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Boeing CEO apologizes for 737 Max crashes

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg apologized Thursday for the March 10 crash that has grounded the 737 MAX.

“We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 Max accidents,” Muilenburg said on Thursday via Twitter after a new report by the Ethiopian government revealed the pilots on Ethiopian Airlines fight 304 followed Boeing’s recommended procedures when the plane began to nose dive.

Muilenburg went on to say, “these tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds.”

Rad Muilenburg’s full statement here.

The findings drew the strongest link yet between the crash in Ethiopia and an October crash off the coast of Indonesia, which both involved Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliners. All 346 people on the two planes were killed.

RELATED: Preliminary report details fatal Ethiopia 737 MAX crash

Both planes had an automated system that pushed the nose down when sensor readings detected the danger of an aerodynamic stall, but it now appears that sensors malfunctioned on both planes.

Thursday’s report, based on flight data and cockpit voice recorders on the Ethiopian Airlines jetliner, showed that a faulty sensor on the plane touched off a series of events that caused the pilots to lose control of the plane. The report from Ethiopia’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau said the sensor problems began about a minute after the plane was cleared for takeoff.

It said air speed and altitude values on the left side of the 737 Max conflicted with data from the right sensor, causing flight control problems. Eventually the Ethiopian Airlines pilots couldn’t keep the plane from crashing into the ground, killing all 157 people on board.

“As pilots have told us, erroneous activation of the MCAS function can add to what is already a high workload environment,” Muilenburg said. “It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it and we know how to do it.”

The problems are similar to those reported on the Indonesian Lion Air flight that crashed last October. Investigators found that software on that plane took readings from the sensor and pointed the nose down. Thursday’s revelations raise questions about repeated assertions by Boeing and U.S. regulators that pilots could regain control in some emergencies by following steps that include turning off an anti-stall system designed specifically for the Max, known by its acronym, MCAS.

Investigators are looking into the role of MCAS, which under some circumstances can automatically lower the plane’s nose to prevent an aerodynamic stall. The Max has been grounded worldwide pending a software fix that Boeing is rolling out, which still needs to be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators.

In a statement, Boeing acknowledged the faulty data from the sensor activated the MCAS system, which was similar to circumstances in the Lion Air crash.

The company said that to make sure unintended activation of the system doesn’t happen again, Boeing is developing software and “associated comprehensive pilot training” for the Max. The software update, Boeing said in the statement, adds layers of protection and will stop erroneous data from activating the system.

Ethiopian investigators did not specifically mention the MCAS, but recommended that Boeing review “the aircraft flight control system related to the flight controllability.” They also recommended that aviation officials verify that issues have been adequately addressed before allowing the planes to fly again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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