In late November 2020, nearly two years after two plane crashes resulted in the death of hundreds, the Federal Aviation Administration cleared Boeing’s 737 Max to fly again. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed the order, rescinding the grounding. A week prior to the decision, Dickson said the agency was in the final stage of reviewing design changes to the Max that would make it safe to return to the skies.
Aviation Crashes Involving Boeing’s 737 Max
As a result of the crashes, regulators all over the world grounded the 737 Max in March 2019. This was after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet. Just five months prior, another 737 Max, flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air, plunged into the Java Sea. All passengers and crew members on both planes were killed.
On October 29, 2018, a 737 Max 8 operating Lion Air Flight 610 crashed after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 onboard. A week later, Boeing issued a service bulletin warning about issues with the stabilizer nose and instructed pilots on how to counteract it. On March 10, 2019, another 737 Max 8 operating Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa airport, killing all 157 onboard, due to a similar defect. That is when the worldwide flight ban for the aircraft was initiated, starting with China.
After the accidents, investigators focused on anti-stall software that Boeing had implemented to counter the plane’s tendency to tilt nose-up because of the size and placement of both engines. That software pushed the nose down repeatedly during both flights when the planes crashed. It seems that a singular faulty sensor removed the pilot’s control of the aircraft.
As a result of the crashes discussed above, a number of lawsuits were filed against Boeing from surviving family members of deceased passengers, seeking compensation for losses—both financial and otherwise. Both Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration face lawsuits, with victims’ families, pilots, and shareholders accusing Boeing of putting profits over safety. Lawsuits have been filed by families in the United States, Indonesia, Kenya, France, Ethiopia, and other countries. In regard to the lawsuits against U.S. Federal Aviation Administration claim the government inspectors who review the planes were not properly trained.
Recommissioning the Boeing 737 Max
In order for the 737 Max to be allowed back in the skies, the FAA required design changes and will now be responsible for issuing the Airworthiness Certificate for each aircraft—something that Boeing used to do. The design changes, as well as new pilot requirements, will be outlined in the Airworthiness Direction, which goes into effect when it appears in the federal register.
The new pilot requirements include simulator training, which was required when the aircraft was introduced. In regard to the design changes, the plan no longer automatically points the nose down repeatedly or overrides commands from the pilot.
In response to the FAA’s decision, Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said, “The FAA’s directive is an important milestone. We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”
The Air Line Pilot Association (ALPA) expressed confidence that the 737 Max is safe: “Based on the Airworthiness Directive, ALPA believes that the engineering fixes to the flight-critical aircraft systems around sound and will be an effective component that leads to the safe return to service of the 737 Max.”
It’s unclear how Boeing’s redemption will be taken, as it comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has scared aware passengers and significantly affected the aviation industry. Air travel in the United States alone is down approximately 65% from a year ago. On December 9, 2020, Brazilian carrier Gol Transportes Aéreos was the first airline to resume passenger service with the 737 Max. American Airlines resumed passenger service on December 29, 2020.
While nearly 400 737 Max jets were in service worldwide when they were grounded, Boeing has since built and stored 450 more. All have to undergo maintenance and modifications prior to being put in service.
If you’ve been involved in an airplane crash or you’ve lost a loved one in a situation like that, it’s important to understand your legal rights and option. Aviation crashes are often followed by extensive and complex investigation, which may leave victims confused and seemingly alone. When you seek legal guidance from Thomas Law Offices, we’ll provide you with the representation and advice you need to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions and move forward. Contact us today to learn more.