Boeing's chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg said on Sunday that the company made a "mistake" in handling an issue with a cockpit warning light on its 737 Max 8 jets after two planes crashed within six months of each other, killing 346 people.
On Monday, Boeing's head of commercial aircraft, Kevin McAllister, went even further, apologizing for the passenger deaths at a press conference at the Paris Air Show.
"We are very sorry for the loss of lives as a result of the tragic accidents," McAllister said, referring to the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air Max in the Java Sea and the March 2019 crash of an Ethiopian Air 737 Max. "Our priority is doing everything to get this plane safely returned to service. It is a pivotal moment for all of us."
McAllister also apologized to the airlines who purchased the 737 Max 8 jets, until they were grounded worldwide following the two crashes.
"I'm sorry for the disruption," McAllister said on Monday.
The main issue appears to be flight control software used by the newest model of Boeing's 737 narrow body jet. The 737 Max 8 was redesigned to use more efficient engines, set in a different position that previous generations. That created a difference in how the 737 flew. But instead of re-qualifying the newly designed airplane with the FAA, Boeing sold the aircraft as an updated model of the 737, despite the differences in how the planes flew.
To address the problem, Boeing designed a new system known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which acts as an anti-stall feature to counteract the 737 Max's tendency to pitch up while in flight. However, bad data from the jet's sensors could activate the anti-stall feature, which is what is believed to have caused the two recent plane crashes.
A cockpit warning light designed to alert pilots to the MCAS activating, was not installed on the Lion Air or Ethiopian Air flights. Software would trigger the MCAS when it detected the plane was flying at an angle that increased the likelihood of a stall. However, the light, which was supposed to be standard on all jets, only worked for airlines who purchased the safety feature at an additioanl cost.
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say they won't fly the 737 MAX 8 until at least early September. Both airlines previously announced they would resume flights in August, however that does not appear to be the case any longer. American had to remove about 115 flights from its schedule, with Southwest removing about 100 daily flights from its schedule.
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