The estate of a passenger killed in a recent Ethiopian Airlines crash has filed a lawsuit against Boeing, the airplane’s manufacturer, with the Boeing lawsuit alleging the company knowingly built a dangerous aircraft.
Boeing Jet Crashed Six Minutes After Takeoff
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a scheduled international passenger flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya, took off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport at 8:38 a.m. local time. Eight crew members and 149 passengers were on board the aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Among the passengers was George Thugge, a resident of Sweden. The airplane crashed six minutes after takeoff near the town of Bishoftu, killing all 157 people on board, including Thugge.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash was the deadliest incident in the airline’s history and the deadliest aircraft accident to occur in Ethiopia.
Boeing Lawsuit Says Company Put “Profits Ahead of…Safety”
On May 20, 2019, an attorney for the estate of George Thugge filed a lawsuit against Boeing in federal court in Charleston, SC. (Thugge’s estate administrator is a Charleston resident.)
The Boeing lawsuit alleges that the company knew that the 737 MAX jet was unsafe but concealed the airplane’s design flaws from airlines and the public. The lawsuit draws parallels to two 737 crashes in the early 1990s and argues the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) relinquished most of its oversight of Boeing, allowing the company to inspect and certify its own aircraft.
The lawsuit claims the FAA has let Boeing build new 737 models — including the MAX version — under the same certificate that was used for the original 737 airplane in 1967. This has allowed Boeing to “race the new models through design, engineering, development, and production by ‘cutting and pasting’ prior models and prior documentation, knowing Boeing would be permitted by the FAA to self-certify,” according to the suit.
The Boeing lawsuit argues that this shortcut was designed to help Boeing bring its MAX airplanes to market to compete with French airplane manufacturer Airbus, which had been developing a new single-aisle jet. The lawyer for Thugge’s estate said Boeing’s reaction to the recent Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes mirrors the company’s actions following 737 accidents in 1991 and 1994. Those crashes involved 737s which “nosedived” to the ground after their pilots experienced sudden, unexpected rudder movements.
Unlike the redundancies built into most airplane systems, the rudders in the early 1990s were a “single point of failure risk” without a built-in backup system. Investigations into the recent Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes identified a software problem that forced the nose down on 737 MAX airplanes after a single angle-of-attack indicator gave faulty readings.
The Boeing lawsuit accuses the aircraft manufacturer of deploying “a common and continuous scheme after both series of crashes to conceal deadly faults in the aircraft that caused the planes, without pilot input or ability to overcome the aircraft, to dive into the ground killing all aboard.”
The lawsuit further alleges that “Boeing continued to misrepresent to the FAA that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 was safe, even after the crash of Lion Air, because Boeing would suffer significant financial losses if the FAA grounded the airplane. In doing so, Boeing chose to prioritize its profits ahead of the safety of crew members and passengers.”
The FAA grounded the 737 MAX on March 11, 2019, after regulators around the world had already banned the airplane from flying. While Boeing has developed software changes for the airplane to address the issue that caused the two recent crashes, the 737 MAX is likely to remain grounded at least through part of the summer.
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