Attorneys pursuing a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines posted a legal filing accusing the airline of an unusual certification maneuver they say was designed to deceive the FAA. A Seattle Times story published Monday (May 16) reported that, in 2016, before the 737 Max was certified, Southwest management suggested that Boeing install a single example of the new model’s flight-control warning system on one of the airline’s existing 737-800s, then remove it once the new Max variants were certified.

The class-action lawsuit is filed on behalf of Southwest customers who bought tickets on flights flown on Max models between the first high-profile crash in October 2018 and the second in March 2019. The suit alleges that Boeing and Southwest concealed safety defects on the Max to increase demand for air travel, and as a result, those passengers paid higher prices for their tickets.

The ongoing legal action, begun in March, maintains that the intent of the warning-system maneuver was to communicate to the FAA that the system was not “new” on the Max. If successful, the strategy could have avoided costly training for pilots on the new aircraft, according to the Texas attorneys.

According to the Seattle Times story, Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General, said, “It’s hard to come up with any reason for that other than to deceive the FAA.” In an interview, ex-Boeing engineer Rick Ludtke, the designer of the new system, talked about the Southwest proposal and how some Boeing managers discussed prospects with him for implementing it. “We laughed at them,” said Ludtke. “We thought they were nuts.”

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