Boeing 737 MAX relatives call for certification changes

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July 18, 2019
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Ethiopian's group chief executive at the crash site. Photo: Ethiopian

The grieving father of a family killed in Ethiopian Boeing 737 MAX crash has slammed the US manufacturer and called for changes to the way aircraft are certified in the US.

The criticism came as Boeing announced it would hire compensation lawyers Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros to administer a promised $US100 million compensation fund to help families of the Ethiopian tragedy and the earlier Lion Air MAX crash.

READ: Boeing sets aside $US100m for MAX families.

The manufacturer said it had also dedicated the first $US50 million to the near-term relief of families of the 346 victims of the two crashes.

Paul Njoroge, whose wife, mother and three children were among the 157 killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, told a US Congressional hearing of the heartbreak of losing his family and said he bought tickets on the flight because he believed it would be safe.

Njoroge said that all he could think of during recent national days in the US and Canada was of a Boeing 737 MAX plane repeatedly taking control of the pilots to push down the nose and eventually crashing into the ground at 500 mph.

“Nothing was left but a crater,’’ he said in a prepared statement. “ I sat huddled in a small apartment, not being able to return to my house ever.

“I thought of all the celebrations I will be missing with my family.  No more birthdays, no more anniversaries, no more holidays, no weddings for my children, no grandchildren.

“Boeing has never reached out to families about the impossible sorrow and grief we will carry for our entire lives.

“Instead they have a press relations strategy to apologize to cameras and propose half-baked promises to give $100 million to local governments and nonprofit organizations.”

Njoroge said he spoke for all the families who lost loved ones they would never see again “because of the reckless conduct on behalf of many”, particularly Boeing and its attempt to blame the training of foreign pilots.

He criticized the close relationship between the manufacturer and the Federal Aviation Administration and demanded that the 737 MAX 8 be fully recertified as a new plane “because it is too different from the original plane designed at the beginning of the Vietnam War”.

He said the families also demanded simulator training for MAX pilots rather than the computer-based training suggested by the FAA and that recertification takes place only after the completion of all investigations.

Other demands included a return to greater FAA oversight of the manufacturer and that future hearing include those who wrote the software implicated in the crash, technical dissenters, whistleblowers, safety engineers and families.

In a statement announcing the appointment of the compensation lawyers, Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said the tragic loss of life in both accidents “continues to weigh heavily on all of us at Boeing, and we have the utmost sympathy for the loved ones of those on board.

“Through our partnership with Feinberg and Biros, we hope affected families receive needed assistance as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The manufacturer said the money distributed by Feinberg and Biros would be independent of any resolution provided through the legal process.

“We know how important it is to assist the families of the victims who have endured a personal tragedy and will work to design and administer the fund and distribute the money as efficiently and expeditiously as possible,” Biros said.

Feinberg’s firm was involved in compensation distribution after the 9/11 terrorist attacks,  the BP Deepwater Horizon fiasco and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

Boeing is facing multiple lawsuits as well as compensation claims from airlines as a result of the MAX crashes.