Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg takes questions at a news conference in Chicago. (AP via YouTube) Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg stuck to his positions on the safety of the 737 MAX airplane today during a contentious annual shareholders’ meeting and news conference in Chicago. Muilenburg took questions in a face-to-face public forum for the first time since last month’s due to concerns raised by two catastrophically fatal crashes last October and this March. At one point, a reporter asked Muilenburg whether he’d resign. “My clear intent is to continue to lead on the front of safety and quality and integrity,” he replied. “That’s who we are as a company.” Muilenburg said that he’s been talking with factory workers in Renton, Wash., and with Boeing test pilots over the past few weeks. “To the core of our people, they care about this business and the safety of our airplanes,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on.” Investigations into October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia, and March’s Ethiopian Airlines crash in Ethiopia, have focused on an automatic flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system was designed to replicate the operating conditions of previous-generation 737 planes on the 737 MAX, which is equipped with bigger jet engine. But preliminary findings suggested that during each fatal flight, spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor repeatedly forced the plane into a steep dive. Boeing had laid out procedures to regain control, but in the two tragedies, the procedures either weren’t followed to the letter or didn’t work. Muilenburg resisted characterizing the MCAS issue as a design flaw or a mistake. Instead, he said the issue was a “link in the chain” that will be broken thanks to a software update that’s being tested for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies around the world. The process by which the 737 MAX was originally certified for flight in 2017 is currently under investigation by an internal Boeing team and the FAA, as well as by the Justice Department and the FBI. Muilenburg insisted that MCAS system “was designed per our standards” and followed proper certification procedures. “We haven’t seen a technical slip or gap in terms of the fundamental design and certification of the approach,” Muilenburg told reporters. “That said, we know this is a link in both accidents that we can break. That’s a software update that we know how to do. We own it, and we will make that update, and this will make the airplane even safer going forward.” During today’s meeting, Boeing shareholders voted down a proposal to remake the company’s chairmanship as an independent position that would rule out Muilenburg’s dual role as CEO and chairman. Relatives of some of the victims of the 737 MAX crashes traveled to Chicago to take part in a news conference aimed at drawing attention to lawsuits being filed against Boeing. One of the speakers was Manant Vaidya, a Canadian of Indian descent who lost six family members in the Ethiopia crash. Vaidya was sharply critical of Muilenburg’s comments. “He said that all design and certifications were followed. At the end of day, if all certifications were done, how could the crash still have occurred?” he said. “I am completely lost right now. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else in the world.” Over the weekend, a number of media outlets reported that some 737 MAX planes didn’t have an indicator known as a “disagree alert,” which might have given pilots an early indication that an angle-of-attack sensor was feeding bad data to the MCAS system. Today, Boeing : “Boeing included the disagree alert as a standard feature on the MAX, although this alert has not been considered a safety feature on airplanes and is not necessary for the safe operation of the airplane. Boeing did not intentionally or otherwise deactivate the disagree alert on its MAX airplanes. “The disagree alert was intended to be a standard, stand-alone feature on MAX airplanes. However, the disagree alert was not operable on all airplanes because the feature was not activated as intended. “The disagree alert was tied or linked into the angle of attack indicator, which is an optional feature on the MAX. Unless an airline opted for the angle of attack indicator, the disagree alert was not operable. [The angle-of-attack indicator is a software-based information feature that’s distinct from the angle-of-attack sensor hardware. For more on the distinction, .] “On every airplane delivered to our customers, including the MAX, all flight data and information needed to safely operate the aircraft is provided in the flight deck and on the flight deck display. This information is readily accessible to pilots, and it always has been. “The air speed, attitude, and altitude displays, together with the stick shaker, are the primary flight information indicators in the flight deck. All recommended pilot actions, checklists, and training are based upon these primary indicators, not on the AOA disagree alert or the angle of attack indicator. “As the MAX safely returns to the air after the software modifications are approved and certified, all MAX production aircraft will have an activated and operable disagree alert and an optional angle of attack indicator. All customers with previously delivered MAX airplanes will have the ability to activate the disagree alert per a service bulletin to airlines. “We are confident that when the MAX returns to the skies, it will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly.” For what it’s worth, Boeing’s shares finished the trading day down 0.46%, at $379.05.
(Photo via Black Girls CODE) — , a nonprofit dedicated to teaching girls of color ages 7-17 about computer programming and technology, is holding on Saturday, March 30 in advance of the opening of a Seattle chapter in April. The workshops, scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon, will be held at the following locations: Sammamish High School, 100 140th Ave. SE, Bellevue, Wash.; Seattle Central College, 1701 Broadway, Seattle; South Shore Pre K-8, 4800 South Henderson, Seattle. The events are free but require advance registration (via the Black Girls CODE homepage). The Seattle chapter, the organization’s 15th, was made possible . — When most of us were in school, we were probably told that nine planets existed in the solar system. Now there are eight. Poor Pluto lost its planetary designation in 2006 when astronomers decided it didn’t fit the criteria as the other eight “true” planets. But the debate has started again. You can get the full scoop on Pluto at the Evergrey’s presentation at the Pacific Science Center on April 11. — Women’s History Month may be drawing to a close, but the Female Founders Alliance is continuing the celebration with their annual on April 4. The Champion Awards were created to honor individuals and companies in the Pacific Northwest that are making a notable difference in helping women succeed in the workplace, regardless of their field or industry. The Champion Awards pick winners in five different categories, including advocates, investors and role models. Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : An event honoring people and companies who are impacting change in the city, hosted by The Evergrey in Seattle; 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4. : An event featuring panels and guest speakers about the art of networking at The Columbia Tower Club in Seattle; 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 4. : A talk about how startups can effectively use social media to reach their goals at CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington in Seattle; 12 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 5. : A talk about the opportunities and how to get started in the public sector at Code Fellows in Seattle; 12:15 to 1 p.m. Friday, April 5. : An event featuring panels and discussions with the goal of linking founders with other founders and investors at WeWork Labs in Portland; 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. : An event focusing on the basics of blockchain at the Flatiron School in Seattle; 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. : A job fair specifically for startups to meet some of the students who might make for good additions to teams, at the University of Washington Intellectual House in Seattle; 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. For more upcoming events, check out the , where you can find meetups, conferences, startup events, and geeky gatherings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Organizing an event? .