'We are sorry': Boeing CEO personally apologizes to victims of 737 Max crashes but says he will 'continue to lead the company'

Screen Shot 2019 05 29 at 3.26.09 PMCBS Evening News

  • Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg personally apologized to the victims of the deadly Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes involving the company's 737 Max aircraft during an interview with CBS Evening News.
  • "We are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents," Muilenburg said. "We're sorry for the impact to the families and loves ones that are behind. And that will never change. That will always be with us. I can tell you it affects me directly as a leader of this company. It's very difficult."
  • "And unfortunately, I can't change what happened," he added. "I would if I could. But what I can commit to is that our company is going to do everything possible to ensure safety going forward."
  • Muilenburg admitted to the company's botched implementation of a software fix for its aircraft.
  • "The implementation of that software - we did not do it correctly," Muilenburg said. "Our engineers discovered that. We are fixing it now. And our communication on that was not what it should have been."
  • Muilenburg stopped short of resigning and said he believed he should continue leading one of the largest aerospace companies in the world.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg apologized to the victims of the deadly Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes involving the company's 737 Max aircraft during an interview with CBS Evening News.

"I do personally apologize to the families," Muilenburg said in the interview that aired Wednesday. "We feel terrible about these accidents."

"We are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents," he added. "We're sorry for the impact to the families and loves ones that are behind. And that will never change. That will always be with us. I can tell you it affects me directly as a leader of this company. It's very difficult."

All 371 Boeing 737 Max airliners in operation have been grounded around the world since March 13 after the crashes of Lion Air Flight JT610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, which occurred less than five months apart. A total of 342 passengers and crew died in the two crashes.

"I understand the feelings of all of these loves ones and families that have been affected," Muilenburg said. "I can't even claim to begin to comprehend how much it's impacted them."

"And unfortunately, I can't change what happened," he added. "I would if I could. But what I can commit to is that our company is going to do everything possible to ensure safety going forward."

Read more: 'It will be a crash for sure': Ethiopian Airlines pilot reportedly warned senior employees that pilots needed more training on Boeing 737 Max

Boeing 737Saul Loeb/AFP

The CEO attributed the two crashes to maintenance issues involving inaccurate sensor data, which led to an added workload for the pilots.

The major issue for Boeing and industry regulators is the flight system that is triggered by a sensor. MCAS, or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, is a new control system found on board the 737 Max that was not disclosed to airlines and pilots until the Lion Air crash in October. Boeing confirmed in April that faulty readings from malfunctioning angle-of-attack sensors triggered MCAS ahead of both the Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March.

In March, Boeing rolled out a series of proposed software updates designed to roll back the intrusiveness of MCAS, along with additional pilot training on the differences between the previous generation 737 NG and the 737 Max.

Muilenburg admitted to the company's botched implementation of the software.

"The implementation of that software - we did not do it correctly," Muilenburg said. "Our engineers discovered that. We are fixing it now. And our communication on that was not what it should have been."

"We clearly fell short. And the implementation of this [alert] was a mistake," he added. "We did not implement it properly."

Muilenburg said he was "confident in the fundamental safety of the airplane" following the fixes, adding that he would "absolutely" feel safe flying on the aircraft.

Muilenburg stopped short of resigning and said he believed he should continue leading one of the largest aerospace companies in the world.

"It's important that I continue to lead the company and the fact that lives depend on the work we do," Muilenburg said. "Whether it's people flying on our commercial airplanes, or military men and women around the world who use our defense products. That is a worthy mission."

With more than 5,000 aircraft sold over the past few years, the 737 Max is the fastest-selling airliner in Boeing history. One of Boeing's strongest selling points for the Max is its commonality with the NG, which makes operations cheaper for airlines because they don't have to extensively retrain their 737 pilots.

The company has been under intense scrutiny following the crashes, and news reports have issued other concerns. Recent news reports showed employees were allowed to self-inspect their work, and issues in the production process of some of its aircraft - such as the 787 Dreamliner - were revealed. Errors on the production line included debris in airspeed sensors, rags and bolts in planes, and loose cabin seats, The Post and Courier reported earlier in May.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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