Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg will face a grilling from US senators this afternoon over how his company certified its 737 Max jet to fly, after two crashes in the last year killed 346 people.
Muilenburg, who was last month stripped of the dual role of chief executive and chairman, has spent much of this year engulfed in the scandal surrounding the jets, after it emerged the crashes were linked to a glitch in the planes’ software.
Senators will press him on how the best-selling plane was certified to fly in the first place, after investigators linked a fault in its anti-stall system, which forced the jet’s nose to the ground, to the two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
In an appearance set to begin at 2pm UK time, Muilenburg will acknowledge mistakes before the Senate Commerce Committee, according to written testimony released yesterday.
“We have learned and are still learning from these accidents, Mr Chairman. We know we made mistakes and got some things wrong,” the testimony said. “We own that, and we are fixing them.”
Muilenburg will be asked about the plane’s development prior to releasing it to market, and whether management exerted pressure on employees to rush it into service.
The crashes have rocked Boeing, which is the world’s biggest manufacturer of passenger jets, and caused it to ground the 737 Max model indefinitely until it has been passed as safe to fly. Current estimates for when it will return to service range from December to well into next year.
Airlines have repeatedly delayed this forecast, despite taking significant financial hits over the last six months. Currently no US airline includes the 737 Max in its flight schedules until early next year. Boeing, which itself took a 57 per cent hit to its earnings in the third quarter, has said regulators will likely sign off on the model before the end of this year.
“This process has taken longer than we originally expected, but we’re committed to getting it right, and return-to-service timing is completely dependent on answering each and every question from the FAA,” Muilenburg said.