By Claudia Assis, MarketWatch
Boeing Co. Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg on Thursday apologized for the loss of lives in the two recent 737 Max crashes and promised a software fix in the coming weeks.
It was “apparent” that in both flights an anti-stall feature, known as MCAS, activated in error. Pilots have told Boeing an erroneous activation of the MCAS function “can add to what is already a high workload environment,” Muilenburg said.
“It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it and we know how to do it,” Muilenburg said in a statement Thursday addressing preliminary findings about last month’s Ethiopia Air crash, killing all 157 people aboard.
Boeing /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -0.37% is “taking a comprehensive, disciplined approach, and taking the time, to get the software update right. We’re nearing completion and anticipate its certification and implementation on the 737 Max fleet worldwide in the weeks ahead,” he said, adding apologies to airlines and passengers for the jets’ worldwide grounding.
“We remain confident in the fundamental safety of the 737 Max,” Muilenburg said. “When the Max returns to the skies with the software changes to the MCAS function, it will be among the safest airplanes ever to fly.”
Boeing launched the Max family in January 2016, the fourth and latest major iteration of the iconic single-aisle plane. The jets use about 20% less fuel than their predecessors and weigh less. Their most distinctive feature is a split winglet, or wing-tip extension, that is meant to reduce drag and provide extra lift.
Earlier Thursday, Ethiopian authorities released an initial report into the March crash, saying the pilots of the doomed flight followed emergency procedures approved by Boeing and the stall prevention feature activated several times during the six-minute flight, pushing the plane’s nose down, similarly to what happened in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October. That plane crashed into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it expects to get Boeing’s software fix “over the coming weeks” for its review and approval, saying that the company needed more time to complete “additional work” as a result of an ongoing review on the 737 Max flight control systems.
The 737 Max fleet has been grounded worldwide after the two fatal accidents less than five months apart. Boeing said last month its review of flight-control systems on the 737 Max had not revealed additional problems.
Boeing said it will report first-quarter earnings on April 24. Analysts polled by FactSet expect the company to report adjusted earnings of $4.14 a share on sales of $25 billion. That would compare with adjusted earnings of $3.64 a share on sales of $23 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Boeing shares advanced nearly 3% on Thursday. The stock is up 21% in the past 12 months, which compares with gains around 9% for the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -0.37% .