By Ariel Steinsaltz
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg addressed shareholders’ concerns at the Field Museum in Chicago on April 29, following two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max jet that killed hundreds of people, according to The Washington Post. A shareholder criticized the company for not reviewing the safety standards enough before flying the planes.
“‘We don’t have to have 300-plus people die every time to find out that something isn’t reliable,’” the shareholder said, according to The Washington Post.
Muilenburg tried to assure those present that “when it comes to safety, there are no competing priorities,” and informed them that the company was working to revise the technical failures that led to the crashes, The Washington Post reported.
While accepting responsibility for improving safety standards, Muilenburg denied that the planes had been built with a flaw, and instead said that Boeing was only partially responsible for the chain of events that had led to the crashes, according to The Washington Post.
Muilenburg said Boeing had “‘gone back and confirmed again, as we do the safety analysis, the engineering analysis, that we followed exactly the steps in our design and certification processes that consistently produce safe airplanes,’” according to The Seattle Times.
Despite the planes being certified as safe, the new flight-control system failed on two flights — one with Lion Air and another with Ethiopian Airlines, both due to a single faulty sensor. The failure caused the planes to nose-dive, The Seattle Times reported.
Muilenburg placed some blame with the pilots, but also said that the system would be redesigned with two sensors and make the planes much safer, according to The Seattle Times.
Family members of people who died in the crashes stood outside in the rain near the Field Museum, where the meeting was held, as they held photos of their loved ones who died, according to The Washington Post.
The family members challenged the statement made by Muilenburg, as they believed Boeing should take responsibility for the oversights that caused the crashes. One relative came to the Chicago meeting all the way from California, according to The Washington Post.
According to Reuters, reporters asked Muilenburg if he ever considered retiring. He responded that he intended to lead the company through the crisis.
“‘I am very focused on safety going forward,’” he told Reuters. “‘My clear intent is to continue to lead on the front of safety, quality and integrity.’”
However, the company still has to win back the trust of the public, which was shaken by the crashes, according to Reuters. Muilenburg said the company would win back this trust before walking away from reporters shouting questions at him.
The families standing outside were not the only people protesting the day of the conference — Reuters reported that other victims’ families held a press conference at a Chicago law firm after filing a wrongful death suit against the company.