.)Boeing’s chief engineer for commercial airlines acknowledged that the company erred by not specifically testing the potential for a key sensor to erroneously cause software on the 737 Max to drive down the plane’s nose.In both fatal crashes, faulty data from one of two angle-of-attack sensors, which measure the pitch of the plane against the oncoming stream of air, caused the 737 Max’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, to drive down the jet’s nose, which pilots struggled to counteract before ultimately entering a fatal dive.John Hamilton, vice president and chief engineer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told senators that the company “did test the MCAS uncommanded inputs to the stabilizer system, due to whatever causes was driving it, not specifically due to an AOA sensor.”Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the Senate Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, asked if he now thought that was wrong.“In hindsight, senator, yes,” Hamilton replied.\-- Ryan BeeneCEO Says Wasn’t Briefed on ‘Jedi Mind-Trick’ Emails (10:46 a.m.)Muilenburg said he wasn’t fully briefed on the details of damning emails and instant messages from a company pilot Mark Forkner complaining about a system later linked to two crashes until a “couple weeks ago.”In sometimes flippant emails sent by the former senior Boeing pilot, Forkner referred to “Star Wars” to describe how he was attempting to persuade the FAA and other regulators about approving the Max.The documents came to light during a probe conducted between the two crashes and were shared with U.S. Justice Department investigators, but not the Federal Aviation Administration.In one message, Forkner wrote to a colleague in one that he was “just getting ready to hit breakfast then try and jedi mind trick these people into buying some airplanes!”On Tuesday, Muilenburg said he relied on Boeing’s counsel to distribute the messages to the “appropriate authorities.”He later apologized to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson for the omission.He initially said he was aware of the communications before the Ethiopian crash, then clarified that he didn’t know about the contents of the messages.\-- Julie Johnsson, Alan LevinCEO Begins Testimony By Addressing Families (10:24 a.m.) Muilenburg opens his testimony by addressing the family members of crash victims assembled in the hearing room.“We are sorry, truly and deeply sorry,” Muilenburg said. “As a husband and father, I am heartbroken by your losses.”The crash of a Lion Air 737 Max last October and a second involving Ethiopian Airlines in March killed 346 people. Boeing has been sued by the victims’ families, in June said it was offering $100 million to support those families.Roughly 20 family members of the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims were in the hearing room, sitting directly behind Muilenburg. They initially held photos of their loved ones.Muilenburg will meet with about 20 family members Tuesday afternoon, according to an attorney for some of them.\-- Ryan BeeneChairman Opens Hearing to Find Out What Went Wrong: 10:04 a.m.Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker opened the hearing promising family members, some of whom are in the chamber, that they would get to the bottom of what went wrong and keep it from happening again.“Both of these accidents were entirely avoidable,” Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, said as he gaveled the hearing to order. “We cannot fathom the pain experienced by the families of those 346 souls who were lost.”Senators are expected to sharply question Muilenburg in a hearing that will likely last several hours. After Muilenburg, the panel will hear from Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Christopher Hart, a former NTSB chair who oversaw a multinational review that found several shortcomings in the FAA’s certification of 737 Max.“These families deserve answers, accountability and action, and the public deserves no less,” Wicker said.\-- Ryan BeeneMuilenburg, Asked if He Will Resign, Says That’s Not His FocusBoeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, asked by reporters if he plans to resign, said that’s not his focus and reiterated that company is focused on safety.Muilenburg, speaking before the hearing, said he’s committed to doing everything he can to ensure accidents like this never happen again.“We’re responsible for our airplanes,” Muilenburg said.In written testimony prepared for the hearing, Muilenburg said “We know we made mistakes and got some things wrong.”\-- Kasia KlimasinskaKey Events:Testimony begins one year from the date when a Lion Air 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. It will be the first time Muilenburg takes questions from lawmakers since the crash and a subsequent one by an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max in March that killed all 157 people on board that led to the worldwide grounding of the company’s top-selling and most profitable passenger jet.Uncertainty over when the Max 7 family will fly again is rippling through the airline industry and Boeing’s finances. The U.S. manufacturer’s bill is $9.2 billion and rising, as it faces questions about the plane’s development and its own transparency. Boeing is aiming for a return to service later this year but some airlines have pulled Max flights through next year.Lawmakers have indicated they want to ask whether Boeing had too much sway in certifying the 737 Max through a longstanding program at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that deputizes company employees to issue safety approvals on the agency’s behalf.A report released Friday by Indonesian investigators highlighted the role of designees in approving the 737 Max design, including what investigators have flagged as a key vulnerability in the jet’s flight controls that malfunctioned during the fatal crashes.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Ryan Beene in Washington at rbeene@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth WassermanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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