In Testimony, Boeing CEO Denies Blaming Pilots

Senators grill Dennis Muilenburg
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 29, 2019 6:07 PM CDT
Boeing CEO Grilled by Senators
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asks a question of Boeing Company President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on "Aviation Safety and the Future of Boeing's 737 MAX."   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg faced withering questions from senators Tuesday about two crashes of 737 Max jets and whether the company concealed information about a critical flight system, the AP reports. "We have made mistakes, and we got some things wrong," Muilenburg conceded. Some members of the Senate Commerce Committee cut Muilenburg off when they believed he was failing to answer their questions about a key flight-control system implicated in both crashes. Boeing successfully lobbied regulators to keep any explanation of the system, called MCAS, from pilot manuals and training. After the crashes, the company tried to blame the pilots, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. "Those pilots never had a chance," Blumenthal said. Passengers "never had a chance. They were in flying coffins as a result of Boeing deciding that it was going to conceal MCAS from the pilots."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Boeing "set those pilots up for failure" by not telling them how the response to a nose-down command on the Max differed from previous 737s. "Boeing has not told the whole truth to this committee and to the families and to the people looking at this ... and these families are suffering because of it," a visibly angry Duckworth said as she pointed to relatives of passengers who died. Muilenburg denied that Boeing ever blamed the pilots. Several times this spring and summer he said the accidents were caused by a "chain of events," not a single factor. The comments were widely seen as deflecting blame, including to the pilots. The CEO told senators Tuesday that Boeing has always trained pilots to respond to the same effect caused by an MCAS failure—a condition called runaway trim—which can be caused by other problems. (More on Muilenburg's testimony, the first by a Boeing executive since the crashes, here.)

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