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Boeing CEO Admits Error Regarding 737 MAX Aircraft Issues



Just ahead of the Paris Air Show, running June 17 through June 23 at Paris-Le Bourget Airport, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg addressed the controversy surrounding the company’s apparent failure to report a faulty sensor in its 737 MAX aircraft.

In his comments, made to reporters at a Paris press conference, Muilenburg referred to the “angle of attack (AOA) disagree alert” in question—a key safety feature of the 737 MAX—the functional failure of which is suspected to have played a part in the Lion Air crash of October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019.

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Muilenburg conceded that engineers discovered in 2017 that the alert light did not work as intended, and he said he was “disappointed” that Boeing did not work to make the information more public, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe told NPR in a phone interview from Paris, “We clearly fell short in the implementation of the AOA disagree alert, and we clearly should have communicated better with our regulators and the airlines.”

The AOA disagree alert communicates with the aircraft’s automated flight control system software, known as MCAS (maneuvering characteristics augmentation system). An indicator light was supposed to warn pilots if the airplane’s sensors were transmitting contradictory data about the direction of the plane’s nose.

In a statement, Boeing said it had intended for the AOA indicator to come standard on the 737 MAX, but discovered that it only worked in conjunction with an optional safety feature, which airlines would have needed to purchase separately. Unfortunately, only 20 percent of customers bought the optional, additional feature; and The New York Times has said that neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian Airlines had functioning AOA disagree indicators on their 737 MAX fleets.

NPR reported in March: “If the angle of attack sensors indicate the nose of the plane is too high, MCAS automatically forces the nose of the plane down. Investigators of the Lion Air plane crash…say a faulty sensor fed the system erroneous data, and the system forced the nose of the plane down repeatedly. The pilots may not have known the system even existed and engaged in a futile struggle to regain control of the aircraft.”

Per Boeing’s press release last week, the aerospace giant plans on using the 2019 Paris Air Show to showcase its broad range of commercial and defense products, services and technologies, with interactive exhibits, flight display and static displays of its latest aircraft. The release states: “The company’s presence and activities at the show will demonstrate its commitment to innovation, industry partnerships and safety.

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