LE BOURGET, France — Boeing executives apologized Monday to airlines and families of victims of 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, as the U.S. plane maker struggles to regain the trust of regulators, pilots and the global traveling public.
Some victims’ families welcomed Boeing’s gesture. Others called it too little, too late.
Boeing was in a visibly contrite mood at the opening of the Paris Air Show, where safety was on many minds as the global aviation elite gathered to showcase and trade cutting-edge, costly technology.
“We are very sorry for the loss of lives” in the Lion Air crash in October and Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing’s commercial aircraft, told reporters. A total of 346 people were killed in the disasters.
McAllister also said “I’m sorry for the disruption” to airlines from the subsequent grounding of all Max planes worldwide, and to their passengers facing summer travel disruptions.
Boeing executives defended improvements to Max software that has been implicated in the crashes, but couldn’t predict when the plane could fly again.
Investigations are underway into what happened, though it’s known that angle-measuring sensors in both planes malfunctioned, alerting anti-stall software to push the noses of the planes down. The pilots were unable to take back control of the planes.
“Now they have apologized,” said Ningsi Ayorbaba, a mother of three whose husband Paul Ferdinand Ayorbaba was killed in the Lion Air crash. “I hope this is a good signal” for families like hers that have filed lawsuits against Boeing.
In addition to safety concerns, the global economic slowdown and trade tensions are weighing on the mood at the air show.
In the biggest new plane announcement expected at Le Bourget, Airbus formally launched its long-range A321XLR. The plane should will be ready for customers in 2023 and be able to fly up to 4,700 nautical miles.
Chief salesman Christian Scherer wouldn’t say how much the plane would cost to develop.
Right after the launch, the Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corporation signed a letter of intent to buy 27 of the new Airbus planes.