Boeing CEO acknowledges 'mistake' in handling of cockpit warning problem before fatal Max jet crashes

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Sunday that the company made a “mistake” in its handling of the implementation of the troubled cockpit warning system in its 737 Max jets prior to two fatal crashes, and said its communication with regulators and customers “was not consistent.”

"We clearly had a mistake in the implementation of the alert," Muilenburg told reporters prior to the Paris Air Show.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than a year that a safety indicator in the cockpit of the top-selling plane didn't work as intended.

Muilenburg expressed confidence that the 737 Max would be cleared to fly again later this year. The model has been grounded worldwide for three months, and regulators need to approve Boeing's long-awaited fix to the flight-control software, known as MCAS, which was designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling. That system was linked to the deadly incidents of an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March that killed 157 people and a Lion Air flight in October 2018 that killed 189.

Boeing's chief executive called the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets a "defining moment" for the Chicago-based firm, but said he thinks the result will be a "better and stronger company." He added that Boeing is facing the event with "humility" and focused on rebuilding trust.

In the United States, Boeing has faced scrutiny from members of Congress and the FAA over how it reported the problem involving a cockpit warning light.


The company discovered in 2017 that a warning light designed to alert pilots when sensors measuring the angle of a plane's nose might be wrong only worked if airlines had purchased a separate feature.

The sensors malfunctioned, alerting software to push the noses of the planes down. The pilots were unable to take back control of the planes.

Boeing told the FAA of what it learned in 2017 after the Indonesia crash in October. Boeing and the FAA have said the warning light wasn't critical for flight safety.

Muilenburg forecast a limited number of orders at the Paris show, the first major air show since the crashes, but said it was important to attend to talk to customers and others in the industry.

He also announced that Boeing is raising its long-term forecast for global plane demand, notably amid sustained growth in Asia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report