Boeing Admits To ‘Mistake’ In Handling MAX Issues (Corrected)


Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters on Sunday that the company made a “mistake” in not immediately telling regulators, pilots and airlines about the problems it was having with the angle of attack disagree warning on the Boeing 737 MAX. It only worked if the customer bought an AOA cockpit indicator and it took Boeing about a year to let authorities know. In comments ahead of the Paris Air Show, he called Boeing’s approach to dealing with the alert “unacceptable” and described as “inconsistent.” “We clearly had a mistake in the implementation of the alert,” Muilenburg said. Some news outlets described the admission as an apology for two crashes of the brand-new airplane in late 2018 and early 2019 that killed 346 people and in which faulty AOA data is implicated.

Since the crash Boeing and its development of a new software system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) have been under an investigative microscope by regulators and the media and the suggestion is that Boeing withheld knowledge of the potential dangers of the system. In both crashes, it’s believed that faulty angle of attack data triggered the MCAS, causing it to ultimately overpower pilots’ efforts to stop their aircraft from diving into the ground. Muilenburg said the company is dealing with the issue with “humility” and that Boeing will emerge as a “better and stronger company.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Muilenberg’s comments related to the MCAS system as a whole rather than the AOA issues specifically.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I believe you meant Muilenburg, not Mullenburg. And the communication “mistake” Muilenburg referred to was in reference to an AOA disagree indicator, not the MCAS system.

    C’mon guys, you are supposed to be where aviation pros go to get the straight news on the aviation industry. The available evidence indicates these crews may have been overwhelmed by too many irrelevant cockpit warnings, and I have read nothing from a credible source suggesting these accidents may have been avoided if the AOA disagree indicator in question had been functioning. A brief review of headlines regarding Muilenburg’s statement makes it clear the wider (uninformed) news industry is attempting to connect this AOA disagree light issue with MCAS. Why are you helping them?

    • I agree. So you’re the pilot of a Lion Air airplane that has no knowledge of the existence of of MCAS on your machine and an AoA disagree light comes on (IF they had it?). That’s going to get the crew focused on AoA, not the trim system necessarily. Irrelevant. In that accident, I fault the prior crew for not being more overt in communicating the problem and what they did to fix it and the accident crew for not recognizing a trim issue and turning the trim system off.

      IF there had been a warning lamp saying, “MCAS Activated,” at least the crew would have known that something was triggering it on along with an apparent trim runaway. Without that warning and knowledge of the existence of MCAS by the Lion Air crew … they were doomed on takeoff.

      Less obvious with the second crew who had been apprised of the existence of MCAS and what it would do IF it activated was why they reactivated the trim system. Only when I read that they couldn’t manhandle the airplane and likely reactivated trim to help did it make sense. I guess no one knew about the yo yo maneuver?

      In the end … Boeing and the cozy delegation of ODA authority by the FAA are to blame. All I’ve read to date is that the Director of Engineering had been replaced. I would think 346 people would want a more heavy handed response IF they were alive? Lotsa lip flapping and no heads have yet fallen.

  2. I agree with the previous comment relative to AvWeb providing the industry with only “milk toast” comments about Boeing and the 737 MAX crashes. Lately all you see is Boeing CEO Muilenburg talking about how they are responsible and have a software fix ready to go. Well, who would be responsible if it isn’t Boeing and in concert the FAA. Boeing isn’t ready with a software fix until someone OTHER than BOEING says so. The 737 MAX wasn’t a victim of a “mistake”. It was “out of the box” a victim of out and out FRAUD. From day one it was evident to those of us who are in this field that the entire airplane development started with Boeing thinking that on their own decision they could make anything in ARP-4761, ARP-4754, 14 CFR 25.1309, (EASA)CS-25.1309, RTCA DO-178c, RTCA DO-254, and RTCA DO-160 “optional”. You can’t just decide to NOT DO the requirements in those documents. Note that 14CFR carries the strength of Federal Law. Anyone who signed his name to the 737 MAX development documents and subsequent software release needs to start looking for a Lawyer. BTW, where was Muielenburg during the 737 MAX development years ago. Maybe if he was involved in that effort instead of opportunistic “photo ops” he wouldn’t now be trying to smooth over two crashes. So, AvWeb stop calling cow chips meadow muffins.

  3. Good commentary but why is the identity of the commentators concealed?

    Now, Boeing technically erred inducing pilot confusion, 346 died, Boeing denies responsibility, then continues to tap dance, apologizes, the 346 are still dead. If It Is A Max Boeing, I ain’t goin’!


  4. It is going to take several years for the Boeing company to over come making “SAFETY AN OPTION”. It has been joked around for years that SAFETY was 3rd. After production/ maintenance time line and the “bottom line”. Now Boeing demonstrated that very joke, to be very true and in practice today!