Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Photo: Jim Young-Pool/Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with CBS Evening News, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg apologized to the families of the 346 people who died when two of the company's 737 MAX 8 jets crashed in separate incidents within a 5-month period.

“We feel terrible about these accidents, and we apologize for what happened. We are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents. We are sorry for the impact to the families and the loved ones that are behind, and that will never change, that will always be with us. I can tell you it affects me directly as a leader of this company. It’s very difficult.”

Why it matters: This is the first time Muilenburg made an unqualified apology to crash victims, and it represents a turning point in company strategy in getting its best-selling aircraft back in the air again.

Context: Both crashes have been tied to an aircraft control system known as MCAS, which was designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling, or losing lift, in certain flight configurations. The repeated intervention of MCAS when a stall was not imminent is thought to have contributed to both crashes and resulted in the grounding of all 737 MAX jets.

  • The crashes, which were unprecedented for a modern airliner introduction into worldwide service, prompted the FAA, Justice Department, SEC and congressional committees to launch investigations into the aircraft's design, certification and operation.

What's next: Boeing is preparing to submit a software fix that they hope will lead to re-certification of the aircraft by the FAA and international aviation regulators.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the Boeing 737 MAX crashes

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