Rep. Johnson’s Statement for Hearing on “The Boeing 737 MAX: Examining the Design, Development & Marketing of the Aircraft”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) delivered the following opening remarks and questions for witnesses during the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing “The Boeing 737 MAX: Examining the Design, Development, and Marketing of the Aircraft” to question Boeing’s CEO and chief engineer about their MCAS system that ultimately contributed to two airline crashes that killed 346 people.
To watch the video, click HERE.
Witnesses: Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing, CEO; John Hamilton, Chief Engineer of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division.
Rep. Johnson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families affected by the tragedies. Looking at the faces of the deceased with their lively smiling faces, I’m deeply saddened that they are no longer with you. But my sadness can in no way match the grief that you must feel, and I thank you all for being here. Mr. Muilenburg, I trust you would agree that the crew of Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were faced with multiple alerts and indications during the accident’s sequences, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, my understanding of the accidents is that’s correct.
Rep. Johnson: And you would agree that they received air speed disagree indicators, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, I believe from what we understand they had air speed disagree as well as other flight deck alerts occurring.
Rep. Johnson: Altitude degree indications, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: That and also I believe stick shaker alerts as well.
Rep. Johnson: And you would agree that they received various other caution and warnings during that period, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, that’s my understanding, yes.
Rep. Johnson: The National Transportation Safety Board reported in October in reference to these tragedies that “multiple alerts and indications can increase pilots’ work load.” Do you agree with that statement?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, yes. That statement makes sense, yes.
Rep. Johnson: And the NTSB further observed that “industry experts generally recognize that an aircraft system should be designed such that the consequences of any human error are limited.” Do you agree with that statement as well?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, I believe that’s consistent with our design approaches.
Rep. Johnson: The NTSB went to note that “the industry challenge is to develop airplanes and procedures that are less likely to result in operator error and more tolerant of operator errors when they do occur.” Do you agree with that statement?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, I think that’s one area where we’ve learned from both of these accidents as an area where we need to revisit some of our longstanding principles and design guidelines around that. That’s an important area for us to address.
Rep. Johnson: So you would agree that in terms of the design of the 737 MAX and the 730 MAX’s MCAS, an angle of attack sensing systems, were not designed such that the consequences of human error were limited. You would agree with that, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, on the MCAS’s, we’ve said that we identified some areas where we need to improve and that’s related to reducing pilot work load.
Rep. Johnson: That’s one of them, correct? Sequence that was not designed to accommodate--- well, let me put it like this. You would agree that the 737 MAX’s MCAS and angle of attack sensing systems were not designed such that the consequences of any human error were limited. You would have to agree with that statement.
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, from that standpoint, we design the system to longstanding industry standards, but one of the things to part from these accidents, is we need to change.
Rep. Johnson: But this one was not designed to accommodate the possibility of human error in terms of dealing with the MCAS system, but let me move on. The company [Boeing] has indicated in court filings that you intend to try to stop all litigation in the United States and ensure that as far as the Indonesian crash, any litigation would be confined to Indonesia and not in the court system of the United States, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, I can’t comment on that. I’m just not familiar with the details of that.
Rep. Johnson: So are you here to say that your company would not take efforts to protect itself from the US court system, insofar as the victims of these air crashes are concerned?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, I could take that question and get back to you. I don’t know the answer.
Rep. Johnson: Well, you are attempting to settle things out of court with a $100 million fund available for claimance, correct?
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, I believe that the $100 million fund that you’re referring to is one that we recently set up that’s completely separate from any legal proceedings. It’s being administered by Mr. Feinberg. That is intended to be completely separate from any legal proceedings with the idea that we can more quickly assist the families and communities.
Rep. Johnson: Participation in that system caused grieved individuals and family next of kin to then waive their ability to go to court later.
Mr. Muilenburg: Congressman, the $100 million fund that you’re referring to—if I’m understanding what you’re referring to—is completely separate from any legal proceedings.
Rep. Johnson: One participating in the $100 million fund would not bar them from litigation thereafter?
Mr. Muilenburg: That is correct. They are completely separate.
Rep. Johnson: Thank you.