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Boeing shareholder meeting is turning tense amid 737 Max crisis



The shareholders had a lot to catch up about. The company's stock has lost about 10% of its value since the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet, the second fatal crash of the company's bestselling plan. A Lion Air 737 Max crashed under similar circumstances in October. The second crash prompted a worldwide grounding of the 737 Max last month.
Boeing last week announced earnings fell 21% in the first quarter because of the crisis. Boeing suspended its share repurchase plans to save money.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg began his remarks Monday with a moment of silence for the 346 people killed in the two crashes, according to his prepared remarks reviewed by CNN Business. He insisted that Boeing makes safety its top priority, and he said the company has been doing everything it can to find a solution. And he vowed the 737 Max to become the safest plane in the air once Boeing is developing a fix to the automatic safety feature that is the focus of the two crash investigations.

"These enduring values ​​are at the core of everything we do, "Muilenburg said in his prepared remarks. "We have the responsibility to design, build and support the safest airplanes in the sky. Recent accidents have only intensified our dedication to it."

Shareholders voted for one proposal that would have separated the positions of chairman and CEO, both of whom are now held by Muilenburg. A preliminary vote on that measure was supported by only 34% of the shares ̵
1; better than the amount of support similar to the measure received last year, but still far less than a majority.

The resolution was predated by the current 737 Max crisis.

"Shareholders would benefit from the most robust form of independent supervision to ensure that the company's management is able to regain the confidence of regulators, customers and other key stakeholders, "

Muilenburg also said a preliminary vote showed that 92% of the shares supported the company's executive compensation package.

A small group of protesters braved pouring rain and cold outside of the annual meeting. Most held large photos of some of the people who have been killed on the two flights. One held signs reading "Boeing's arrogance kills" and "Prosecute Boeing & execs for manslaughter."

Questions remain as to whether Boeing ([19459008BA] ) did everything it could to ensure that the planes were as safe as possible. For example, four Boeing employees called the Federal Aviation Administration's whistleblower hotline to report damage to the wiring of sensors, CNN has reported. And Boeing made airlines pay extra if they wanted an alert that lets a pilot know if two sensors are contradictory to each other. After the crashes, the company said in a congressional testimony that it would make that feature standard on planes in the future.

Muilenburg defended that earlier decision to include the alert as an option in his prepared remarks.

"We do not make safety features optional," he said. "Every one of our airplanes includes all the safety features necessary for safe flight."

Muilenburg again said that the company is getting close to a software fix. It has completed 146 flights of the 737 Max, totaling roughly 246 hours of air time with the updated software. He said he personally has flown on two of those test flights.

And in response to a shareholder question, Muilenburg said the Boeing executives would be on some of the early commercial flights once the planes returned to service.

"It will include me and many others," he said. "This is a very important part in showing our confidence in our product. Our Boeing staff are very supportive of doing that."

Muilenburg faced several questions from shareholders on how the problem with the 737 Max could have happened.

"You seem to have rushed the 737 [Max] into production and have lost sight of some basic file-safe things that go on," said one shareholder. "It should never have happened that you had one easily damaged sensor control, a new, critically designed safety feature."

Muilenburg insisted that the 737 Max was not rushed. He said the plane took six years to develop and that the equipment was considered safe.

"I want to assure you safety is our top priority," Muilenburg said. "That said, we can always improve."

The safety feature forces a plane's nose if a sensor detects it is climbing too fast and at the risk of a stall. Apparently the sensor on the two flights gave false reading. Two weeks after the Ethiopian crash, Boeing announced the software fix would add data from the second sensor, which measures the horizontal plane of the plane.

– CNN's Glen Dacy contributed to this report.


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