US senators grill Boeing chief over deadly 737 Max crashes, Latest World News - The New Paper

US senators grill Boeing chief over deadly 737 Max crashes

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WASHINGTON : Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg faced a grilling by US lawmakers at a hearing on Tuesday over what the company knew about its MCAS stall-prevention system linked to two deadly crashes, and about delays in turning over internal 2016 messages that described erratic behaviour of the software in a simulator.

The hearing, the highest-profile congressional scrutiny of commercial aviation safety in years, heaps pressure on a newly rejiggered Boeing senior management team fighting to repair trust with customers and passengers shaken by an eight-month ban on its 737 Max after the crashes, which killed 346 people.

"You have told me half-truths over and over again," Senator Tammy Duckworth told Mr Muilenburg, questioning why the manufacturer did not disclose more details about MCAS's lack of safeguards.

"You have not told us the whole truth and these families are suffering because of it."

She said pilots did not know enough about MCAS. "You set those pilots up for failure."

Mr Muilenburg acknowledged errors in failing to give pilots more information on MCAS before the crashes, as well as for taking months to disclose it had made optional an alarm that alerts pilots to a mismatch of flight data on the 737 Max.

"We've made mistakes and we got some things wrong. We're improving and we're learning," he said.

On Tuesday, US Representative Peter DeFazio, who heads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a written statement the panel was aware of "at least one case where a Boeing manager implored the then vice-president and general manager of the 737 programme to shut down the Max production line because of safety concerns, several months before the Lion Air crash in October 2018".

"Something went drastically wrong, a total of 346 people died, and we have a duty to fix it," Mr DeFazio added.

Senator Jon Tester noted Boeing had won approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to avoid having to add new crew alerts because it would have been expensive.

"It wouldn't have happened if FAA would have been doing their job, and it also wouldn't have happened if you had known what the hell was going on," he said. - REUTERS