Boeing has pleaded not guilty to fraud in a criminal case related to the deadly 737 Max crashes after being accused of misleading regulators about MCAS software flaws.

Boeing pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the 737 Max after the families objected to a 2021 deal by the Justice Department to settle an investigation into the plane’s flawed design. Mike Delaney, Boeing’s chief safety officer, pleaded not guilty on behalf of the plane maker. Not guilty pleas are the norm in deferred prosecution agreements.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ordered Boeing to appear after ruling that those killed in the two Boeing 737 Max crashes were legally considered “victims of a crime.”

Boeing pleaded not guilty to criminal charges during a hearing in Texas federal court on Thursday. The company is accused of criminal fraud in connection with the crashes of two of its 737 Max planes that killed a total of 346 people.

Dozens of relatives of some of those killed in the crashes gave emotional testimony during a three-hour hearing about how they were affected by what they called the deadliest corporate crime in United States history.

They testified after Mike Delaney, Boeing’s aerospace safety chief, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud on behalf of the planemaker. The company is accused of misleading federal regulators about the safety of a critical automated flight control system that investigators say played a major role in crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019.

Boeing and the Justice Department reached a deferred plea agreement two years ago to resolve the charge. Under the terms of the settlement, Boeing admitted to defrauding the FAA by covering up safety issues with the 737 Max, but mainly blamed two maintenance pilots who misled regulators while working on the plane’s certification. Only one of these pilots was prosecuted and acquitted by a jury last year.

Boeing also agreed to pay $2.5 billion, including $1.7 billion in damages, to airlines that bought 737 Max planes but were unable to use them because the model was grounded for 20 months after the crash of the second plane. The company also agreed to pay $500 million in compensation and $243 million in fines to the families of those killed in the two Max plane crashes.

However, many families of the accident victims opposed the agreement. The families claimed the government lied and violated their rights through a secretive process, and asked U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor to waive Boeing’s immunity from criminal prosecution — which was part of the $2.5 billion settlement — and to punish the planemaker. ordered. was publicly persecuted for the crime.

In October 2022, Judge O’Connor ruled that had Boeing not committed the crime, pilots in Ethiopia and Indonesia would have received adequate training to respond to the MCAS activation that occurred on both planes. . In short, if it weren’t for Boeing’s criminal scheme to deceive the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), 346 people would not have lost their lives in the crashes, given that the passengers in the now-fatal Boeing 737 MAX crash were criminal victims. acts is a designation that will determine the compensation to be applied.

737 Max fatal crashes: engineers sidelined, lack of experience

Report Aviation reporter A document released by a US Senate committee in early December 2021 highlights numerous oversight gaps in government and the aviation industry. The report was commissioned by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in response to two Boeing 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. It is based on testimony from seven industry insiders from Boeing, GE and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing designed the 737 Max to compete with the Airbus A320neo. To achieve comparable fuel efficiency, Boeing installed new engines on the existing 737 airframe, allowing the passenger jet to undergo a new regulatory approval process.

The resulting 737 Max had different handling characteristics than the 737, and Boeing tried to compensate by adding a software layer called MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.

MCAS adjusts the aircraft’s attitude, adjusting the aircraft’s control surfaces to maintain a set attitude. It is designed to do this based on input from one angle of attack sensor, compared to three sensors on a comparable Airbus model. And it turned out to be disastrous.

In 2019, a 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed just five months after another Indonesian airliner, a Lion Air 610 (737 Max), crashed into the sea.In both cases, investigators determined that a faulty sensor caused the misfire. The automatic anti-stall system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), forces the aircraft into a nose dive. Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines pilots struggled to right their jets, but each time they tried they were throttled by the automatic system.

In 2019, the pilots of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, also a 737 Max, attempted to counteract the effects of MCAS, but were unable to physically move the mechanical trim wheel due to the aerodynamic force of the low landing area.

Just in January of that year, Boeing reached a $2.5 billion fine and restitution settlement with the US Department of Justice, which included a $500 million fund to compensate the families of the 346 victims of the two 737 Max crashes. The manufacturer did not immediately admit his guilt, which would prevent him from receiving government contracts in the future. Instead, he entered into a deferred prosecution agreement.

But in November 2021, the American was forced to admit this after the news highlighted the flaws in the design of the plane.

A Boeing spokesperson said: Boeing is committed to providing full and fair compensation for the losses of all families who have lost loved ones in accidents. The agreement submitted to the court is an important step in this process. By accepting liability, Boeing’s settlement with the families allows the parties to focus their efforts on determining appropriate compensation for each family.

Boeing’s former chief technical pilot is accused of fraud

The attorney general in October charged former Boeing 737 Max chief engineer Mark A. Forkner with fraud. The government alleges that Forkner provided the FAA with false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about MCAS, which led to the misunderstandings that led to both crashes.

On October 14, 2021, the Minister of Justice charged Boeing’s former chief technical pilot with fraud. Mark A. Forkner is accused of defrauding the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Team in an evaluation of Boeing’s 737 Max plane and defrauding US airline Boeing customers to obtain tens of millions of dollars for Boeing. Forkner provided the agency with materially false, inaccurate and incomplete information about a new part of the Boeing 737 Max flight controls called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the indictment alleges.

Chad E. Meacham, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said Forkner withheld critical information from regulators to save Boeing money. His ruthless choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots missing information about certain 737 Max flight controls. The Minister of Justice will not tolerate fraud, especially where the stakes are high.

FBI Deputy Director Calvin Shivers said Forkner withheld critical information about the Boeing 737 Max and misled the FAA, “showing a flagrant disregard for his responsibilities and the safety of airline customers and crew.” The FBI will continue to detain individuals like Forker. they are responsible for fraudulent acts that endanger public safety.

After three years, the charge could be dismissed and Boeing could be protected from prosecution.

After three years, if the aerospace giant and the defense contractor fulfilled the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, criminal charges against Boeing would be dismissed and the company would be safe from further prosecution.

But last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor agreed that the relatives’ rights were violated under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and that they should have been consulted before the DOJ and Boeing reached a settlement. Last week, he ordered Boeing to appear in court on Thursday.

On Thursday, the families asked Judge O’Connor to impose certain conditions on Boeing as a condition of the release, including appointing an independent monitor to monitor Boeing’s compliance with the terms of the previous deferred prosecution agreement and making the company’s compliance efforts as public as possible.

O’Connor has not yet commented on whether the terms apply, as Boeing and the Attorney General oppose the request. But he imposed a standard condition that Boeing would not commit any new crimes.

Naoise Connolly Ryan, who lost her husband Michael in an accident in Ethiopia, told the court she wanted justice for her children who lost their father. “Boeing’s deal with the Justice Department is not fair,” he said as he asked the judge to throw out part of the deal that gave Boeing immunity from prosecution. We want to see real justice and it has to be a manslaughter prosecution,” Ryan said.

In a statement after the hearing, Boeing said: “We are deeply sorry for the loss of loved ones on Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Flight 302, and we have the utmost respect for those who expressed their views at today’s hearing.

The statement added that Boeing has made extensive and deep changes within our company and made changes to the design of the 737 MAX to prevent accidents like this from happening again. We will also continue to honor all our commitments in good faith. according to the agreement we made with the Minister of Justice two years ago.

And you?

Are you surprised to see Boeing shirking its responsibilities by blaming two employees for this?
Do you understand why the families opposed the initial settlement between Boeing and the US Department of Justice?

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