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Boeing CEO: "We've learned from both of these crashes"

Boeing president and CEO, Dennis Muilenburg.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg answered questions about the training, design and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX jet, and apologized to family members of the victims in two plane crashes, telling lawmakers the company deserves the scrutiny it has received in a testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The crashes that killed a total of 346 people resulted in the global grounding of the Boeing aircraft, thousands of cancelled flights and millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Of note: Muilenburg testified on Oct. 28 — exactly one year after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed, killing 189 passengers in Indonesia. Another fatal accident in Ethiopia this March killed 157.

What they're saying:

“If you want to be the leader” in aviation manufacturing, “you have to be the leader in safety.”
— Sen. Marie Cantwell (D-Wash.)
  • Cantwell asked if Boeing thoroughly tested the MCAS system, to which Boeing's chief engineer John Hamilton explained the company did perform tests, but the system's reliance on a single sensor was wrong.
  • Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, described the two crashes as "entirely preventable,” and asked Muilenburg why Boeing only recently provided investigators with internal emails and text messages from before the crashes that raised concerns about the MCAS system.
  • Muilenburg admitted he had been briefed on messages about the flight-control system after the first crash, five months before the second one occurred.
  • When asked if he was feeling pressure to resign, Muilenburg said: "Those aren’t discussions I’m involved in. We have important work to do for the world. Safety is at the very forefront of that."

State of play: The company last week reported that its third-quarter revenue fell 21% year-over-year to $20 billion, and profits fell 51% to $1.17 billion. Muilenburg also had his chairmanship stripped earlier this month, and Boeing fired the head of its jet airliner division last week.

  • As of Oct. 25, the FAA said it is continuing "to review Boeing’s proposed changes to the 737 MAX ... the aircraft will return to service only after the FAA determines it is safe."
  • Muilenburg added Tuesday that the jet will only return when everyone considers it safe.

Go deeper: The shared lessons of the Boeing and GM disasters