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Emirates boss says Boeing must recognize top-down role in MAX flaws

01/13/2021 | 05:07pm

DUBAI (Reuters) - The head of one of Boeing Co's biggest customers, Dubai's Emirates, wants the planemaker to demonstrate fundamental changes after producing a flawed 737 MAX jet and has urged it to recognize "culpability and accountability" from the very top.

Influential Emirates President Tim Clark said a crisis over crashes of its 737 MAX had damaged the air travel industry as a whole, but he was confident the redesigned jet was safe.

"Boeing need to take a good hard look at themselves; I'm sure they have," Clark told Reuters.

"But they have to (show) evidence to people like the airline community, the traveling public, that they have made the changes that are required of them in a transparent manner," he said, while also suggesting a shift of emphasis on financial matters.

"That (can) only be done at board level and executed ... at senior level," Clark said. "I believe they still have work to do in Boeing to get themselves sorted out ... There is a top-down culpability and accountability and they need to recognize that."

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The comments from the head of one of the world's biggest carriers, with Boeing jets worth over $50 billion at list prices on order, are among the most direct airline criticisms since a 20-month ban on MAX flights was lifted in December.

Last week Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion in a deal with federal prosecutors over a fraud conspiracy charge over the MAX's flawed development.

Clark's critique, aimed at the highest echelons of the world's largest aerospace company, stood in contrast to the settlement's focus on two lower-level Boeing employees who prosecutors say deceived U.S. regulators.

The jet, a staple of short-haul travel across the world, was grounded in March 2019 after crashes linked to flawed software.

'SHUFFLING DECK'

"Clearly there were process and practices, attitudes - DNA if you like - that needed to be resolved from the top down. It is pointless shuffling the deck," Clark said, though he stopped short of laying out precise actions Boeing should take.

Boeing should understand the magnitude of damage to the industry and make "fundamental structural changes," Clark said.

Since the crashes, Boeing has fired its former chief executive, added a board safety committee and agreed to strengthen internal controls. Boeing however turned for its new CEO to an insider, Dave Calhoun, a long-serving board member.

It says it has learned "many hard lessons" from the crisis.

On Wednesday, Calhoun named Mike Delaney chief aerospace safety officer, a new role.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which has admitted mistakes during certification, has seen its global leadership tarnished by the crisis.

Clark backed the European Union Aviation Safety Agency for taking a "very hard line" over the re-design.

"This isn't a sort of motherhood level scrutiny," he said. "This is a detailed assessment of everything that makes that aircraft fly, then I think it should something that people should be relaxed about flying in."

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Howard Goller)

By Alexander Cornwell

© Reuters 2021
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