According to allegations in a recently filed lawsuit, Southwest Airline pilots say Boeing rushed the 737 MAX jet into production and intentionally withheld critical safety information, which contributed to two planes crashes, killing 346 passengers and crew members.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed the complaint against The Boeing Company this month, claiming losses of over $100 million due to the manufacturer’s alleged negligence in releasing the Boeing 737 Max airplane, which has been grounded worldwide since March after two fatal plane crashes .
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of all pilots of Southwest Airlines, claiming Boeing placed desire for profits before safety when it introduced and sold the 737 Max jet, intentionally abandoning sound design and engineering practices, withholding safety information from regulators and deliberately misleading its customers, pilots and the public about design changes from previous versions of the 737 aircraft.
The Association stated Southwest, which is the largest operator of the 737 Max jets, had to cancel more than 30,000 flights due to the grounding of the planes, and estimates an 8% decline in airline passenger service’s for 2019.
The lawsuit seeks $115 million in damages to cover the wages pilots are expected to lose by the end of the year, as well as 401(k) contributions, sick leave accrual and profit sharing, according to reports.
The Boeing 737 Max problems came to light following two fatal crashes just months apart from one another. The first occurred on October 10, 2018, when Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea just 13 minutes into its flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew. The second occurred five months later, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 carrying 157 passengers crashed shortly after taking flight on March 10, 2019, killing everyone on board.
After the plane accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and French aviation officials grounded Boeing’s entire 737 MAX fleet due to similarities between the two crashes. The grounding order was put in place until further investigations into the latest Ethiopian Airlines crash could be completed and any safety issues addressed.
The investigations have determined the crashes were likely due to a problem with the plane’s Angle of Attack (AOA) sensor and the automated flight system’s efforts to address the perceived problem, which kept telling an automated system, to point the nose down. Officials have since discovered that pilots were unable to shut off the AOA override which kept pointing the nose downward, and pilots were not informed or trained on how to handle the scenarios by Boeing.
An independent report released earlier this month indicates both Boeing and the FAA failed to properly handle the certification process for parts of the flight control computer which contributed to the crash.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are conducting a criminal probe into the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX jet after the company released a statement earlier this year acknowledging that it learned about discrepancies between two Angle of Attack AOA sensors in its 737 MAX passenger jets in 2017. However, it did not inform the FAA until November 2018, after the crash of a Lion Air flight out of Indonesia.
Boeing also faces a number of wrongful death lawsuits from family members of victims of both accidents. In September, individuals familiar with the litigation said Boeing agreed to pay at least $1.2 million each to the families of those lost in the Lion Airlines crash.