Boeing’s Muilenburg opening statement to the US House

Dennis Muilenburg

Oct. 29, 2019: Having completed his appearance before the US Senate today, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg will appear before the US House tomorrow.

Here is his opening statement: Opening Statement-10-30.

His appearance before the Senate was about as expected. Most Senators seemed more interested in their five minutes of TV time than trying to get at answers and determine a path forward.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was an exception, as was Sen. John Tester (D-MT). Cruz, a former prosecutor, pressed Muilenburg on his ignorance of key documents and the lack of communication with key employees.

Muilenburg deflected responsibility to his legal team.

Tester criticized Muilenburg for “pivoting” away from questions.

Muilenburg did just that on many issues. But in the end, the hearing went as expected. Boeing was eviscerated. Muilenburg did no further harm. And no useful information was forthcoming from his appearance that would position the Senate to actually do something productive.

National reporting

Here are some stories from the press coverage:


55 Comments on “Boeing’s Muilenburg opening statement to the US House

  1. “Muilenburg deflected responsibility to his legal team.” How does one get away with doing that?

    • The DoJ has a grand jury convened, so yes, because laying criminal charges after an investigation is what Grand Jury’s do. Don’t expect anything till after the ET302 final report.

    • Yes, I can think of all sorts of possible charges that could potentially be levied against various officers / employees at Boeing, including criminal negligence, reckless endangerment, depraved indifference and fraud, for example. It will be interesting to see if any of these possibilities ever actually materializes.

  2. I think the 5 minutes Air Time is sadly all to true.

    Does Muilenberg get the old heave ho after tomorrow? Likely along with his millions that will comfort him in his sorrow.

  3. I saw a brief introduction of Muilenburg today and had to cut it short, as it impacted me as another Apologetic rhetoric for Boeing’s Gross Negligence behavior, especially following the Ethiopian murderous reincidence. If it weren’t for China and others that followed the Grounding, we may have experienced a series of more Crashes. This guy should be put against the wall and answer specifics to Boeing’s Series of Blunders with this “Flying Casket” as a Congressman referred to.

    • I could not watch it either.

      I just don’t see him as sorry. Lip service, total lack of sincerity.

      There are a whole lot of other ways to tell someone you killed their loved ones, they all mean you have to be sincere.

  4. Is there anything preventing the board and Boeing’s top management from donating half of their compensation for the last several years to the victims? Either they should pony up, or leave the company. They owe the victims some personal sacrifice. They were in charge of Boeing.

      • One of the Senators, I think Udall, asked Muilenburg (and I paraphrase): Should the FAA be strengthen? The impression I got of Muilenburg’s answer was essentially – No. This implies that Boeing and Big Business do not want to go back to oversight. Sure we may make mistakes, but the court system is there to compensate those hurt from our actions. Hopefully, tomorrow, Wednesday’s hearing in the House of Representatives will clarify this important part of the hearing. The hearing as pointed out is an after thought to what the system is at this time. A system with less oversight. And it is important to realize that Muilenberg is compensated very well, and upon leaving the company, he will be compensated beyond our wildest imagination.

        • In a better segregated and controlled certification environment that actually forces “toeing the line”
          Boeing would be rather uncompetitive.
          Dark Side Warriors.

      • The system that I think needs work is rational economics. How much did Joe Sutter contribute and what did he receive versus Condit or McNerney? This is probably more of a complaint against modern capitalism than Boeing specifically. But I think irrational economics helped lead to the problems with the MAX, by undercompensating areas and people that matter.

        • As the Seattle Times pointed out a few weeks ago, there’s plenty of American companies which are pandering to the short term demands of Wall St rather than the long term interests of the business.

          If that happens too much then the national economy is being run by a bunch of people who fundamentally don’t care if it’s there tomorrow or not. Ultimately that cannot compete against a well planned national economy, which is a geopolitical strategic problem. Boeing going bust would demonstrate some of the nastier consequences of that.

          • Some time back I saw that the Wall Street investors were raking COSTCO over the coals.

            They are treating your employees too good and we demand you stop that.

            So what you need to do is treat your employees like dirt and that makes you a performer.

            I don’t know the answer but I do know that Wall Street should never have an influence on a company policy.

            Its not just we go someplace else, they open up a public campaign to shoot the company down if they don’t do what is demand.

            It no longer a good company stock sells, its if you don’t do what we say we will kill you no matter how good you are.

            So called free capitalism is as bad long term as communism.

          • The aircraft and airlines of the former socialist states had much worse safety records.

          • @TransWorld: I’m 100% with you here.

            @Michael – Wrong. Socialism has nothing to do with reduced aircraft safety – the Soviet Tu-114, Il-86 and Il-96 all have superb safety records, and the 114 even more so considering it was a turboprop airliner from the late 50s/early 60s.

          • It is strange that every time a company fails in capitalism it is capitalism failure even if by its definition there are many companies so different policies and behavior.
            Instead every time socialism fails it is never fault of socialism but some rogue leader or “mistakes” of some group…

            So you think socialism – not even talk about their obsolete designs, heavy costs, low productivity, low turnaround – could have made the performance of today aircraft…

            As a side step, every time i go into a large capitalist company most of the time i think it works internally as a socialist organization. The same incentives to underperform are all there. The only thing that is missing is violence.

          • AlexS, it’s not about capitalism or socialism. It’s simply a matter of whether a commercial endeavour is so big, so all encompassing as to be a significant fraction of one’s national economy.

            If it is, then there’s more than just the shareholders who should have a say in that endeavour, no matter who those shareholders are.

            With Boeing in the USA, it’s running into unprecedented territory. Previous airframer bankruptcies had been dealt with within the industry; someone else has picked up the pieces, airliners kept getting built, some investors got burned, other sank their money into the survivors, life on the whole carried on. Uncle Sam didn’t have to get too involved because there was an infinity of aviation companies to fall back on.

            But Boeing are now the last ones left. There’s not one else to obviously pick up the pieces. They are that significant fraction of the national economy that cannot be allowed to disappear. Arguably that makes Boeing too important to be left solely to the whims of an unchecked Wall St to manage.

            Wall St seems to have been quite happy to let the management take the company to the edge of extinction, thank you very much for the share buy backs and dividends. I can’t see them being willing to pile in a ton of emergency funding and waiting the decade or so before they see a glimmer of a return, should the company actually fold.

            If they don’t, then I can see nothing other than something amounting to a nationalisation becoming necessary, if the USG decides that the USA cannot go without a functioning BCA company. Would the USG actually hesitate, or even demur, over such a “socialist” move? Or would it simply consider it an unavoidable move having been left with a stinker of a problem to solve by Wall St?

    • Probably not- why should they suffer when they can stick all the costs to the shareholders.

      Think animal farm- SOME of us ARE more equal than others

  5. Has everyone accepted the notion now that MCAS was not designed to respond to aerodynamic problems caused by the situation of the engines? Instead, it was designed to resolve difference of feel between the Max and NG along the flight envelope. Has Boeing clearly provided all if the necessary information on MCAS to support this position?

    • I don’t see the relevance in that ?

      Its very nuanced and technical question but the reality the big question is how it got to where it was by management despite early and serious warnings.

      Who made the decision to ignore the warnings?

      Why did they do that?

  6. There was also a lady senator (didn’t note her name) who clearly indicated her disgust that Muilenburg wasn’t sufficiently cognizant of certain documentation that had been produced to the legislature; she said that she found it “deeply disturbing”. She also badgered/interrupted him repeatedly as he tried to dance around questions that she was asking him regarding the “Jedi mind tricking” messages.
    One of the interrogators asked Muilenburg if he could indicate when he thought the MAX would be flying again, and he gave a fudge answer. Imagine how infuriating that must have been for customers like Southwest.

    • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, I think. Being a former pilot (helicopter) she probably has a pretty good understand of the technology in question.

  7. And now Indigo has ordered 300 A320 neo’s, orders that could have gone to the MAX…

    • No, Indigo is an Airbus operation all the way just like SW is Boeing.

      There are other orders they will loose as a result of the MAX crashes.

  8. How the heck can Senators ask, or even expect, a for-profit company to support more oversight on itself? That is none of their business! Their business is making money. No more, no less. It is the job of politics to oversee and control them so they do not become a menace to society – which will inevitably happen in a capitalist system when oversight is surrendered.
    And this is where politics continue to fail.
    And eventually, in every regular democracy, politics becomes an image of the whole society. If the American society continues – or tolerates – putting money and profit above humanity and above all else, the consequences will become ever worse and society will drift apart ever faster.

  9. Companies do have a choice to exceed regulatory requirements. Just because the FAA was forced by the politicians into taking its hands off the rudder doesn’t mean that Boeing was stopped from doing a thorough job all by themselves.

    Yes, politicians aren’t the greatest at realising that expensive regulation is worth it when nothing is going wrong, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can take that as permission to take risks. Nor does it stop us telling politicians they’re making a mistake. That doesn’t excuse politicians, but their failings don’t excuse Boeing.

    • But that does not take into account the modern era of corporation and risk taking for short term profits over long term impact.

      In other words, the public has a right to be protected and not count on largess from people who make money at our expense.

      J&J has asbestos in its talcum powder for babies for gods sake.

      so their quality control sucks and they have to be caught by regulators. So be it. Strong Strong regulators.

      • ” J&J has asbestos in its talcum powder for babies for gods sake”

        Zip to do with this thread- and there is yet to be any credible proof- but calif – 9th circuit lawyeers and judges are having a field day

        Solidarity and lawsuits forever !

        • Without strong government regulation (as in Europe), what seem like extreme lawsuits are our only remedy (something fairly unique to the US). I don’t understand the clichés (probably coming from endlessly watching old episodes of M*A*S*H) of constantly bashing the government as fundamentally incompetent and then bashing lawyers and bashing everything but greedy, incompetent, lazy, way-too-rich-for-what-they-do executives.

        • Without strong government regulation (as in Europe), what seem like extreme lawsuits are our only remedy (something fairly unique to the US). I don’t understand the clichés (probably coming from endlessly watching old episodes of M*A*S*H) of constantly bashing the government as fundamentally incompetent and then bashing lawyers and bashing everything but greedy, incompetent, lazy, way-too-rich-for-what-they-do executives.

  10. Is the following an accurate quote?

    “We don’t ‘sell’ safety, that’s not our business model,” Muilenburg claimed under questioning.

    Well wow! Nice to know that the Boeings we get to sit on aren’t sold because they’re safe! What tosh. You’re aircraft have to be safe otherwise how are your customers’ customers going buy repeat tickets? One’s primary business goal is to be safe, and not just in aircraft.

    • I think Muilenburg intended that statement to mean something other than how it sounds…the fact that he didn’t amend it is testimony to how out-of-touch he is. What I think he may have wanted to say is:
      “Safety is not something we’re prepared to dispose of at a price”.
      What a botch!

      If he did actually mean it in the way that you (and the rest of the world) construes it, then Boeing might as well file for Chapter 11 today.

      • I suppose, except that with the MAX it looks dreadfully like they did dispose of safety at a price. Maintaining and justifying that line of dialogue against the stream of revelations would be pretty tough.

      • Exactly. It was following a comment on the “optional” (chargeable) AOA disagree message in the display. That has been admitted as a mistake and reversed. I guess he tried to say that they “did not intend to charge for additional safety features”. But it came across as bizarre.

  11. Currently looking at Muilenburg’s testimony to Congress.
    Is it just me, or is the hearing today much milder than yesterday?
    The questions seem to be less pointed, and there’s a lot of dithering going on. Many contributions appear to be (pro-Boeing) statements rather than questions.
    I’m amazed by this…am I the only one?

    • There’s been a night of “Wine and Dine You” 🙂

      And the press probably is less attentive. Posturing can be reduced now.

  12. Congressman Cohen just SAVAGED Muilenburg at today’s Congress hearing!
    Well done…the first member so far who’s shown any gusto!

    • Some are plain Idiots, Alaska Don Young would be in that group.

      Its the sharp Cookies like Adam Shift you don’t want to run into.

      I don’t follow that committee but there will be the real players and the yawns.

  13. The alert light keeps coming up.

    What good is an alert light if you don’t know what it means?

    Unless you knew MCAS was going to kill you its just another item or not even seen in all the other alarms that were going off.

    AOA may means something to fighter pilots but I suspect the line pilots could care less.

    You are not supposed to be where AOA is relevant (fighters) and if you do, you push the nose down and get out of it.

  14. Docuemtnion is now emerign that epopel did tell them about MCAS problems.

    You may or may not be able to read it as its a limited access setup.

    That was my experience in less lethal stuff (not that it made any difference)

    You could scream and squawk all you wanted, they would ignore it.

    Then when it broke they spent all sort of more money to fix it.

    Standard Corporation MO, might as well as spit into a Hurricane and expect not to get self splattered.

    “Safety Is Not Our Bussiness Model”

    That says it all accurate or not quote.

  15. “These stories, they’re always going to be with us,” he said. “I wish we could change that.”

    Not even remotely as much as the families could. My dad died partly due to a guys negligence on assemblies an out-drive on a boat (the other part was he and his partner put themselves into a position that it could kill them)

    Its a whole different ball game on the family end that the consequences hit. And while you deeply miss your loved one, you loose your financial security in many cases and even your home if it depends on that family members job.

    And it was so easily avoided. But that is so true of all these sorts of things.

    So yea, loose all your money, live in a hovel and then you know what the consequences really are.

    And you never are going to see that person you lost ever again. There is no re-do, no making it up, the bet you can hope for is getting through and making a different life. Dead is forever.

  16. Give your salary to the victims?

    Oh they are forcing that money on me, I can’t give it away or course.

    Salary goes up despite the performance of the CEO and the company down?

    Yep, right in line with unrestrained capitalism.

    The King Truly has no clothes. It has nothing to do with performance and all to do with power.

    Lest see, I am accountable. How? In Japan there is an old custom to prove your accountability and your true atonement, The day Muilenberg does that, then I will say, yea he got it.

    And leaves all his money to those he is responsible to and for.

    That is accountability, responsibility and atonement.

    • “accountability, responsibility and atonement”
      Well said. Until Boeing and its leaders show a little more of that, I think the ungrounding of the MAX will continue to face strong headwinds.

  17. “When Muilenburg repeated his background a group of victims’ relatives said “go back to to the farm,” one of the victim’s relatives told Muilenburg after the hearing. “It has come to the point where you are not the person anymore to solve the situation.”

    I think if I was there I would be yelling and screaming at Muilenberg.

    Instead those people are maintaining a quiet dignity and some of the most amazing pointed remarks.

    They truly are to be respected.

    Muilenberg has not a clue.

    I grew up working part time as well, my wife did grow up on a farm. It was not finish the job, it was being accountable for the work you did if it was bad.

    You were expected to do good work. Bad work was not even a possibility. You might fail, but you damned well failed trying.

    • And all it takes is a younger example of the problem and that shifts the bar down again. It’s likely that they don’t know when these cracks have developed, they’re just seeing them on aircraft with a documented number of cycles. One has to assume that the cracks occured prior to the last flight, and the billion dollar question is, “how long ago?”.

      Regardless of that, the FAA sees these inspections and replacements as a merely interim fix. The actual cause hasn’t been disclosed (AFAIK, corrections welcome!). Once the cause is known, a proper fix can be devised. I can’t see a proper fix being anything other than some fairly major work on the airframe. A new pickle fork design? Changes in the wing? Changes elsewhere? All of the above?

      So at some point we might be looking at 100% of the fleet having to undergo a major structural modification, possibly irrespective of how many cycles they’ve got on them.

  18. Muilenberg’s testimony was stiff, sad, programmed and incompetent. It was obvious why Boeing is in trouble. No character. No wit. Too much exercise. The corporate executive of the millennium — driving his corporation into the ground without a clew. He might have said he took responsibility, but he had very little detailed knowledge of the most significant debacle in the company’s history. A highly trained aerospace engineer constantly droning on about a farm in Iowa like a robot. Just think about the testimony of that racist war profiteers, Howard Hughes. The old recluse would die before appearing that out of touch in public. If the Board had any sense, they’d fire him while I’m writing this. He won’t restore credibility to Boeing. And he’s keeping too many secrets, and is still banking the entire future of the company on a software fix for a lemon — who knows if it will work. No vision.

    • That sums it up pretty well.
      I think I’d add “money-grabbing” to your list of character traits: I found it rather telling that, when asked by a congressman if he would waive whatever stock options that would be awarded to him this year, he answered that “that is a decision for the board”. The same congressman had previously pointed out that Muilenburg’s stock plan had earned him $150 million in the 2015-2019 period.

  19. Those people took a great company with a hard-earned reputation, strip mined it and raided its assets like locusts. The 50-year-old, pitiful 737 Max with its brand new, non-fitting, engines is an example of a complete absence of executive creativity and courage. They used the iconic Boeing brand — “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going” — to sell thousands of those lemons, which seemed too good to be true, to the airlines of the world. It’s hard to believe that Congress swallowed that simplistic piece of tautological reasoning which held that the building of the Max was governed by a safety ethic that minimized its difference from the NG in handling and training. In other words, MCAS was a difference, so hiding it from pilots and pilot training was a safety measure! And this “safety” measure is responsible for the crashes. What CEO would stand before Congress with a stupid argument like that??? What system produces such PR spouting knuckle heads as American corporate leadership? Those two men looked like big children caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Sadly, they are not alone.

  20. There was so much circular reasoning and obfuscation in the testimony that I now wonder whether any regulatory agency will be able to cut through all of that and whether the Max will ever fly again. Is MCAS there to make the Max fly like the NG? Well now they have to train pilots to understand MCAS, so if it calls for extra training, what’s the point? Just take it out and train pilots to understand the differences without MCAS. Will EASA ever be able to fly the Max without MCAS to actually witness what it’s there to do? If Boeing is sitting on any secrets unknown to regulators, than its return to surface time-lines have been set to defraud investors.

  21. I understand John Hamilton, the Chief Engineer of BCA will also appear before the Transportation Committee.
    That may be more interesting than the staged responses of Muilenburg, when you know hes been fully briefed at a high level and would have asked deep questions on the 737 issues over the last 6 months or so.

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