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Boeing to cut 737 Max production

Boeing said on Friday that 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 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, Washington.

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 programme, as well as our other airplane programmes, and recommend improvements,” 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.

Boeing engineers began working on a software update after the Lion Air crash, but Boeing and aviation regulators around the world deemed the Max safe to fly. Although 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 under scrutiny.