Boeing completes year of turmoil with promise to Indonesia on 737 MAX crash
Boeing on Friday promised to act on safety recommendations for its 737 MAX aircraft made in a new report by Indonesian investigators on the deadly Lion Air crash a year ago.
The company also voiced its grief over the October 29, 2018 crash after takeoff from Jakarta that killed all 189 people on board, a response that marked a shift in tone compared with its reaction to a preliminary report last November.
In a statement on Friday, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg outlined changes planned for the so-called MCAS cockpit software that has been widely linked to the accident and the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet five months later.
“We are addressing the (Indonesian accident agency) KNKT’s safety recommendations and taking actions to enhance the safety of the 737 MAX to prevent the flight control conditions that occurred in this accident from ever happening again,” he said.
The company’s previous statement, which included no comment from Boeing leaders and was viewed as clumsy by some family representatives, indirectly pointed the finger at Lion Air’s cockpit and ground crew by listing questions that the report hadn’t answered.
Senior aviation officials, speaking privately, as well as analysts and some Boeing insiders expressed surprise at the time, saying the statement tested the limits of a UN-backed agreement to prevent parties commenting on live investigations.
The rules against speaking out during investigations are usually strictly followed by all plane makers including Boeing.
“Boeing made a crucial misstep last year by attempting to deflect responsibility to third parties,” said Ronn Torossian, chief executive of New York PR firm 5WPR.
“The fact of the matter is, organizations that admit fault and actively work to solve issues always come out looking more favorable than those who place blame on others.”
With dozens of lawsuits pending, Boeing has not admitted liability. But in March it acknowledged that MCAS was one link in a wider chain of events when an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX also crashed, leading to a worldwide grounding of the fleet.
In their final report on Friday, Indonesian investigators highlighted design flaws in MCAS software while also revealing errors or confusion among crew and faulting airline operations.
“It was not wise to blame the pilots after the first report and it could have been said differently,” said Paul Hayes, safety director at UK-based consultancy Ascend by Cirium.
“Yes, there were pilot errors but they should never been placed in that position inside the cockpit,” he added.
A Boeing spokesman said it had no further comment.