Boeing pleads guilty in 737 Max crash caseBoeing pleads guilty in 737 Max crash case

The world’s largest aerospace company will pay a million-dollar fine following a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for crashes that killed 346 people and will be free of a trial.

(DW) Boeing has agreed to plead guilty in an investigation into two plane crashes involving the 737 MAX model in 2018 and 2019 in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. The world’s largest aerospace company will pay a million-dollar fine following an agreement with the US Department of Justice. The announcement was made on Sunday (07/07).

The agreement, which still needs to be approved by a federal judge, involves pleading guilty to fraud in the certification of these planes and would avoid a trial. The company will pay a fine of 244 million dollars and invest 455 million dollars over the next three years to improve its compliance and safety programs.

The amount established, however, is much less than the 24.8 billion dollars that the victims’ families demanded from the manufacturer. In a statement, Boeing only confirmed that it had reached “an agreement in principle on the terms of a settlement with the Department of Justice, subject to approval of specific terms”.

Since January of this year, when the door panel of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 detached from the plane in mid-flight, Boeing has been thoroughly investigated by different US government agencies. The investigations found flaws in the aircraft’s manufacturing process. The company’s reputation, however, was already tarnished by previous accidents.

Accidents involving the 737 MAX

The two accidents that prompted the settlement occurred within a six-month interval and involved the 737 MAX 8 model. The first was in October 2018, on a Lion Air flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, which crashed into the sea after take-off. The second, in March 2019, was on a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, which also crashed minutes after take-off.

In 2020, a US Congressional report revealed design flaws and a culture of cover-up at the company, as well as errors on the part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The two accidents left Boeing with historic losses.

This year, the company returned to the spotlight when, on January 5, the door of a 737 MAX came loose from the fuselage, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing. There were no casualties in the accident, but the FAA suspended the model for three weeks.

A report in The New York Times revealed that 89 audits were carried out after the crash, which found several cases of non-compliance with quality control requirements by Boeing and its suppliers. Spirit AeroSystems, one of the company’s suppliers, passed only six of the 13 audits carried out. Investigations have been opened against Boeing by the US Department of Justice and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In addition to the 737 MAX, other Boeing aircraft have also been involved in recent accidents. On January 13 this year, a 737-800 operated by All Nippon Airways had to return to the runway when a crack was discovered in the cockpit window. The 59 passengers and six crew members were not injured.

Other investigations

Authorities in New Zealand and Chile are also investigating what caused a Latam Boeing 787 to abruptly lose altitude during a flight between Sydney (Australia) and Auckland (New Zealand), which was due to end in Santiago, Chile. New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (Taic) is analyzing the recordings contained in the plane’s black box. The incident occurred on a flight with 263 passengers and left 50 people injured.

afs/le (EFE, AP, Reuters, ots)

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