March 18, 2019 9:41 pm
Updated: March 19, 2019 11:01 am

‘Our hearts are heavy’: Boeing CEO says company determined to improve safety of 737 MAX

WATCH: 'Lives depend' on plane safety: Boeing CEO says company determined to improve 737 MAX

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The CEO of Boeing says the embattled aviation giant is doing everything it can to improve the safety of its 737 MAX aircraft in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air passenger jet crashes.

The 737 MAX aircraft series has come under heavy scrutiny after its involvement in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018, which killed 157 and 189 people respectively.

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On Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company was aware that “lives depend on the work we do” and that it was working feverishly to improve the safety of its aircraft.

“Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX,” Muilenburg said in a statement Monday evening.

“We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.”

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Muilenburg said experts from Boeing have been working with Ethiopian authorities and international investigators to assess the information from the airplane’s black box and flight data recorders.

He also confirmed that Boeing would soon release a software update for the 737 MAX along with updated pilot training material “that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.”

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Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Monday that Transport Canada would conduct its own certification of the software update regardless of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s assessment.

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Investigators have identified similarities between data recorded by the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air jets.

Analysis of the Ethiopian Airlines cockpit recorder showed its “angle of attack” data was “very, very similar” to that of the Lion Air jet that went down near the Indonesian capital Jakarta in October, a person familiar with the investigation told Reuters.

The angle of attack is a fundamental parameter of flight, measuring the degrees between the air flow and the wing. If the angle is too high, it can throw the plane into an aerodynamic stall.

“If that’s the case, that does raise the possibility that there is a similar occurrence between the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents,” Clint Balog, a Montana-based professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, told Reuters. Even so, it’s too early to draw firm conclusions, he added.

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Under scrutiny is a new automated system in the 737 MAX model that guides the nose lower to avoid stalling, while Boeing has raised questions in the Lion Air case about whether crew used the correct procedures.

In both cases, pilots reported flight control problems within minutes after takeoff and sought permission to return to their port of departure.

READ MORE: Ethiopian Airlines black box data shows ‘clear similarities’ with Lion Air crash: ministry

The 737 MAX 8 jet has been grounded worldwide amid the safety concerns.

The bestselling model was intended to be the industry standard after it was developed in response to rival Airbus’ A320neo, but it is now under a shadow.

The new Airbus A320neo rolls on the runway of Toulouse-Blagnac airport, southwestern France, after successfully completing its first flight, Sept. 25, 2014.

AP Photo/Frederic Lancelot

However, Muilenburg said he had faith in Boeing’s ability to find solutions to the crisis, saying the company was pained by the recent tragedies but would showcase “relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer.”

Read Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s full statement below:

We know lives depend on the work we do, and our teams embrace that responsibility with a deep sense of commitment every day. Our purpose at Boeing is to bring family, friends and loved ones together with our commercial airplanes — safely. The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning. Our hearts are heavy, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.

Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone. This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities. We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies. Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.

Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Our team is on site with investigators to support the investigation and provide technical expertise. The Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau will determine when and how it’s appropriate to release additional details.

Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots. This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident. We’ve been working in full co-operation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board on all issues relating to both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines accidents since the Lion Air accident occurred in October last year.

Our entire team is devoted to the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support. I’ve dedicated my entire career to Boeing, working shoulder to shoulder with our amazing people and customers for more than three decades, and I personally share their deep sense of commitment. Recently, I spent time with our team members at our 737 production facility in Renton, Wash., and once again saw firsthand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies. The importance of our work demands the utmost integrity and excellence — that’s what I see in our team, and we’ll never rest in pursuit of it.

Our mission is to connect people and nations, protect freedom, explore our world and the vastness of space and inspire the next generation of aerospace dreamers and doers — and we’ll fulfil that mission only by upholding and living our values. That’s what safety means to us. Together, we’ll keep working to earn and keep the trust people have placed in Boeing.

— With files from Reuters

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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