Boeing 737 MAX: Anger Over Damning US Congress Report

Criticisms include “Scandalous” Conduct And “Cavalier” Attitudes To Air Passenger Safety

The relatives of UK passengers have reacted angrily to a critical report into two crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

A total of 346 people were killed when two Boeing 737 Max aircraft operated by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashed into the Java Sea and near Addis Ababa respectively. They included Joanna Toole, from Exmouth and Sam Pegram from Preston.

The aircraft has been grounded since March 2019.

Joanna and Sam’s families as well as a number of other relatives of those who lost their lives on-board Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 have instructed Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team to represent them. Working with colleagues in the US, the team is continuing with court proceedings against Boeing in Illinois, USA. 

A damning report from The US House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has now found that the two crashes were due in part to Boeing’s unwillingness to share key technical information. 

The report added that there was a “culture of concealment” at Boeing. However, it also found that the regulatory system was “fundamentally flawed”.

The report concluded that Boeing “failed in its design and development of the MAX” and America’s Federal Aviation Authority “failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft”.

In another development The FAA has recently concluded a public consultation in respect of a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” – an official announcement of its intention to issue an Airworthiness Directive to Boeing to establish safety rules for the 737 Max which  Boeing must meet before the aircraft will be allowed to resume normal service.  

Clive Garner is one of the team of legal experts at Irwin Mitchell representing the loved ones of those who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Expert Opinion

“The House of Representatives’ report confirms what we know to have been an almost unbelievable series of errors and misjudgements by the Boeing Company and the FAA in relation to the design, build, introduction and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

“Boeing and the FAA rolled the dice with critical safety issues and, as a result, hundreds of lives were needlessly lost and countless families have been torn apart by the loss of those who they loved and depended upon.

“The Committee’s report highlights cavalier and totally unacceptable conduct by the Boeing Company and a deeply flawed system of oversight and regulation by the FAA.

“In my 30 years of representing victims and the families of those killed in disasters around the World, I have never encountered such scandalous and deplorable conduct by organisations that the public trusted to protect their safety and ultimately their lives.

“The families who we represent continue to be devastated. The absolutely damning findings of the House of Representatives’ Committee has strengthened our clients’ resolve to ensure that fundamental and immediate changes are made to improve airline passenger safety.

“Meanwhile, our ongoing litigation against Boeing in the US continues to increase our understanding of the seriousness and scale of errors that were made.” Clive Garner – Consultant

The Congressional report added that the crashes were “the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA.”

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Boeing said it had “learned many hard lessons” from the crashes. 

The families of those who were killed raise a number of significant concerns including that the aircraft is inherently aerodynamically unstable and does not comply with modern certification standards.

Joanna Toole was a UK Citizen from Exmouth. She was 36 years of age when she was killed while she was a passenger on Flight ET302. Joanna was a highly regarded and influential animal welfare and sustainable-development campaigner. At the time of the crash she was working as a consultant to the United Nations in Rome. She was travelling to Nairobi to participate and speak at a high level international conference there. 

Her father, Adrian Toole, said: “It still remains tremendously difficult to come to terms with the nature of Joanna’s death and the circumstances behind it.

“As we continue to learn more about the 737 Max we continue to be dumbfounded as to how this aircraft was allowed to fly.

“The findings of this report stir a real mixture of emotions. We feel justified in needing to press for additional answers but we are also incredibly angry that passengers and air crew were allowed to fly on this aircraft.

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“Our family will never be the same without Jo, but we are determined to honour her memory by ensuring all possible lessons can be learned from her death and the deaths of more than 300 other people.

“There are still too many unanswered questions and concerns about the entire process involving the Max and its design. Until these are all fully addressed that aircraft should remain grounded.”

Sam Pegram, aged 25, from Penwortham, near Preston, who worked for the Norwegian Refugee Council, also lost his life on board ET302.

His Father, Mark Pegram, said: “Sam was a lot of things to different people, including being a wonderful son, brother, friend and colleague.  He genuinely wanted to help people and make a positive difference. He had his entire life ahead of him. The terrible pain that our family continues to feel because of Sam’s loss is as strong as it was 18 months ago. 

“Based on the findings of this report, I cannot understand how Boeing and the FAA could make the decision to keep the 737 Max flying after the Lion Air crash. This is one of the many factors that makes accepting Sam’s death so incredibly difficult and painful.

“We are determined that this report isn’t the end of it. We are determined to continue our fight for justice.  We must have the honest answers, and we must hold those responsible to account.”  

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting families affected by the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy and other air crashes at our aviation section.  

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