people Possible rewrite: US Prosecutors Consider Legal Action Against Boeing for 737 MAX Crashes That Claimed 346 Lives

US Department of Justice to Consider Criminal Prosecution Against Boeing Over 737 MAX Crashes

The safety crisis surrounding Boeing has taken a new turn as the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a case accusing the planemaker of breaching its obligations in a 2021 agreement related to the 737 MAX 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in the deaths of 346 people.

In 2021, Boeing had agreed to pay $2.5bn to resolve the investigation into its conduct, provide compensation to victims’ families, and improve its compliance practices. This agreement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, was set to expire in January of this year. However, just two days before its expiration, an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 aircraft experienced a mid-air panel blowout, leading to multi-agency investigations, including one by the DOJ.

The DOJ’s court filing now exposes Boeing to potential criminal prosecution for the 2018 and 2019 crashes, which could result in significant financial penalties and stricter oversight. This development has further intensified the corporate crisis and reputational damage that Boeing has been facing since the January blowout.

The DOJ has stated that while Boeing is now subject to prosecution, it will take into account the steps the company has taken to address and remedy the violations before making a decision on how to proceed. Boeing has been ordered to respond by mid-June, and the DOJ will announce its decision on whether to proceed with a new criminal case by 7 July.

In response to the DOJ’s filing, Boeing has stated that they believe they have fulfilled the terms of the agreement and are looking forward to the opportunity to respond to the DOJ’s concerns with transparency. They have also assured that they have been in constant communication with the DOJ since the original agreement was signed, including after the Alaska Airlines incident.

According to Reuters, the DOJ officials have also met with the families of the victims of the 2018 and 2019 crashes as part of their deliberations. These families have long been critical of the original deferred prosecution agreement, claiming that it let Boeing off the hook.

After the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 disaster in March 2019, which claimed the lives of all 157 people on board, the entire MAX 8 fleet was grounded for 20 months. This tragedy came just six months after a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crash in Indonesia, which killed 189 people. In both cases, poorly designed flight control software was identified as the cause of the accidents.

The incident involving the MAX 9 aircraft on 5 January of this year has raised new concerns and led to increased scrutiny for Boeing. As a result, regulators have limited the company’s production schedules, and a significant management shake-up is currently underway. The repercussions of this crisis have also affected the deliveries and expansion plans of Boeing’s customers, including Ryanair.

Boeing and regulators have faced criticism for failing to learn from past mistakes. During a Senate hearing in April, a Boeing engineer testified that the company had taken dangerous manufacturing shortcuts with certain planes and ignored his safety concerns. Boeing has refuted these allegations and denied any claims of prioritizing profits over safety.

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