Boeing CEO admits mistakes were made in first interview since MAX 8 crashes

The CEO of Boeing has admitted the company made mistakes with its Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft while at the same apologising to the families of those killed in the two catastrophic crashes involving the new planes.

A total of 346 people were killed in two similar incidents. Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea in October last year and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on March 10.

All Boeing 737 MAX 8s have since been grounded as a result.

In his first interview since the two crashes, Dennis Muilenburg told CBS News both he and the company he leads are sorry for the chain of events that led to the death of so many passengers.

"I do personally apologise to the families. We feel terrible about these accidents, and we are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents."

"I can tell you it affects me directly as a leader of this company, it's very difficult," Muilenburg said.

Muilenburg said he never considered resigning saying it was important to continue leading the company and make sure everyone remained focused on the work at hand and to learn from both accidents.

When asked about families of the victims pinning the blame on Boeing, the CEO said he respected their views and wanted to ensure both the loved ones and the public that the company is completely committed to safety.

"Unfortunately I can't change what happened I would if I could but what I can commit to is our company is going to do everything possible to ensure safety going forward."

Muilenburg was then grilled by reporter Norah O'Donnell about what exactly unfolded in the cockpits of those fateful flights and what role Boeing's automated flight control software known as MCAS played in the crashes.

EVERETT, WA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Flanked by a pair of chase planes a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner lifts off for its first flight September 17, 2013 at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The 787-9 is twenty feet longer than the original 787-8 and can carry more passengers and more fuel.  (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

"We know there was inaccurate sensor data that came into the aircraft and that there appeared to be a maintenance issue with that sensor, we know that the MCAS software was activated multiple times during that flight and in the end that added to the pilot workload."

Muilenburg was then interrupted by the interviewee who challenged his version of events.

"It was more than multiple times, it was two dozen times. The pilots were essentially in a tug of war with the plane for control of the plane, the MCAS over-road the pilots more than two dozen times, and the pilots lost control and that plane essentially did a death dive into the ocean at 450 mph," O'Donnell put to him.

This is as far as Lion Air flight 610 got in October 2018.
This is as far as Lion Air flight 610 got in October 2018. Photo credit:

She then questioned him on his initial comments that appeared to question the skills of the pilots involved.

"Our purpose is not to point fingers or assign fault. That's not our job. Our purpose is to understand what happened in the accidents so we can make flying even safer," Muilenburg replied.

Boeing has admitted it knew there was a mistake in the software of a warning light associated with the MCAS system, but pilots and maintenance teams were never informed. In fact, it took 13 months for Boeing to inform the FAA.

"The implementation of that software, we did not do it correctly. Our engineers discovered that. We are fixing it now, and our communication on that was not what it should have been. That was not as crisp and as clean as it should have been."

"We clearly fell short," Muilenburg admitted. 

The Boeing CEO said he would happily allow his family to fly on any of the more than 350 737 MAX 8 aircraft currently grounded around the world.