Boeing CEO keeps job intact after facing questions on 737 MAX crashes

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg speaks during a news conference after the company's annual shareholders meeting at the Field Museum in Chicago, on Monday, April 29, 2019. (AP)
Updated 30 April 2019

Boeing CEO keeps job intact after facing questions on 737 MAX crashes

  • Muilenburg survived a shareholder motion to split his chairman and CEO roles
  • He later told reporters he would continue to lead the company through a crisis that has triggered the grounding of Boeing's fastest-selling plane

CHICAGO: Boeing Co CEO Dennis Muilenburg emerged with his job intact at an annual meeting on Monday and promised to win back the public's trust after facing tough questions in the wake of two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX plane.
Battling the biggest crisis of his nearly four years as chief executive officer, Muilenburg survived a shareholder motion to split his chairman and CEO roles.
He later told reporters he would continue to lead the company through a crisis that has triggered the grounding of Boeing's fastest-selling plane, lawsuits, investigations and lingering concerns over the 737 MAX's safety.
"I am very focused on safety going forward," he said after the meeting when reporters asked if he had considered resigning. "I am strongly vested in that. My clear intent is to continue to lead on the front of safety, quality and integrity."
However, Boeing will need to win back the trust of customers, passengers and regulators following the crashes.
"We know we do have work to do to earn and re-earn that trust and we will," Muilenburg said before ending the 16-minute news conference and ignoring shouted questions from reporters as he walked away.
The family of one American victim, 24-year-old Samya Stumo, staged a silent protest outside the meeting site in Chicago, while the families of other victims among the 157 killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX on March 10 held a tearful press conference at a Chicago law firm.
That plane plunged to the ground shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, five months after a similar Lion Air nosedive in Indonesia that killed all 189 passengers and crew.
The families spoke after filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Boeing and Rosemount Aerospace Inc, which designed the sensors used in the 737 MAX, in Chicago federal court, one of dozens of lawsuits Boeing is facing over both crashes.

STUBBED TOE
Daniel Johnson, an engineer and an intermittent Boeing shareholder since 1984, said the company "really stubbed their toe" by allowing the plane's anti-stall system - called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS - to rely on only one sensor.
"The question is: Will they need to rebrand? We don’t know how much the general public actually knows what a 737 MAX is,” Johnson said outside the meeting.
About 150 shareholders gathered in the auditorium of the Chicago Field Museum for the meeting, but only a handful questioned Muilenburg over the MAX or the push to split the chairman and CEO jobs.
One shareholder asked Muilenburg what Boeing was doing on safety assessments following the crashes. The CEO said the company's commitment to safety has not wavered.
“Safety is at the core of what we do. Every day, we try to get better," Muilenburg said at the meeting, which took place exactly six months after the Lion Air crash.
Shares of the company, worth $214 billion, have lost nearly 10 percent of their value since the March 10 crash.
Boeing is under pressure to deliver a software fix to prevent erroneous data from triggering the MCAS system and a new pilot training package that will convince global regulators, and the flying public, that the aircraft is safe.
Boeing has acknowledged that the accidental firing of the software based on bad sensor data was a common link in the chain of events leading to the two accidents.
"We know we can break this link in the chain. It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk," Muilenburg told shareholders. When asked by reporters if the MCAS system was flawed, he said only that Boeing was making improvements to it.

$1 BILLION IMPACT
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration could clear Boeing's 737 MAX jet to fly in late May or the first part of June, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday, though Boeing has yet to submit the updated software and training for review.
Some pilots have warned that draft training proposals do not go far enough to address their concerns.
Boeing said on Monday it was making progress to certify its grounded jets with the software update.
Meanwhile, deliveries of the 737 MAX, which airlines around the world had been relying on to service a growing air travel industry for years to come, are on hold.
Muilenburg said Boeing has been talking to customers and is sensitive to the impact of the crisis on their operations. He said the focus is on getting the MAX flying again.
Last week Boeing abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and said lowered production due to the 737 MAX grounding had cost it at least $1 billion so far.
Shareholders have filed a lawsuit accusing the company of defrauding them by concealing safety deficiencies in the plane. The model is also the target of investigations by U.S. transportation authorities and the Department of Justice.
Manant Vaidya of Canada, who lost six family members in the Ethiopian crash, said he had repeatedly heard Muilenburg defending the design and certification of the 737 MAX.
"At the end of the day, if everything was followed how could the crash have occurred?" Vaidya asked at the news conference at Clifford Law Offices.


Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

Updated 13 October 2019

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

  • EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down hopes Sunday of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an amicable divorce deal with the European Union.
Negotiators went behind closed doors for intensive talks in Brussels after Johnson outlined a new set of proposals to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday.
They have very little time left to succeed.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline just two weeks away.
The 27 would ideally like to have a full proposal to vote on by then.
But the sides are trying to achieve in a few days what they had failed to in the more than three years since Britons first voted to leave the European Union after nearly 50 years.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier called the weekend negotiations “constructive” enough to keep going for another day.
“A lot of work remains to be done,” Barnier stressed in a statement to EU ambassadors.
“Discussions at technical level will continue (Monday).”
Downing Street said Johnson also told his cabinet to brace for a cliff-hanger finish.
He reiterated “that a pathway to a deal could be seen but that there is still a significant amount of work to get there and we must remain prepared to leave on October 31,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Johnson rose to power in July on a promise not to extend Brexit for a third time this year — even for a few weeks.
Breaking that pledge could come back to haunt him in an early general election that most predict for the coming months.
Johnson is under parliamentary orders to seek a extension until January 31 of next year if no deal emerges by Saturday.
He has promised to both follow the law and get Britain out by October 31 — a contradiction that might end up being settled in court.
Outgoing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said British politics were getting more difficult to decipher than the riddle of an “Egyptian sphinx.”
“If the British ask for more time, which they probably will not, it would in my view be a historical nonsense to refuse them,” Juncker told Austria’s Kurier newspaper.
Ireland’s Varadkar hinted on Thursday that he could support the talks running on up to the October 31 deadline if a deal seemed within reach.
The few details that have leaked out suggest a compromise around the contentious Irish border issue Britain’s Northern Ireland partially aligned with EU customs rules.
Whether such a fudge suits both Brussels and the more ardent Brexit backers in parliament who must still approve a deal should become clearer by the end of the week.
Britain will only avoid a chaotic breakup with its closest trading partners if the agreement is also passed by the UK parliament — something it has failed to do three times.
Johnson heads a minority government and must rely on the full backing of not only his own fractured Conservatives but also Northern Ireland’s small Democratic Unionist Party.
DUP’s parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds warned Johnson that “Northern Ireland must remain entirely in the customs union of the United Kingdom” and not the EU.
“And Boris Johnson knows it very well,” Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
The comments do not necessarily rule out DUP support.
UK media are presenting Johnson’s mooted compromise as a “double customs” plan that could be interpreted to mean that Northern Ireland is leaving EU rules.
Yet details are still under discussion and the prime minister’s allies are urging lawmakers to give the British leader a chance.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled Sunday that he would wait for the outcome of the EU summit before trying to force an early election.
But he added that there was “a strong possibility” that those polls would come before the Christmas break.