Consumer advocate Ralph Nader on Wednesday indicated there could be a path for Boeing to get its 737 Max back in service — in an apparent softening of his previous position that the jets should never fly again.
"You don't want to go in the wrong direction here and put up a flawed plane," said Nader, whose grandniece was killed in the March crash of a 737 Max in Ethiopia, which happened less than five months after a Max went down off the coast of Indonesia. A total of 346 people were killed in both tragedies. The entire worldwide 737 Max fleet was grounded just days after the Ethiopian disaster.
Nader's been a vocal critic of Boeing in the past, calling for a complete scrap of the jet and the removal of executives. He also said in May that the company was colluding with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Investigators looking into the cause of the crashes point to an issue with the 737 Max flight-control program, known as MCAS. Boeing said it has a fix for the problem. Regulators have not signed off on it yet.
In Wednesday's interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Nader said, "What Boeing really should do is make public its technical details and its fixes."
"If they want to get reassurance, Boeing that is, they better put this stuff out, not try to do it in secret, which has been their tradition," Nader said, calling the MCAS system "flawed" and "complicated."
In addition to trying to get the Max back in service, Boeing is facing several investigations into the design and certification of the beleaguered plane by regulators, including a reported criminal probe by the Justice Department.
On Tuesday, Boeing's new chairman gave CEO Dennis Muilenburg a vote of confidence. David Calhoun, who succeeded Muilenburg as chairman last month, told CNBC, "From the vantage point of our board, Dennis has done everything right."
Calhoun said Muilenburg, who was harshly criticized by lawmakers last week about his 2018 compensation, called him Saturday morning "with the purpose of suggesting that he not take any compensation for 2019 in the form of bonuses, which of course is most of your compensation." Muilenburg, a three-decade Boeing employee who became CEO in 2015, could forgo bonuses even longer.
Nader was not moved by Calhoun, a longtime Boeing board member and Blackstone executive. "The whole system at the top of Boeing is now not good for the future of Boeing, because they can't admit that they have to change fundamentally." Nader still believes that Muilenburg should resign.
A spokesperson for Boeing was not immediately available to respond to Nader's statements.