Boeing to Face Criminal Charge in 737 Max Crashes

May 14, 2024 / 1 Comment

The Department of Justice is resurrecting a criminal charge against Boeing that it set aside three years ago, a development that could lead to Boeing executives sitting at the defendant’s table in a Texas courtroom.

Late Tuesday, federal prosecutors told Judge Reed O’Connor, that the plane maker had failed to live up to promises to behave better than it had during the design and certification of the troubled 737 Max.

Within five months in 2018 and 2019, two 737 Max airliners crashed killing 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Boeing pled guilty to misleading regulators during the design of the airplane. The government had alleged by allowing a fatally flawed airliner to be sold into the global market Boeing contributed to the disasters.

In exchange for Boeing’s single guilty plea, the criminal case against Boeing executives was deferred. It could have been dropped entirely after three years had Boeing kept its word and had an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max not nearly come to grief just days before the agreement was set to end.

It the letter to Judge O’Connor prosecutors said that over the past 3 years Boeing failed to “prevent and detect violations of the U.S. fraud laws” or even to design a program that would help achieve it. The letter, which was also sent to the families of those killed and the airlines that fly the Max, made it clear that Boeing would now be “subject to prosecution by the United States for any federal criminal violation of which the United States has knowledge.” The government is referencing that fraud allegation but also any other crimes it believes Boeing may have committed and very likely that ill-timed Alaska Airlines episode.

We know that following the near disaster in Portland, Oregon on January 5th, during which the door of a brand new 737 Max came off in flight, the Federal Bureau of Investigation notified passengers that they may have been victims of a crime. The airplane had been delivered to Alaska Airlines without the bolts that hold the door in place and, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, none of the paperwork documenting the installation could be found.

Failing to put the door on securely may or may not be a crime but documenting the assembly of airliners is required by federal regulation.

Boeing acknowledged the government’s determination that “we have not met our obligations under our 2021 deferred prosecution agreement,” but disagreed with it. “We believe that we have honored the terms of that agreement, and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the Department on this issue.”

Paul Cassell the former federal judge and law professor who has been representing those who lost family members on the Max crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia said the news that Boeing may be held accountable was a “long time coming.”

The families’ fight to even be acknowledged as victims took years requiring multiple court hearings and frustrating meetings with government attorneys and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Through it all, they’ve asked for the evidence against Boeing to be brought to trial. What’s changed is the addition of 174 new Max victims to their ranks. These are travelers who did not die and they appear to have breathed new life into the quest for the case against Boeing to be heard in court.

Test Pilot May Face Prison But Prosecution of Boeing in 737 MAX Disasters is Unlikely

Categories: Flying Lessons

One response to “Boeing to Face Criminal Charge in 737 Max Crashes”

  1. Capt. Jeff Hathorn says:

    The Bean counter “stock buy back” management , self serving bonus grifting mentality did America’s once best company -Boeing in.
    The path down the rabbit hole was set with the move to Chicago and the intent to out Airbus by building plastic Lego snap together airliners – The 787.

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