Boeing made mistake in handling warning-system problem: CEO

Employees work in the cargo hold of a Boeing 727 MAX 9 test plane outside the company's factory, on March 14, 2019 in Renton, Washington. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Boeing made mistake in handling warning-system problem: CEO

  • Airbus executives said the Max crashes aren’t affecting their sales strategy, but are a reminder of the importance to the whole industry of ensuring safety

PARIS: The chief executive of Boeing said the company made a “mistake” in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in its 737 Max jets before two crashes killed 346 people, and he promised transparency as the aircraft maker works to get the grounded plane back in flight.
Speaking before the industry-wide Paris Air Show, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters Boeing’s communication with regulators, customers and the public “was not consistent. And that’s unacceptable.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than a year that a safety indicator in the cockpit of the top-selling plane didn’t work as intended.
Boeing and the FAA have said the warning light wasn’t critical for flight safety.
It is not clear whether either crash could have been prevented if the cockpit alert had been working properly. Boeing says all its planes, including the Max, give pilots all the flight information — including speed, altitude and engine performance — that they need to fly safely.
But the botched communication has eroded trust in Boeing as the company struggles to rebound from the passenger jet crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
“We clearly had a mistake in the implementation of the alert,” Muilenburg said.
Pilots also have expressed anger that Boeing did not inform them about the new software that’s been implicated in the fatal crashes.
Muilenburg expressed confidence that the Boeing 737 Max would be cleared to fly again later this year by US and all other global regulators.
“We will take the time necessary” to ensure the Max is safe, he said.
The model has been grounded worldwide for three months, and regulators need to approve Boeing’s long-awaited fix to the software before it can return to the skies.
Muilenburg called the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets a “defining moment” for Boeing, but said he thinks the result will be a “better and stronger company.”
In the United States, Boeing has faced scrutiny from members of Congress and the FAA over how it reported the problem involving a cockpit warning light.
The feature, called an angle of attack or AoA alert, warns pilots when sensors measuring the up-or-down pitch of the plane’s nose relative to oncoming air might be wrong. Boeing has admitted engineers realized within months of the plane’s 2017 debut that the sensor warning light only worked when paired with a separate, optional feature but didn’t report the issue for more than a year, after the crash in Indonesia.
The angle-measuring sensors have been implicated in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. The sensors malfunctioned, alerting anti-stall software to push the noses of the planes down. The pilots were unable to take back control of the planes.
Boeing told the FAA of what it learned in 2017 after the Indonesia crash.
Pilot Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union that represents American Airlines pilot, the Allied Pilots Association, said it’s good Muilenburg was willing to revisit the cockpit alert problem and to acknowledge Boeing mishandled conveying information.
But Tajer said he thinks Boeing made a series of unprecedented communication missteps that have “created a massive headwind to rebuilding trust.”
Restoring trust in the Max is Boeing’s No. 1 priority, Muilenburg said — ahead of an upgraded 777 and work on its upcoming NMA long-range jet.
The Max, the newest version of Boeing’s best-selling 737, is critical to the company’s future. The Max was a direct response to rival Airbus’ fuel-efficient A320neo, one of the European plane maker’s most popular jets; Airbus has outpaced Boeing in sales in the category.
The Max crashes, a slowing global economy, and damage from tariffs and trade fights threaten to cloud the mood at the Paris Air Show. Along with its alternating-years companion, the Farnborough International Airshow near London, the Paris show is usually a celebration of cutting-edge aviation technology.
Muilenburg forecast a limited number of orders at the Paris event, the first major air show since the crashes, but said it was still important for Boeing to attend to talk to customers and others in the industry.
He also announced that Boeing was raising its long-term forecast for global plane demand, notably amid sustained growth in Asia.
Boeing expects the world’s airlines will need 44,000 planes within 20 years, up from a previous forecast of 43,000 planes.
Muilenburg projected that within 10 years, the overall aviation market — including passenger jets, cargo and warplanes — would be worth $8.7 trillion, compared to earlier forecasts of $8.1 trillion.
Both estimates are higher than the ones from Airbus, which sees slower growth ahead.
However, Airbus is heading into the Paris show with confidence. It is expected to announce several plane sales and unveil its A321 XLR long-range jet. Airbus executives said the Max crashes aren’t affecting their sales strategy, but are a reminder of the importance to the whole industry of ensuring safety.


Debut of China’s Nasdaq-style board adds $44bn in market cap

Updated 22 July 2019
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Debut of China’s Nasdaq-style board adds $44bn in market cap

  • Activity draws attention away from main board

BEIJING: Trading on China’s new Nasdaq-style board for homegrown tech firms hit fever pitch on Monday, with shares up as much as 520 percent in a wild debut that more than doubled the exchange’s combined market capitalization and beat veteran investors’ expectations.

Sixteen of the first batch of 25 companies — ranging from chip-makers to health care firms — increased their already frothy initial public offering (IPO) prices by 136 percent on the STAR Market, operated by the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The raucous first day of trade tripped the exchange’s circuit breakers that are designed to calm frenzied activity. The weakest performer leapt 84.22 percent. In total, the day saw the creation of around 305 billion yuan ($44.3 billion) in new market capitalization on top of an initial market cap of around 225 billion yuan, according to Reuters’ calculations.

“The price gains are crazier than we expected,” said Stephen Huang, vice president of Shanghai See Truth Investment Management. “These are good companies, but valuations are too high. Buying them now makes no sense.”

Modelled after Nasdaq, and complete with a US-style IPO system, STAR may be China’s boldest attempt at capital market reforms yet. It is also seen driven by Beijing’s ambition to become technologically self-reliant as a prolonged trade war with Washington catches Chinese tech firms in the crossfire.

Trading in Anji Microelectronics Technology (Shanghai) Co. Ltd., a semiconductor firm, was briefly halted twice as the company’s shares hit two circuit breakers — first after rising 30 percent, then after climbing 60 percent from the market open.

HIGHLIGHTS

• 16 of 25 STAR Market firms more than double from IPO price.

• Weakest performer gains 84 percent, average gain of 140 percent.

• STAR may be China’s boldest attempt at capital market reforms yet.

The mechanisms did little to keep Anji shares in check as they soared as much as 520 percent from their IPO price in the morning session. Anji shares ended the day up 400.2 percent from their IPO price, the day’s biggest gain, giving the company a valuation of nearly 242 times 2018 earnings.

Suzhou Harmontronics Automation Technology Co. Ltd., in contrast, triggered its circuit breaker in the opposite direction, falling 30 percent from the market open in early trade before rebounding. But by the market close, the company’s shares were still 94.61 percent higher than their IPO price.

Wild share price swings, partly the result of loose trading rules, had been widely expected. IPOs had been oversubscribed by an average of about 1,700 times among retail investors.

The STAR Market sets no limits on share prices during the first five days of a company’s trading. That compares with a cap of 44 percent on debut on other boards in China.

In subsequent trading sessions, stocks on the new tech board will be allowed to rise or fall a maximum 20 percent in a day, double the 10 percent daily limit on other boards.

Regulators last week cautioned individual investors against “blindly” buying STAR Market stocks, but said big fluctuations were normal.

Looser trading rules were aimed at “giving market players adequate freedom in the game, accelerating the formation of equilibrium prices, and boosting price-setting efficiency,” the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) said in a statement on Friday.

The SSE added that it was normal to see big swings in newly listed tech shares, as such companies typically have uncertain prospects, and are difficult to evaluate.