Boeing said on Friday it was slowing production of its 737 Max jet and establishing a new internal safety committee after two of the planes were involved in fatal crashes in five months.
Dennis A. Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive, said in a statement that the company would reduce the rate at which it produces the family of 737 airplanes to 42 airplanes a month from 52. In addition to the Max, Boeing produces the 737 NG and a military version of the plane.
The move comes as the Max remains grounded around the world, and after Boeing paused deliveries of new planes, creating a backlog on its production lines in Renton, Wash.
[The Seattle area is feeling the pain of the Max crisis. The company’s presence is seemingly everywhere in the region.]
Mr. Muilenburg also said that Boeing would establish a committee on its board of directors to review how it develops and builds planes.
“The committee will confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737 Max program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures,” he said.
The production slowdown and new committee come as Boeing confronts an escalating crisis after the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in October and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 last month. Preliminary investigations indicate that both airplanes crashed after anti-stall software unique to the Max activated based on faulty data and sent the planes into irrecoverable nose dives.
In his statement, Mr. Muilenburg acknowledged that the “accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft’s MCAS function.”
“We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it,” he added.
Boeing engineers began working on a software update after the Lion Air crash, but Boeing and aviation regulators around the world deemed that the Max remained safe to fly. Though many pilots had not been informed of the powerful new software before the accident in Indonesia, Boeing said it was possible to handle a malfunction if pilots followed a set of instructions it issued after that crash.
That claim, which was backed by the Federal Aviation Administration, is now under scrutiny. On Thursday, Ethiopian authorities released a preliminary report of their investigation and found that the pilots in that crash initially followed the instructions in Boeing’s emergency checklist.
Only after the crash in Ethiopia did regulators ground the Max. Boeing continues to work on the software update and revised training procedures for the Max, and this week said the fixes were taking longer than anticipated.
Boeing has given no timetable for the return of the Max. The updates will have to be certified by the F.A.A. and other regulators around the globe before the planes can fly again.
“Teams are working tirelessly, advancing and testing the software, conducting non-advocate reviews, and engaging regulators and customers worldwide as we proceed to final certification,” Mr. Muilenburg said. “We’re also finalizing new pilot training courses and supplementary educational material for our global Max customers.”