Boeing’s CEO Is Set To Testify About The 737 MAX To Congress Tomorrow

Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg is set to be grilled tomorrow when he fronts the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It will be the first time Mr Muilenburg has fronted a congressional hearing as Boeing’s Chief Executive Officer. He is expected to get a fairly rough ride when questioned over the design, certification and marketing of the 737 MAX.

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The 737 MAX will be put under the microscope in Washington this week at congressional hearings Photo: Boeing

But Boeing is getting on the front foot and owning its mistakes. In a media statement provided to Simple Flying, Mr Muilenburg said Boeing had made mistakes and got things wrong. He expressed his sympathies to the friends and families of those lost in the two 737 MAX accidents.

Boeing is confident about MCAS

Mr Muilenburg will say this week in Washington that Boeing has made significant improvements to the 737 MAX’s flight control software. He will say the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) will now provide additional layers of protection, including,

  • (i) comparing information from both angle of attack sensors prior to responding and only responding if both sensors agree
  • (ii) MCAS will only activate once, and
  • (iii) the pilot will be able to counteract any MCAS input using the control column

In his statement, Mr Muilenburg said;

“We have brought the very best of Boeing to this effort. We’ve dedicated all resources necessary to ensure that the improvements to the 737 MAX are comprehensive and thoroughly tested. When the 737 MAX returns to service, it will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly.”

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Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg might be in for a rough ride in Washington this week. Photo: Hawaii Air National Guard via Wikimedia Commons.

Boeing has invested more than 100,000 engineering and test hours fixing the issues with MCAS. They’ve conducted 814 test flights using the new software and numerous simulator sessions involving 99 Boeing customers and 41 regulators from around the world. Boeing asserts that what happened with Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines will never happen again.

More than MCAS is changing at Boeing

It’s not just MCAS that Boeing is overhauling. Mr Muilenburg will explain to the congressional committee about changes to culture, policies and procedures at Boeing. He plans to,

  • (i) set up an Aerospace Safety Committee from Boeing’s board of directors
  • (ii) set up an organization that will monitor “all aspects of product safety” and reporting processes
  • (iii) reinforce Boeing’s engineering organization and simplify its chain of command
  • (iv) expand research and development in new safety technologies, and
  • (v) attempt to improve safety across the entire aviation sector.
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Airlines and Boeing would like to see the 737 MAX return to service sooner rather than later. Photo: Boeing

These are admirable objectives. But they do smack a bit of board-level motherhood statements. The challenges for Boeing will be to translate these statements to actions and behaviors amongst its 150,000 employees.

A humble tone in Washington

Boeing is adopting an approach to tomorrow’s hearing that could best be described as humble. A lot of people will be watching. Disregarding the financial impact of the grounding, 346 people were killed in the two 737 MAX crashes. “How the hell did this happen?” questioned Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee yesterday.

There is intense interest in the certification and marketing of the 737 MAX, with questions expected to be raised about the relationship and streamlined processes between Boeing and various regulators

Senator Roger Wicker, Chair of the Senate’s Commerce Committee said last week;

“That plane won’t fly unless 99.9% of the American public and American policymakers are convinced that it is absolutely safe.”

Boeing might be right, the 737 MAX with its fixed MCAS might be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly. Convincing everyone of that is a whole new mountain for them to climb.

Simple Flying approached Boeing for further comment. They referred us to their media statement issued on 28 October 2019.

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SY gunson

Thank you MR chairman, I want to assure CONGRESS Boeing wasted no time hiring lawyers & a PR FIRM since these 737 MAX crashes,we’ve had our software developer Gupta working tirelessly on upgrading MCAS. Boeing contracted STARBUCKS TO PROVIDE COFFEE to him 24/7. we even have a guy called Joe checking all GUPTA’S work each morning: joe came to us from the FAA. to write manuals. Joe & Gupta plan to marry just as soon as the MAX is certified again

Boeing has everything under control ..

Chief_Engineer

So Boeing is claiming they are owning their mistakes and yet, they have only offered the families of the victims peanuts in reparations! The first thing to be established is if Boeing knew there was a flaw in the design of MCAS and the fact that it relied solely on one AOA sensor. If Boeing knew this, somebody must go to prison and by somebody, this should include every Boeing person who knew about this and did not disclose it. Next, all families of the victims should be awarded free access to sue Boeing in an effort to teach Boeing… Read more »

Phil

Well, I guess that all the money Boeing was going to save farming out MCAS to a software company that was ignorant of how aircraft fly came back to haunt them. It would have been cheaper to keep the Boeing software engineers employed since the MCAS software they originally designed worked and did not try to dive the airplanes. The fact that Boeing adopted the cut corner practices of defunct McDonald-Douglas is the real issue. Marketing should not be able to dictate engineering practices in order to meet a sales deadline. Oh well, it did not bother those people when… Read more »

john

I watched the hearing. Boeing won’t change until it admits its mistakes and Muilenburg didn’t do that.