Boeing Charged with 737 MAX Fraud Conspiracy

The Boeing Company has been levied fines and penalties well over $2.5 billion by the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ). The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement as a direct result of defrauding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during the evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The 737 MAX has had ongoing issues with its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). The MCAS directly impacts the aircrafts flight control system. The malfunctioning flight control system led to the crash of a Lion Air 737 Max in October 2018. Another 737 MAX, this time belonging to Ethiopian Airlines crashed in March 2019. There were a total of 346 lives lost in the accidents.

The DOJ Press Release states, “The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers. Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception. This resolution holds Boeing accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct, addresses the financial impact to Boeing’s airline customers, and hopefully provides some measure of compensation to the crash-victims’ families and beneficiaries.”

As part of the $2.5 billion dollar agreement, Boeing will have to pay a criminal penalty, compensation to 737 MAX customers, and establish a crash victim fund. The exact language can be found below:

“Boeing will pay a total criminal monetary amount of over $2.5 billion, composed of a criminal monetary penalty of $243.6 million, compensation payments to Boeing’s 737 MAX airline customers of $1.77 billion, and the establishment of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund to compensate the heirs, relatives, and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passengers who died in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.”

Frankly, I do not believe monetary penalties should have been the only result of the investigation. The press release states that two of Boeing’s 737 MAX Technical Pilots deceived the FAA about the MCAS. This led to key information missing from flight manuals and pilot training material.

“In and around November 2016, two of Boeing’s 737 MAX Flight Technical Pilots, one who was then the 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot and another who would later become the 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot, discovered information about an important change to MCAS. Rather than sharing information about this change with the FAA, Boeing, through these two 737 MAX Flight Technical Pilots, concealed this information and deceived the FAA AEG about MCAS. Because of this deceit, the FAA deleted all information about MCAS from the final version of the 737 MAX FSB Report published in July 2017. In turn, airplane manuals and pilot training materials for U.S.-based airlines lacked information about MCAS, and pilots flying the 737 MAX for Boeing’s airline customers were not provided any information about MCAS in their manuals and training materials.”

Even after the Lion Air crash, the pilots continued to lie about their prior knowledge of the deficient MCAS. This is incredible on so many levels. These pilots had the autonomy to operate without oversight and cost the lives of almost 350 people. Are there other employees who enjoy the same autonomy within the company? The Boeing Company has airplanes in the sky, around the world. Are there others with similar deficiencies? If so, how many? Where are they?

Final Word

Wow. I do not know where to start. There is so much information to digest in the DOJ press release. However, there was one notable omission from the DOJ. Prison time. At a minimum, these pilots should be sentenced for negligence which led to the crash of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines’ 737 MAX aircraft. This is beyond words, I have more questions than answers.

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