Boeing Admits Guilt in Two Deadly Plane Crashes

06:18 July 8, 2024

Boeing Admits Guilt in Two Deadly Plane Crashes

American company Boeing will admit to criminal charges of wrongdoing linked to two deadly passenger jet crashes. The aerospace manufacturer will also pay a fine of $243.6 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice said late Sunday that the company had violated an agreement that had protected it from legal action for three years.

The two crashes of Boeing 737 MAX airliners killed 346 people in a five-month period from 2018 to 2019.

Government lawyers gave Boeing the choice of entering a guilty plea and paying the fine or facing a trial. If the trial had taken place, Boeing would have faced felony charges of criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The government, which approved the airplane and the pilot training required for it, charged Boeing with lying. A federal judge still must approve the deal before it can go into effect.

In addition to the plea and fine, the government will name an independent monitor to supervise Boeing’s safety and quality methods for three years. The company must also spend at least $455 million on compliance and safety programs.

The deal only covers the wrongdoing by Boeing before the crashes. The Justice Department said it does not protect Boeing from recent dangerous incidents in which, for example, a panel of a plane came off during an Alaska Airlines flight in January.

The deal only affects the company and not current or former Boeing officials. The company confirmed it had reached a deal with the government but had no other comment.

The complete written agreement is expected to be presented to the federal court by July 19.

Families of some of the people who died on the flights criticized the deal. Paul Cassell is a lawyer for some of the families. He said, “This sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing’s conspiracy, 346 people died.” A group of the families is asking the government to seek a fine of nearly $25 billion.

The company’s guilty plea will be entered in a U.S. District Court in the southwestern state of Texas. Judge Reed O’Connor has called Boeing’s behavior “egregious criminal conduct.”

Two crashes

The case involves two crashes. One took place in Indonesia and the other in Ethiopia. Investigators said the pilots in the Lion Air crash did not know about flight-control software that would affect control of the airplane. The pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines crash knew about the software but were still unable to control the plane.

The software is called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. Boeing designed it to cause the airplane’s nose to point down under a certain set of flight conditions. The software aimed to save money by reducing the amount of training time pilots needed to use the system. The software is used in 737 MAX airplanes and did not exist on earlier aircraft.

The Justice Department charged Boeing in 2021 with lying to Federal Aviation Administration officials about the software. Under a deal at the time, the government did not bring charges if the company paid a $2.5 billion settlement, which included a fine of $243.6 million. Boeing was also required to meet the requirements of anti-fraud laws for three years.

Boeing blamed two low-level employees for misleading government officials. The government charged a former company official. In 2022, a jury found a former Boeing chief technical pilot not guilty in connection with the company’s wrongdoing.

After the crashes, the government grounded or halted all flights of the 737 MAX airplanes involved for about 20 months.

Boeing is based in Arlington, Virginia, although the 737 MAX aircraft are built in the state of Washington.

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

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