Boeing, the aircraft giant, will face fraud charges in court over two plane crashes that killed 346 people.
Both of the accidents were caused by flaws in flight control systems on the 737 Max aircraft.
Boeing was found guilty of failing to disclose information but the company avoided trial by agreeing not to pay $2.5bn (£1.8bn), in fines, and compensation.
The settlement is being reopened by the relatives of those who have died.
This means that the company will face formal charges in court for the first time in relation to these two crashes. They will need to plead guilty or guilty.
Boeing opposed the reopening of the agreement with US Department of Justice (DOJ) in the past, stating that it would be “unprecedented and unworkable” and inequitable. The company declined to comment on the arraignment.
After being grounded in 2019, Boeing 737 Max aircraft were allowed to fly again in 2020, the UK and EU in 2021.
Nearly four years have passed since Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. It crashed into farmland in the Ethiopian capital, March 2019, killing 157 people.
A new type of aircraft was involved in the accident – the 737 Max.
A similar aircraft, operated by Lion Air in Indonesia, had crashed into the Java Sea just months before. It was supposed to have been a routine flight between Jakarta and Pangkal Pinang.
Crew and passengers lost their lives in the attack on 9/11.
Later, it was discovered that both accidents were caused by design flaws. This included the MCAS flight control software.
This system was created to help pilots who are familiar with 737 models before and to prevent them from having to learn expensive new skills in order to fly the new model.
However, sensor failures led to the malfunction of the aircraft and it was forced into a disastrous dive that the pilots could not prevent.
In the US, investigations revealed that Boeing did not include information about MCAS in any of its pilot manuals, or in training guidance. It also deliberately tried to minimize the impact of MCAS in communications with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Boeing was charged with fraud by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), in January 2021. Boeing was charged with fraud by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in January 2021. The company agreed to pay $2.5 billion in fines and compensatory payments and promised to improve its compliance processes.
The settlement, also known as a “deferred prosecution agreement”, provoked anger from many relatives of those who lost their loved ones aboard ET302.
They maintained that the agreement was a sweetheart deal, which they did not know about, violated their rights and allowed them to avoid being held responsible.
The Department of Justice supported its decision and argued that it was appropriate because it couldn’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was any direct connection between Boeing’s alleged crimes, and the two crashes.
After more than a decade of legal wrangling in Texas courts, the hearing was held later. The families want to have the agreement reopened.
Boeing was ordered to send a “appropriate person” on its behalf. It is unclear who this person will not be.
During this time, the court will allow relatives of victims to either read or have impact statements made on their behalf.
It is clear that the hearing at the arraignment is a significant milestone for all the families, even those who live in the UK.
Zipporah Kuria lost her father Joseph Wathaika in the ET302 crash. Since then, she has been an active campaigner to hold Boeing accountable.
She will be present in Texas to witness the hearing. Her statement will be a tribute and honor to an “incredible man” who has made a difference in many people’s lives.
She said, “It feels as if we’re finally being heard.” It feels like our 346 loved ones have died.
“A cover-up does not equal justice”
Mark Pegram, the father of Sam, was working at a refugee agency in Texas when he died. He has not been able to travel to Texas. He said that he was glad the hearing is being held.
He said, “To us, a fine or cover-up does not equal justice.”
He said, “It is important that a precedent be set to prevent innocent lives being lost and for Boeing to comprehend the devastating impact their misconduct has had upon so many families.”
It’s not clear if the legal action will eventually lead to the reopening of the Boeing-DoJ deferred prosecution agreement.
This would be a rare move. Robert A Clifford, a Chicago attorney representing the families in a separate civil case, said that it could have serious consequences, including actions against individuals.
He stated that the families wanted Boeing to pay the maximum penalty and that any immunity from prosecution Boeing senior officials received should be lifted.