Boeing CEO’s letter to Ethiopian Airlines

28 Mar

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

‘We’re humbled by their resilience and inspired by their courage,’ he added. ‘The airline’s crews have demonstrated this by continuing to serve the flying public with distinction and professionalism.’

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company is ‘humbled and learning’ following two horrific plane crashes that have killed more than 300 people in the last five months (Credit: DailyMail)

The CEO of Boeing said the company is ‘humbled and learning’ following two horrific plane crashes that have killed more than 300 people in the last five months.

Dennis Muilenburg wrote an open letter to Ethiopian Airlines after a Boeing 737 Max flown by the airline carrier crashed earlier this month, killing 157 people.

The letter comes as questions continue to mount over the technology that caused the Boeing planes used by Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air to go down.

Muilenburg used the bulk of his letter to praise Ethiopian Airlines, which he said ‘represents the pride and progress of a great people and a symbol of The New Spirit of Africa’.


‘As the airline’s Group CEO Ato Tewolde GebreMariam said in his heartfelt statement yesterday, this tragedy does not define Ethiopian,’ Muilenburg wrote.

‘And it won’t define the aviation industry or our enduring relationship with their team. For those of us who have worked with them over the years, this comes as no surprise.’

Muilenburg then spoke of the ‘unimaginable pain’ that everyone involved with the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident has had to endure.

‘We’re humbled by their resilience and inspired by their courage,’ he added. ‘The airline’s crews have demonstrated this by continuing to serve the flying public with distinction and professionalism.’

‘We are all humbled and learning from this experience. We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder in partnership with the Ethiopian team to grieve and extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and communities of the passengers and crew.’

Muilenburg spoke of the ‘proud history’ of Ethiopian Airlines, calling it a ‘pioneer and a leader’ in the aviation industry that launched ‘Africa into the jet age’ and connected the continent ‘with all corners of the globe’.

The CEO also promised that Boeing was ‘working tirelessly to understand what happened and do everything possible to ensure it doesn’t happen again’.

‘All of us thank Ethiopian Airlines for their commitment and share their resolve to doing everything possible to build an even safer air travel system,’ he added.

‘Boeing stands together with all our customers and partners to earn and strengthen the flying public’s trust and confidence in us every day.’

Muilenburg and the American aircraft manufacturing company will have its work cut out for them after a report revealed that pilots had less than 40 seconds to correct a fault with Boeing’s automated system that investigators believe led to both crashes.

The pilots underwent a crisis simulation test to recreate the final moments of Lion Air Flight 610, which nosedived into the Java Sea in Indonesia shortly after take off in October 2018.

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, is also the focal point of the probe into the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the same Boeing 737 Max model.


When a sensor failed during the simulation test, the automatic stall prevention kicked in – giving pilots a matter of seconds to manually override the system to avoid a steep and irreversible downward dive, the New York Times reports.

Citing two people familiar with the testing, the newspaper reports that those involved had not entirely understood how powerful the software was until they used the simulator.

The means of disengaging the system as described by the Times are complex. Pilots can reverse the anti-stall system by flicking a switch, but this would only delay a potential crash by several minutes.

In order to fully avoid disaster, pilots would need to activate two further switches, cutting off electricity to the motor pushing the plane’s nose downwards, and also cranking a wheel to correct the resulting problems.

This must all be done extremely quickly otherwise attempts to resolve the problem might be too late.


The MCAS system is a central focus of the investigation into why the two planes crashed shortly after take-off (Credit: Daily Mail)

John Cox, an Aviation safety consultant and former 737 pilot, told the Times that although pilots would likely trigger the first switch to extend the 40-second window, this would only buy several more minutes.

There would still be scarcely enough time to diagnose and solve the problem.

In fact, the pilots and crew of the Lion Air flight were not even aware of the system. The captain reportedly consulted a technical manual in the jet’s final airborne moments.

Following that first disaster, American pilots met with Boeing executives in Texas and demanded to know why the manufacturer had not told them about the new software.

They also questioned whether a 56-minute iPad course on the MAX had been sufficient.

Boeing has been working on a software upgrade for an anti-stall system and more pilot controls on its fastest-selling jetliner.

The software fix will prevent repeated operation of the anti-stall system at the center of safety concerns, and deactivate it if one sensor appears to have failed, two people familiar with pilot briefings told Reuters on Monday.

Upgrading an individual 737 MAX with Boeing’s new software only takes about an hour per plane, though the overall process could stretch on far longer as it is rolled out across the global fleet due to stringent testing and documentation requirements by engineers and regulators, according to a senior Federal Aviation Administration official with knowledge of the process.

American Pilots will also have to complete FAA-approved computer-based training on the changes, followed by a mandatory test, but some pilots have said more may be needed.

Investigations are ongoing, but a preliminary report on an Ethiopian Airlines crash will very likely be released this week, the country’s transport ministry said on Tuesday.

This week Boeing is also briefing airlines on software and training updates for the MAX, with more than 200 global airline pilots, technical experts and regulators due in Renton, Washington, where the plane is built.

Any fixes to the MAX software must still get approval from governments around the world.

The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with orders worth more than $500billion at list prices. Within less than a week after the Ethiopian crash, the jets were grounded globally.

Ethiopian and French investigators have pointed to ‘clear similarities’ between the two crashes, putting pressure on Boeing and US regulators to come up with an adequate fix. Aviation expert expects multiple factors in Boeing 737 crash.

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