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Boeing Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuits Over Lion Air Airplane Crash

Following the crash of Lion Air flight 610 last month, a number of wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Boeing, alleging that a defective flight control system in a new Boeing 737 Max airplane caused the flight to go down, killing everyone on board. 

At least three claims have been filed over the past few weeks in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois in Chicago, where The Boeing Company has its worldwide headquarters located.

The first complaint (PDF) was filed by H. Irianto on November 14, over the death of his son, Dr. Rio Nanda Pratama.

Two additional Boeing wrongful lawsuits were filed on November 21, including one complaint (PDF) brought by Dayinta Dyah Anggana, whose mother, Nurul Dyah Ayu Sitharesmi, died in the crash. A second complaint (PDF) was filed the same day by Helda Aprilia, whose husband, Dr. Ibnu Fajariy Adi Hantoro, also died on the flight.

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed after departing from Jakarta, Indonesia airport on October 29, with 189 passengers and crew. The plane was destined for Pangkal Pinang, but crashed into the Java Sea approximately 20 minutes into the flight, around 6:30 a.m.

According to allegations raised in the lawsuits filed against Boeing, the crash was caused by a flight control system sensor that malfunctioned.

“The newly-delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed as a result of, among other things, a new Boeing flight control system which automatically steered the aircraft toward the ground, and which caused an excessive nose-down attitude, significant altitude loss, and, ultimately, the crash into the Java Sea killing everyone on board,” Irianto’s lawsuit states.

While no official cause has been attributed to the accident by Boeing or federal investigators, on November 7, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency air worthiness directive which advised all pilots operating a Boeing Model 737 Max that the Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors may produce erroneous readings and cause the plane to abruptly dive, increasing the risk of a crash.

According to the FAA, the planes are equipped with an AOA which measures the angular difference between the direction the aircraft is moving and the pitch of the aircraft’s wing. Boeing has discovered the system can produce inaccurate measurements telling pilots the nose of the plane is too high in relation to the current of air. As a result, pilots may continue to pitch the nose downward or the automatic system may forcibly pitch the nose down.

The lawsuits indicate that before the directive, which came as a result of the ongoing investigation into the crash, pilots were not warned about the risk of problems with the AOA sensor.

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