Boeing defends 'fundamental safety' of 737 MAX after crash report

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has apologised for the 346 lives lost in two separate crashes involving the 737 MAX 8 model.

WASHINGTON - Embattled US aviation giant Boeing insisted on the "fundamental safety" of its 737 MAX aircraft but pledged to take all necessary steps to ensure the jets' airworthiness.

The statements came hours after Ethiopian officials said pilots of a doomed plane had followed the company's recommended procedures prior to a crash that left 157 people dead.

The preliminary findings released on Thursday by transportation authorities in Addis Ababa put the American aircraft giant under even greater pressure to restore public trust, with nearly 350 people dead in crashes involving its formerly top-selling 737 MAX aircraft in less than five months, amid mounting signs the company's onboard anti-stall system was at least partly at fault.

"We remain confident in the fundamental safety of the 737 MAX," CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement, adding that impending software fixes would make the aircraft "among the safest airplanes ever to fly."

READ: Ethiopian Airlines boss 'proud' of pilots on doomed plane

Muilenburg also expressed grief at the loss of life in the recent crashes.

He acknowledged, however, that an "erroneous activation" of Boeing's so-called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) had occurred in both recent crashes. 

The system is designed to prevent stalls but may have sent the Ethiopian and Indonesian jets hurtling uncontrollably into the ground.

In an earlier statement, the head of the company's commercial aircraft division had said Boeing was ready to perform "any and all additional steps" to enhance the safety of the 737 MAX.

READ: Ethiopian Airlines pilots followed emergency procedures before crash: report

Earlier this week, US regulators demanded further improvements to a proposed MCAS fix before it could be submitted for review and announced a review of the certification of the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX.

A report by Ethiopian investigators on Thursday said the crew of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed last month repeatedly followed procedures recommended by Boeing, but were unable to regain control of the jet.

Ethiopian authorities' full report has not been publicly released, but according to a draft copy seen by AFP, shortly after take-off a sensor began transmitting faulty data, prompting the autopilot system to point the nose downwards.

"The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft," said Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges.


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