Aerospace & Defense

CEO says Boeing will be quicker to ground planes in the event of future crashes

Key Points
  • CEO Dennis Muilenburg expresses regret over not grounding its 737 Max fleet after the first crash, five months before the second disaster.
  • "If we knew everything back then that we know now, we would have grounded the airplanes after the first accident," he says.
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Boeing CEO expresses regret over not grounding 737 Max after first crash

Boeing's embattled CEO expressed regret Wednesday over not grounding its 737 Max planes after the first deadly crash a year ago and said the company would more readily ground planes in the event of future problems.

"If we knew everything back then that we know now, we would have grounded the airplanes after the first accident," Dennis Muilenburg said at The New York Times DealBook conference in New York.

When asked whether the company would change its approach if something similar occurred on its planes, Muilenburg replied: "I think you're going to see us lean even heavier in that direction. We're always going to be a company that's going to look at the data behind what occurs and make good, solid decisions."

A Lion Air 737 Max crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 people aboard. Five months later, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max went down in Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on the plane. All 737 Maxes have been grounded since then as Boeing works to redesign a flight-control system blamed in the crashes.

Boeing's board stripped Muilenburg of his chairmanship on Oct. 11, saying the division of the roles would allow him to better focus on getting the 737 Max approved by regulators again.

The new chairman Dave Calhoun, a Blackstone Group executive, told CNBC on Monday that Muilenburg said he offered to forgo his bonuses this year. Last year, Muilenburg's compensation totaled more than $23 million. Calhoun said the company wasn't planning any clawbacks. Muilenburg said Wednesday it will likely be a topic of discussion by the company's board.

"Certainly our board is going to look at every dimension of our processes, and policies related to safety and clawback provisions I'm sure will be part of that discussion," he said. "I think it's important to differentiate between responsibility and culpability."

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill railed against Muilenburg last week for failing to resign or give up his pay.

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Watch CNBC's full interview with Boeing Chairman David Calhoun