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Photo: Boeing

Boeing CEO: “We are sorry” for lives lost

Following the release of a preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, Boeing admits its MCAS system is likely to have been involved.

The pilots on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 fought with the aircraft’s automated flight control systems for the six minutes the plane was in the air, according to a preliminary report into the doomed flight.

The captain and first officer struggled as systems on the 737 MAX 8 designed by Boeing to stop the plane stalling repeatedly forced the nose of the plane downwards, CNN reports.

The pilots worked in vain through a series of procedures to try to regain control.

The problems mirror those encountered on Lion Air Flight 610, which forced the same model of aircraft into a crash in October.

After the new preliminary report implicated Boeing in the cause of the accident, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said on Thursday afternoon that the company was “sorry for the lives lost” in the two 737 MAX crashes.

“These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds, and we extend our sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302,” he said.

“Pull up!”
The Ethiopian Airlines captain called out to the first officer to “pull up!” on three occasions during the short ill-fated flight, the preliminary crash report states.

Both pilots tried to pull the nose up together but were unable to regain control. Boeing’s anti-stall system pushed the nose down four times before pitching the plane into a steep dive.

The report does not name the anti-stall Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), but the findings make it clear that it is the system that is likely to have been at fault.

The full details of what happened in the two accidents will be issued by the government authorities in the final reports, but Muilenburg said “it is apparent that in both flights the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information”.

He added: “As pilots have told us, erroneous activation of the MCAS function can add to what is already a high workload environment. It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it and we know how to do it.”

Michael Goldfarb, a former chief of staff at the Federal Aviation Administration, told the BBC on Thursday night that he believes the Boeing 737 MAX “should never have been certified”.

“It is the delegation of authority from the FAA to Boeing that is part of the problem,” he said.

Goldfarb also spoke to CNN about an FAA review of Boeing’s software update, saying, “This will be treated differently from the way business is done” and that “the fixes to the 737 MAX are likely to take months, not weeks, as Boeing does not want to “create a bigger problem than was fixed”.

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