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Sen. Cruz to Boeing CEO: ‘The Buck Stops With You’

October 29, 2019

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, today participated in the committee's hearing with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg - the company's first congressional testimony since the two fatal 737 MAX crashes that resulted in the deaths of 346 innocent people.

During his line of questioning, Sen. Cruz described Mr. Muilenburg's testimony as "dismaying," and questioned his knowledge of the stunning exchange between two chief technical pilots at Boeing who described the problems with the 737 MAX before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air crashes occurred:

"The testimony here today has been quite dismaying. I want to focus on the text exchange that has been referred to and has been publically reported on. There was a text exchange between Mark Forkner, who was then Boeing's technical pilot for the MAX - chief technical pilot for the MAX, and Mr. Gustavsson, who in 2018 was promoted to be Boeing's 737 chief technical pilot."

Mr. Forkner: [...] MCAS is now active down to M .2. It's running rampant in the sim on me

Mr. Gustavsson: Oh great, that means we have to update the speed trim description in vol 2

Mr. Forkner: so I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly) [...] granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious

"That exchange describes what happened in Lion Air and Ethiopian Air. The men and women who are gathered here with the photos of your loved ones - 346 people are dead because [of] what these chief pilots described as ‘egregious' and ‘crazy' - that's their language. That's Boeing's internal language in this exchange."

"Now what I find truly stunning - Boeing handed this exchange over to the Department of Justice in February. In March, I chaired a hearing of the aviation subcommittee on these two crashes. Boeing did not see fit to give this committee that exchange. Nor did Boeing give it to the FAA or the Department of Transportation."

After Muilenburg said he had not been made aware of these documents until a few weeks ago, Sen. Cruz continued:

"You're the CEO - the buck stops with you. Did you read this document? And how did your team not put it in front of you? Run in with their hair on fire saying ‘We've got a real problem here?' How did that not happen? And what does that say about the culture at Boeing if they didn't give it to you? And you didn't read it? And if you didn't say ‘I want read and see what happened?' Your testimony here earlier today is 'Well, we're not sure what they were talking about because he's not at Boeing anymore.' How did you not in February set out a nine alarm fire to say ‘We need to figure out exactly what happened, not after all the hearings, not after the pressure, but because 346 people have died and we don't another person to die?'"

Sen. Cruz discussed the Senate's investigation into the fatal 737 MAX crashes and the FAA's oversight responsibilities in an interview on CNBC's ‘Squawk Box,' where he said:

"There is always a danger, particularly when you're dealing with big companies that are subject to active regulation of what's called agency capture, of the regulatory agency becoming too cozy, too much in bed with a giant corporate player. I think there is considerable concern in the FAA context that may well have occurred here. [...] The flying public needs to be confident that when you put your family on a plane, your family is going to be safe. And these crashes have shaken that confidence, which jeopardizes - there are tens of thousands of jobs in my home state in Texas and across the country that depend upon a vibrant, successful aviation industry. And if the confidence of the flying public is shaken, that's a real problem. [...] That safety is important. In this instance, there are a number of ways these accidents could have been prevented."

As chairman of the Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, Sen. Cruz has led efforts in the Senate to hold Boeing accountable, including:

 

 

Sen. Cruz's full line of questioning at today's hearing may be viewed here and below:

Sen. Cruz: "Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Muilenburg I have to say the testimony here today has been quite dismaying. I want to focus on the text exchange that has been referred to and has been publically reported on. There was a text exchange between Mark Forkner, who was then Boeing's technical pilot for the MAX - chief technical pilot for the MAX, and Mr. Gustavsson, who in 2018 was promoted to be Boeing's 737 chief technical pilot. Is that right?"

Mr. Muilenburg: "I believe that's the case, Senator."

Sen. Cruz: "So this exchange is stunning.

"Mr. Forkner: Oh shocker alerT! MCAS is now active down to M .2. It's running rampant in the sim on me at least that's what Vince thinks is happening

"Mr. Gustavsson: Oh great, that means we have to update the speed trim description in vol 2

"Mr. Forkner: so I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)

"Mr. Gustavsson: it wasn't a lie, no one told us that was the case

"Mr. Forkner: I'm leveling off at like 4000 ft, 230 knots and the plane is trimming itself like crazy. I'm like, WHAT?

"Mr. Gustavsson: that's what I saw on sim one, but on approach I think thats wrong

"Mr. Forkner: granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious

"That exchange describes what happened in Lion Air and Ethiopian Air. The men and women who are gathered here with the photos of your loved ones - 346 people are dead because what these chief pilots described as ‘egregious' and ‘crazy,' - that's their language. That's Boeing's internal language in this exchange. Now what I find truly stunning - Boeing handed this exchange over to the Department of Justice in February. In March, I chaired a hearing of the aviation subcommittee on these two crashes. Boeing did not see fit to give this committee that exchange. Nor did Boeing give it to the FAA or the Department of Transportation. But what I find most stunning is your testimony here today that you say you first learned of this exchange a couple of weeks ago. These are senior leaders at Boeing in an exchange saying and I will quote again, ‘so I basically lied to the regulators.' Look I've practiced law a lot of years, you had your lawyers look over this document and they read a senior leader - after these crashes had occurred - saying they lied to the regulators. Mr. Muilenburg how in the hell did nobody bring this to your attention in February when you produced this to the Department of Justice? How did you just read this a couple of weeks ago?"

Mr. Muilenburg: "Senator, again to clarify my earlier comments. I was made aware of [the] existence of this kind of document - this issue as part of that discovery process in the investigation early in the year, as you pointed out. At that point, I counted on my counsel to handle that appropriately."

Sen. Cruz: "Did you read this exchange? Look I was made aware documents were being produced - that is passive voice and disclaiming responsibility. "You're the CEO - the buck stops with you. Did you read this document? And how did your team not put it in front of you? Run in with their hair on fire saying ‘We've got a real problem here?' How did that not happen? And what does that say about the culture at Boeing if they didn't give it to you? And you didn't read it? And if you didn't say ‘I want read and see what happened?' Your testimony here earlier today is 'Well, we're not sure what they were talking about because he's not at Boeing anymore.' How did you not in February set out a nine alarm fire to say ‘We need to figure out exactly what happened, not after all the hearings, not after the pressure, but because 346 people have died and we don't another person to die?'"

Mr. Muilenburg: "Senator as you mentioned, I didn't see the details of this exchange until recently. And we're not quite sure what Mr. Forkner meant by that exchange. His lawyer has suggested he was talking about a simulator that was in development in that time period. That's where he was working. That could be the case. We don't know. I fully support diving deep into this and understanding what he said and what he meant. But I can also tell you that in that same timeframe where his original message was made..."

Sen. Cruz: "Mr. Gustavsson still works at Boeing, correct?"

Mr. Muilenburg: "Senator, yes he does."

Sen. Cruz: "Have you had that conversation with him?"

Mr. Muilenburg: "Senator, my team has talked with Patrick as well."

Sen. Cruz: "Have you had that conversation with him?"

Mr. Muilenburg: "Senator, I have not."

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