Lawsuits pile up against Boeing in two 737 Max crashes

Boeing is facing a growing number of lawsuits after two of its new 737 Max 8 planes crashed in five months, federal court records show.

The lawsuits accuse the company of rushing the plane to market without enough testing or training for pilots.

Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and others “engaged in concerted actions to conceal, deny, and downplay the hazards and safety concerns, in violation of federal regulations, presented by the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s new features,” according to the lawsuits, many of which use the same language in the filings.

A separate lawsuit brought by shareholders Wednesday says the company “put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty,” USA Today reports.

Nearly 350 people died in the crashes. Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the ocean on Oct. 29 shortly after takeoff. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed outside Addis Ababa on March 10.

The lawsuits point to a problem with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, MCAS, “which is supposed to stabilize the aircraft in flight.” In both crashes, the lawsuits argue, the system malfunctioned and pointed the nose of the plane down.

“Preliminary data indicates that the two planes may have experienced the same malfunctioning automated system—an unwarranted activation of the MCAS,” according to the lawsuits.

“The complaint says the company ‘actively concealed’ the nature of the defects,” the Associated Press reports.

Speaking to the family of Mucaad Hussein Abdalla, a Minnesota man killed in the Ethiopia crash, the AP said, “The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain answers for his clients and ‘hold those accountable’ for the crash that killed 157 people.”

“We miss him dearly,” said Hassan Abdi, Abdalla’s brother, the AP reports. “He had a long life ahead of him and he was taken away from us too soon.”

The lawsuits have been filed in Chicago, where Boeing is based.

The lawsuits say the company rushed the new 737 Max design to customers and were able to skirt rules on retraining pilots by arguing the design had not changed much.

“The redesign of the 737 changed the size and placement of the aircraft’s engines, which altered how the jet handled in flight. With the MAX 8, Boeing introduced a new generation of engines with much more power. The engines are also heavier, a factor that influences the airplane’s aerodynamic balance. At low speeds, there is a marked difference in the behavior of the MAX 8 airplane when compared with previous versions of Boeing’s 737,” one of the new lawsuits says.

The bigger engines and where they sit on the wing mean “the aircraft tends to raise its nose in flight, a movement called pitch,” according to one lawsuit.

“If an aircraft pitches too high, it risks stalling and crashing. The aircraft’s MCAS is supposed to compensate for that pitch problem by automatically lowering the nose without pilot input. The system is constantly fed data from two wing-like devices called angle of attack sensors, located on the plane’s nose,” one of the lawsuits says.

But that system is what ultimately did the planes in, one lawsuit says.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg last week, “said it was ‘apparent’ that MCAS had been activated in both crashes after sensors fed the system erroneous information,” the Washington Post reported.

Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuits, the AP reports, “but the company has said it is fully cooperating with the investigation and extended its ‘heartfelt condolences and sympathies’ to the families and loved ones of victims.”

The new class action suit says: “Boeing, and the passenger airlines, also hid the fact that Boeing withheld necessary safety features from the Boeing 737 MAX unless airlines purchased them as ‘extras’ or ‘optional features’ in order to keep the price down,” according to the Post.

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.