The settlement Boeing struck with the Department of Justice, which the relatives of the dead have rejected, is in jeopardy after a federal judge ordered Boeing to be arraigned on a felony charge connected to the crashes of two 737 MAX aircraft.
U.S. District Court
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court decided narrowly in favor of the families of the victims, who claim the DOJ negotiated a deal with Boeing in secret and excluded them from the negotiations, and ordered Boeing to show up on Jan. 26 for arraignment on the felony charge.
Boeing 737 MAX crashes
Although Boeing will appear for an initial hearing and the court will hold a hearing at which the families are expected to speak, O’Connor’s decision is relatively limited.
The judge has not yet decided on a motion by a lawyer for the families asking whether Boeing’s exemption from prosecution should be revoked.
The DOJ’s settlement agreement with Boeing was “such a horrible bargain,” according to Paul Cassell, one of the attorneys for the families of the victims, that the DOJ “can and should, after hearing from the victims, re-do the arrangement” to permit Boeing’s prosecution.
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Judge O’Connor ruled last year that the DOJ should have informed the family members of victims who lost their lives in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes because they are considered crime victims under federal law.
Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion as part of the deal to avoid being charged criminally with deceiving the federal authorities who approved the 737 MAX. A $243.6 million fine and a $500 million fund to assist the families of the victims were included in the settlement.
The majority of the compensation money was given to airlines that lost the use of their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for over two years while they were grounded as a result of the crashes.
346 individuals were killed in the two Boeing 737 MAX accidents. On Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, 189 people perished, and on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed in March 2019, all 157 passengers perished.
Both crashes were caused by a malfunctioning sensor in the automated flight-control system of the 737 MAX, which Boeing first failed to disclose to airlines and pilots. The pilots lost control of the aircraft as a result of the angle-of-attack sensor’s inaccurate reading from the anti-stall system, which repeatedly caused the jet to nose down.
Federal Aviation Administration
The 737 MAX was given the all-clear by the Federal Aviation Administration to resume operations in November 2020 after modifications to the plane’s design and pilot training programs.
The FAA must guarantee that any aircraft it certifies have updated crew-alerting systems that adhere to the most recent safety regulations, according to a 2020 law passed by Congress.
The December 2022 omnibus spending bill included a waiver from the 2020 law for Boeing, but it stipulated that the company’s 737 MAX 7 aircraft as well as its current fleet of MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft must be retrofitted with 2 fixes.
This was because Boeing encountered delays in getting the FAA to approve the changes. The improved system is being used in the design and flight testing of Boeing’s new 737 MAX 10.
Before entering service with airlines, the MAX 7 and MAX 10 must be certified by the FAA. According to Boeing, this will happen for the MAX 7 in the early months of 2023 and the MAX 10 in the latter part of this year.
For FOX Business, Boeing opted not to comment. A request for comment from the DOJ did not immediately receive a reply.
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