Boeing is in the hot seat today, as its leader, the recently demoted Dennis Muilenburg, testifies before a Senate Committee investigating the crisis precipitated by the crash of two Boeing 737 Max planes last year. The hearings are being attended by many of the family members of victims of two crashes of the 737 Max Lion Air 610, that crashed in Indonesia on October 29, 2018, followed by the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max in March of this year.
In a highly polarized Washington in which the two major parties seem able to agree on nothing, the committed members from both sides of the aisle were nearly unanimous in their outrage over the processes at Boeing that they see as having resulted in the certification of a faulty system and, hence, the two crashes, in which 346 people died.
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Muilenburg, for his part, apologized to the families, but even in his apologies, his words seemed too carefully chosen. He said that Boeing “deserves this scrutiny,” not that it deserves the committee’s approbation. Equally troubling was his insistence that the workings of the MCAS system didn’t need to be in the flight manual or flight training syllabus, though he did concede that perhaps there should be changes to the relationship between the FAA and Boeing. Current rules allow Boeing employees to act as designated representatives of the FAA, with the power to sign off certain steps in the certification process. (Aircraft manufacturing insiders are unanimous in their belief that the system would stop working without the designee system.)
Muilenburg also seemed at a loss to explain why the company failed to share private messages and emails from Boeing’s employees questioning what they saw as a too-cozy relationship between the plane maker and regulators, and others that raised alarm bells about the risks inherent in MCAS as it was then designed.
Muilenburg said that he hopes that the 737 would regain its flying status in the coming weeks or months, but stopped short of giving a more specific target.