Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun admitted to mistakes by the U.S. plane manufacturer and vowed incidents like the mid-air panel blowout last week can “never happen again.”
Calhoun made the remarks to staff at a town hall Tuesday as more than 170 of its 737 Max 9 jets remain grounded in light of the Alaska Airlines incident on Jan. 5.
“We’re going to approach this, No. 1, acknowledging our mistake. We are going to approach it with 100 per cent, complete transparency, every step of the way. We’re going to work with the NTSB, who is investigating the accident itself, to find out what the root cause is,” Calhoun said.
The NTSB refers to the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S., a government agency responsible for determining the causes of aviation accidents or incidents.
“The FAA, who has to now deal with the airline customers who want their airplanes back in service safely, but make sure all the procedures are put in place, inspections, all the readiness actions that are required to ensure every next airplane that goes into the sky is, in fact, safe and that this event can never happen again.”
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Calhoun’s remarks were Boeing’s first public acknowledgment of errors since a so-called door plug snapped off the fuselage of the Alaska Airlines flight, leaving a gaping hole next to a miraculously empty seat.
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He said he had been shaken “to the bone” by the accident, which rekindled pressure on Boeing over its troubled small plane fleet of MAX 9 aircraft almost five years after a global MAX 8 safety crisis sparked by deadly crashes stemming from air speed sensor problems in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the two U.S. carriers that use the temporarily grounded MAX 9 planes, have found loose parts on similar aircraft, raising fears such an incident could have happened again. Canadian airlines including Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing Airlines, Flair Airlines and Lynx Air all say they don’t fly the 737 MAX 9, but some have codeshare agreements with airlines that do fly them.
Boeing shares fell 1.4 per cent on Tuesday as United cancelled 225 daily flights, or eight per cent of its total, while Alaska Airlines cancelled 109, or 18 per cent. Similar cancellations were expected on Wednesday.
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Calhoun praised the Alaska Airlines crew that swiftly landed the plane, with only minor injuries to the 171 passengers and six crew.
“We have a communications task with all of our customers. … We’re going to have to demonstrate by our actions, our willingness to work directly and transparently with them to make sure they understand that every airplane Boeing has its name on, that’s in the sky is, in fact, safe,” he said.
“We will see our way through that, but we need to know we’re starting from a very anxious moment with our customers, and we simply have to have to deal with that reality.”
— with files from The Canadian Press and Reuters
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