Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg Remarks at the George W. Bush Presidential Center Forum on Leadership
Monday, April 15th, 2019
Thank you, Mr. President and Mrs. Bush for bringing together such a distinguished group of people to address this responsibility we all have as global citizens to make positive change in the world. It is indeed my privilege to be with you today.
It’s an honor to be here and congratulate somebody who has embraced this responsibility fully of giving back to the world: Dylan Tête. He’s the recipient of the George W. Bush Institute Military Service Citation this year.
Dylan, your work at Bastion Community of Resilience is innovative and inspiring, and I admire your dedication to supporting your fellow veterans when they return home from service—a commitment that’s shared by both the Bush Institute and by The Boeing Company.
At Boeing we make an effort to invest in and engage with military members, their families and their communities. Last year, we raised more than $30 million to support military and veteran organizations and their efforts. 2018 also marked the start of our partnership with the Bush Institute, which has been just a tremendous experience. That includes a $10 million, multiyear donation to the Military Service Initiative, which includes support for the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program.
Boeing is proud to join the Bush Institute in honoring the service and sacrifice of post-9/11 veterans and their families and supporting their transition back to civilian life. We understand it’s a big change—and not always an easy one, which is why we help veterans translate their military skills to the workplace. Our team includes about 20,000 veterans at Boeing—approximately 15 percent of our workforce—and we appreciate the values, the leadership, the integrity and the critical skills that they bring to our company.
Whether you’re talking about the armed forces or companies like Boeing, the investments we make in people are the most important investments that we make. To win in business or on the battlefield, strong values-based leadership is necessary to navigate confidently through times of change.
At Boeing we understand that lives literally depend on the work we do, and that requires the utmost excellence and integrity in how we do that work. We consider our Boeing enduring values of quality, safety and integrity, among others, integral to our work, especially in difficult times like those that we face now.
We were devastated by the recent Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 tragedies. We continue to mourn those who were on board and extend our deepest sympathies to their loved ones. All of us feel the immense gravity of these events across our company, and frankly these last few weeks have been the most heart-wrenching of my career.
Our values are at the very core of everything we do. Yet, we know we can always be better, and these recent accidents have intensified our commitment to continuous improvement as we design, build and support the safest airplanes in the sky. That’s our responsibility as a leader in the aerospace industry. That’s what we do at Boeing. We own it.
As our veterans know so well, how you respond to a tough situation will make all the difference to your organization and your country. Our leadership values always apply, even more when the pressure is on and our character is being tested, and this experience has reinforced that truth for us at Boeing. We’re humbled and we’re learning, we’re resilient and we’re resolute, and we will never waver in our commitment. The importance of our work demands it.
These enduring values drive our behaviors, and I’ll briefly share four key ones with you today.
First, it’s important to communicate clearly and openly. In the weeks since the Ethiopian Airlines accident, I’ve spent even more time with our teams, traveling frequently, walking the floor and meeting with those who are working on the front lines of our 737 airplane program. I’ve encouraged our leaders to do the same with their global teams. It’s important that people’s concerns are heard and that their questions answered. In times like these, it’s not possible to over-communicate, and I’ve been updating our people frequently as details emerge and are available, and it’s appropriate to do so aligned with our international aviation protocol.
As we learned the facts, I also reached out to our airline customers, partners and communities in open letters and videos to share our support of the investigations, and the steps underway to avoid future accidents and our ongoing priority of safety.
Second, it’s a focus of all our leaders to invest in our team and empower others. As we continue working closely with our airline customers and global regulators to return the 737 MAX to service, I’m focused on making the adjustments necessary to allow our teams to prioritize additional resources and focus on the recovery efforts.
From the days immediately following the Lion Air accident, our top engineers and technical experts have been working tirelessly in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and our customers to finalize and implement a software update that will ensure accidents like these never happen again.
The update will make the 737 MAX even safer by preventing erroneous angle of attack sensor readings from triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, something that initial investigation reports indicate occurred in both MAX accidents, as one link in a longer chain of events. We know we can break this chain link. It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk.
We’re taking a comprehensive, disciplined approach—and taking the time—to make sure we get it right.
Third, we must deliver results with excellence in all that we do. I joined our Boeing test pilots last week aboard a 737 MAX flight for a demonstration of this updated software. During the flight, the crew performed different scenarios that exercised the software changes in multiple flight conditions. The software update functioned as designed, and I was impressed by the work and professionalism of our team.
Overall, our team has made 96 flights totaling a little over 159 hours of air time with the updated software. They will conduct additional test and production flights in the coming weeks as we continue to demonstrate that we’ve identified and met all certification requirements. We look forward to completing near-term milestones on the path to final certification.
Finally, it’s about building lasting relationships based on trust and integrity. We know every person who steps aboard one of our airplanes places their trust in us. We’ll do everything possible to earn and re-earn that trust and confidence from our airline customers and the flying public in the weeks and months ahead. We take the responsibility to build and deliver airplanes that are safe to fly and can be safely flown by every single one of the professional and dedicated pilots all around the world. My team and I are working closely with our customers to answer their questions, get their feedback and ensure those who operate the MAX are prepared when the grounding is lifted and the fleet returns to flight.
To that end, we hosted more than 200 regulators and airline officials for an informational session in Seattle last month, and over the last two weeks we’ve conducted similar meetings in the U.K., Singapore and China with international airline pilots and regulators. Pilots and leaders from 67 percent of our more than 50 MAX operators worldwide have participated in a simulator session that included the new software update.
We want everyone to be confident that the additional training and educational resources we’re developing and deploying will do the job. This confidence is important also to our airlines’ pilots and team members—including the thousands who live here in the Dallas-Fort Worth community working for American Airlines and Southwest, and those working in Houston supporting United Airlines. We regret the impact the grounding has had on all of our airline customers and their passengers.
When I started at this great company more than three decades ago, our amazing people inspired me. I see how they dedicate their lives and extraordinary talents to connect, protect, explore and inspire the world—safely. And that purpose and mission has only grown stronger over the years. Our team is determined to keep improving on safety in partnership with the global aerospace community and our broader stakeholders.
It’s this shared sense of responsibility for the safety of flight that spans and binds us all together. Our leadership role is clear, our commitment is resolute and our pursuit of excellence is never-ending. We own it. In these challenging times, I am even more confident in our team and our customers—we’ll stay true to our values, and we will come through this even stronger.
I hope all of you leave today’s forum feeling inspired and empowered to face even the most difficult challenges. Thank you.