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Victim's Family Responds To Boeing CEO's Testimony


Boeing's CEO is acknowledging mistakes. What do the parents of one plane crash victim think of what he said? Dennis Muilenburg takes questions before a House committee today. He spoke with senators yesterday about the crashes of two 737 Max aircraft crashes that killed a total of 346 people. Investigators say an automated control system played a role in both crashes, and the CEO admitted that Boeing needs to improve.


DENNIS MUILENBURG: We can and must do better. We've been challenged and changed by these accidents. We've made mistakes, and we got some things wrong. We're improving, and we're learning, and we're continuing to learn.

INSKEEP: Some family members stood in the committee room holding photos of those killed. Among them, Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron. Their daughter Samya was on the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed in March. She was 24. Michael and Nadia are with us this morning. I'm sorry for your loss.



INSKEEP: I know it's unnatural to lose a child. I understand you spoke directly with Muilenburg in the committee room yesterday. What did you say?

MILLERON: I asked him to resign because - I said that he made decisions which killed people, and then he refused to acknowledge it. The plane was rushed into production. There are many aspects of this plane that are not safe, and that is what I want the American public to know and the flying public to know because they have to protect themselves.

Our daughter got on the plane completely trusting. Her job bought her that ticket. She was going on her first assignment in East Africa for an NGO which works on health care. And she never dreamed that there would be any problem with the plane itself, and there was a huge problem. And when you look at the plane, it's certified since 1967. So their - Boeing has been able to save money on the parts of the plane that are not up to today's standard.

So, you know, I said to him, given all of that, Mr. Muilenburg, you should feel ashamed for your decisions which killed people, and you should resign, and also the board and all the other executives that participated in these decisions shouldn't keep making decisions which put our well-being at risk. We should have a new team. He said no, that he was raised to stick difficult situations out, that he was raised to follow through and not retreat from difficulties. And then I pressed and said that, if your skills and your behavior are not good for the company and not good for Americans or the flying public, then you should retreat and say that someone else should take over.

So he didn't respond to that, but I think that is something that we have to continue to press because also in the FAA are persons who made those decisions, and they shouldn't keep on making decisions.

INSKEEP: Are you certain that we cannot class this as an oversight or the kind of thing that happens with complicated aircraft, that it's clear to you from the evidence that Boeing executives had enough knowledge in advance that these crashes could have been prevented?

MILLERON: Yes because of the Indonesian crash. So after the Indonesian crash, they made a decision to keep this plane in the air. And he says he regrets that and that if he knows - if he knew then, after the Indonesian crash, what he knows right now, he would make a different decision. But in fact, if you look, he had all that evidence. So there is no reason that he shouldn't have known right after the Indonesian crash what he actually knows right now. So absolutely, he had the information, and it's - this is one aspect of the plane that failed, and they are fixing that aspect.

But this was a new plane, and there are many other aspects that should be reviewed and that are not safe. So it's really, really important. Now, we have asked him repeatedly and the FAA repeatedly for the information, the package - what are you pulling together for this plane? What are the aerodynamic tests? Let's get some scrutiny that's independent of the organizations which caused this plane to continue flying. And we have never gotten that transparency or that information. And that's super, super important.

INSKEEP: Michael Stumo, I want to bring you into this conversation. Nadia Milleron said that Samya was working for an NGO, beginning work for an NGO, focused on health care in Africa. What drew her to that part of the world?

STUMO: She has been - she was in South America as a student, a high school student and then as a grad student, and saw how public health or global health with a top-down approach often had bad effects on people. She wanted to work for an NGO or an organization that had a disruptive approach to global health from the bottom up that was patient-centered.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about the way you just described her work. She wanted to focus on people at the ground level. You said patient-centered health care.


INSKEEP: Not a top-down approach. Is there some analogy here to draw between that kind of attitude and what you believe you've seen at Boeing? Do you believe the people at the top did not listen to warnings that came from below?

STUMO: Absolutely. And we need to hear in the hearings from technical dissenters and whistleblowers, look - this software was something that relied on only one sensor that was known to break, where it was known to have birds hit it and fail. And when that sensor failed, it would make the software hijack the plane and overpower the pilots. It did it 20 times in the Indonesian Air crash, and it did it several times in our daughter's crash.

They knew that they didn't have enough redundancy. And you don't have software on a plane that - flight control software that overpowers the pilots, that they can't fight back. That's just - it's just - it's recklessness.

INSKEEP: Mr. Stumo, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it this morning.

STUMO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And thank you also to Nadia Milleron. And I'm sorry, again, to you both for your loss.

MILLERON: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: They are the parents of Samya Stumo, one of 346 people killed in two Boeing crashes.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLDMUND'S "TURNS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.