Enlarge /. Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
Misleading federal regulators investigating not just one but two airplane crashes are proving to be a bad idea. On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that Boeing was charged with conspiracy to defraud a government agency evaluating the company's 737 Max aircraft.
Based on "misleading statements, half-truths and omissions reported by Boeing employees to the Aircraft Evaluation Group of the Federal Aviation Authority," Boeing has agreed to pay more than $ 2.5 billion – including a criminal one – under a suspended law enforcement arrangement Sanction US $ 243 million, US $ 500 million in compensation for heirs of 346 accident victims and US $ 1.77 billion in compensation for Boeing's airline customers.
Boeing's problem with the best-selling 737 Max began in October 2018 when Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea, killing 189 people. The following March, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed after taking off in Ethiopia, killing 157 people. Both crashes had the same cause – the aircraft's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System [MCAS].
When Boeing designed the 737 Max, larger turbofan engines were added than previous 737 variants, changing the aerodynamic properties of the aircraft compared to older models. Instead of having pilots certified for a new type, Boeing used MCAS to allow the 737 Max to mimic the handling of earlier 737s. Tragically, MCAS was nowhere near as secure as Boeing claimed, and one safety feature that alerted pilots to potential sensor inconsistencies was an optional extra that neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian Airlines had purchased.
Countries around the world have grounded the 737 Max as a result. Boeing apologized and started working on a software fix. However, this work was delayed more than once and cost CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job. Boeing looked for $ 10 billion in loans to keep it going. The 737 Max was re-approved for flight by the FAA in November 2020.
"This case sends a clear message: The Department of Justice will hold manufacturers like Boeing accountable for fraudulent regulators – especially in industries where so much is at stake," said US attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas in a press release.