Spotlight: Boeing CEO under harsher criticism in 5-hour Congressional hearing

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-31 04:29:39|Editor: Wang Yamei
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg got a harsher thrashing on Wednesday as he testified for the second day before U.S. Congress, grilled by new evidence about the company's malpractice in two air crashes that killed 346 people in a short span of five months.

"I am responsible. These two accidents happened on my watch. I feel responsible to see this through," said Muilenburg.

Muilenburg's response came after Peter DeFazio, chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in his opening statement that Boeing's actions were "inexplicable, inexcusable and as far as I know unprecedented in the history of aviation."

DeFazio showed an internal Boeing document in 2015, two years before the 737 Max planes involved in the two accidents got its certificate, that an engineer expressed concerns about the jetliner's single sensor whose failure would set off an automated anti-stalling system MCAS that pushes the plane's nose down.

Both accidents -- Indonesia's Lion Air crash in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines crash this March -- involved the repeated activation of MCAS, which responded to erroneous signals from a sensor that measures the airplane's angle of attack, according to Muilenburg.


The 2015 document presented in the hearing was one of new pieces of evidence that Boeing ignored the safety warnings about its products.

In Tuesday's hearing at the U.S. Senate, Muilenburg failed to explain why Boeing covered up messages made by its two employees in 2016 when a Boeing pilot told his co-workers that the flight handling system was "running rampant" during simulator tests.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker said those messages showed a "disturbing level of casualness and flippancy" of Boeing company.

More evidences are revealed at Wednesday's hearing that took more than five hours. A document released in June of 2018 showed that a slow reaction for more than 10 seconds to MCAS warnings would lead to a "catastrophic" consequence, making the human rescue in case of emergency difficult.

Also, a document based on Boeing's presentation to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in December of 2018, when the first crash in October had already taken place, showed that Boeing knew the erroneous AOA signal was "potentially catastrophic," but it gave no software updates.

DeFazio said in an earlier statement that the House panel was aware of "at least one case where a Boeing manager implored the then-vice president and general manager of the 737 program to shut down the 737 Max production line because of safety concerns."

Boeing showed a "lack of candor all throughing this" as it developed the plane, according to DeFazio.


At the hearing, Muilenburg's "I am accountable" speech irked a couple of congressmen as they pointed out he received a 15 million U.S. dollars bonus after the Lion Air tragedy.

Representative Steve Cohn was infuriated that Muilenburg earned 30 million dollars in 2018 and was only stripped of his position of Boeing board chairman as a punishment for his role in the two accidents. Muilenburg said he would not resign.

Representative Jesus Garcia pointed to Boeing's "culture of greed" as its stock tripled from 140 U.S. dollars in 2015 when Muilenburg became Boeing's CEO, to about 420 dollars in 2019 and Muilenburg approved large stock buyback two months after Lion Air crash to boost the share price.

Boeing's profit-driven strategy put "undue pressure" over its employment performance, according to Garcia.

Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said that, "this is a story about a company cutting corners, taking short-cut, sacrificing safety to achieve maximum profits," and the result is 346 lives were lost due to Boeing's negligence.