FLYING Magazine

Family members of some of the 346 people killed in a pair of Boeing 737 Max crashes are asking federal officials to fine Boeing $24.8 billion and prosecute officials in charge of the company at the time, including then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

The large fine is justified because “Boeing’s crime is the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history,” lawyer Paul Cassell, who is representing the families, told the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a letter Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

READ MORE: FAA Head Vows Increase in Boeing Oversight

The first crash occurred in October 2018 when a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air went down in the Java Sea. The second occurred in March 2019, involving an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa International Airport (HAAB) in Ethiopia.

Cassell also wrote that the government should prosecute officials who were leading Boeing at the time of the crashes, including Muilenburg, who held the reins of the aerospace company from 2015 to 2019. He was fired in the aftermath of the crashes and the FAA’s subsequent grounding of the 737 Max fleet. 

In 2021, Muilenburg was replaced as CEO by David Calhoun

A Personal Apology

On Tuesday, Calhoun went before  the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to answer questions about quality control at Boeing.

“I would like to speak directly to those who lost loved ones on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. I want to personally apologize, on behalf of everyone at Boeing. We are deeply sorry for your losses,” Calhoun told lawmakers in testimony obtained by FLYING. “Nothing is more important than the safety of the people who step on board our airplanes. Every day we seek to honor the memory of those lost through a steadfast commitment to safety and quality.”

Many of the people in attendance at the Senate hearing lost loved ones in the 2018 and 2019 crashes. They carried signs calling for justice and jeered at Calhoun, suggesting Boeing put profits over safety.

During the Senate hearing, Calhoun addressed families of victims. [Screenshot/ C-SPAN]

Under Calhoun, Boeing reached a settlement with the government to protect the company from criminal prosecution for allegedly misleading government officials who approved the Max for flight. 

It appeared Boeing had made changes to improve quality control, then in January, an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 lost a door plug during flight resulting in rapid decompression. The investigation found a lack of oversight of Boeing by the FAA. According to the DOJ, Boeing failed to make changes in the name of safety that it agreed to in January 2021 as part of a $2.5 billion settlement to avoid prosecution of a charge of fraud for misleading federal regulators who approved the aircraft for operations.

READ MORE: DOJ Accuses Boeing of Violating 737 Max Crash Agreement

Last month, prosecutors determined that the company violated a 2021 settlement that protected the company from being prosecuted for allegedly misleading regulators who approved the Max. Boeing maintains it has fulfilled its obligations of the settlement.

Since the door plug loss, Boeing was given 90 days to come up with a plan to improve quality of production. Part of that has been an increase in the number of FAA inspectors on the factory floor.

During his testimony Calhoun noted there have been multiple changes in Boeing’s top management since the two fatal crashes and then again after the door plug incident.

“From the beginning, we took responsibility and cooperated transparently with the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] and the FAA in their respective investigations,” Calhoun said. “In our factories and in our supply chain, we took immediate action to ensure the specific circumstances that led to this accident would not happen again. Importantly, we went beyond to look comprehensively at our quality and manufacturing systems.”

READ MORE: Boeing Presents Quality Control Improvement Plan to FAA

Calhoun noted that Boeing has held production stand-downs in its plants.

“We have listened to our employees and acted on their ideas,” he said. “We have brought in an independent quality expert to assess our processes. And we have announced our intention to reacquire Spirit AeroSystems, the manufacturer of our fuselage.”

As a result, Boeing said it has developed a comprehensive safety and quality action plan with specific metrics, which will be used to demonstrate accountability and that the FAA will use to provide the oversight required.

READ MORE: Boeing CEO to Step Down, President to Retire

That may not be enough, as several lawmakers expressed skepticism that Boeing had improved its safety culture after the two crashes, per the settlement. The DOJ has until July 7 to inform a federal judge in Texas whether it will revive the case. 

Calhoun will be stepping down from the company at the end of the year. His replacement has not yet been named.

The post Boeing Crash Victim Families Seek $24.8B Fine From Company appeared first on FLYING Magazine.

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