CEO: Boeing made mistake in handling warning-system problem

  • Boeing planes on display at the 2017 Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

PARIS — The chief executive of Boeing said the company made a “mistake” in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in its 737 Max jets before two crashes killed 346 people, and he promised transparency as the aircraft maker works to get the grounded plane back in flight.

Speaking before the industry-wide Paris Air Show, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters Boeing’s communication with regulators, customers and the public “was not consistent. And that’s unacceptable.”

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than a year that a safety indicator in the cockpit of the top-selling plane didn’t work as intended.

Boeing and the FAA have said the warning light wasn’t critical for flight safety.

It is not clear whether either crash could have been prevented if the cockpit alert had been working properly. Boeing says all its planes, including the Max, give pilots all the flight information — including speed, altitude and engine performance — that they need to fly safely.

But the botched communication has eroded trust in Boeing as the company struggles to rebound from the passenger jet crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

“We clearly had a mistake in the implementation of the alert,” Muilenburg said.

Pilots also have expressed anger that Boeing did not inform them about the new software that’s been implicated in the fatal crashes.

Muilenburg expressed confidence that the Boeing 737 Max would be cleared to fly again later this year by U.S. and all other global regulators.

“We will take the time necessary” to ensure the Max is safe, he said.

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The model has been grounded worldwide for three months, and regulators need to approve Boeing’s long-awaited fix to the software before it can return to the skies.

Muilenburg called the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets a “defining moment” for Boeing, but said he thinks the result will be a “better and stronger company.”

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