Lion Air Flight 610 crashed shortly after takeoff near Indonesia on October 29th, 2018, while Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed near Ethiopia on March 10th, 2019. In both instances, the FAA AEG determined that the 737 Max planes’ Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) activated during the flight and may have played a role in the crash.
Boeing admitted in court documents that it deceived the FAA about circumstances regarding MCAS. Apparently, two of Boeing’s 737 Max flight technical pilots discovered an important change to MCAS in November 2016, but the company chose to conceal the information instead of sharing it with the FAA AEG when it was evaluating the new plane. As a result, the AEG didn’t mention the system its report, and the plane’s manuals and pilot training materials lacked information about MCAS.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David P. Burns of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement:
“The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers. Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception. This resolution holds Boeing accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct, addresses the financial impact to Boeing’s airline customers, and hopefully provides some measure of compensation to the crash-victims’ families and beneficiaries.”
Representative Peter DeFazio, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman who oversaw the probe into the crashes, was unhappy with the resolution, though. He said:
“[The] settlement amounts to a slap on the wrist and is an insult to the 346 victims who died as a result of corporate greed. Not only is the dollar amount of the settlement a mere fraction of Boeing’s annual revenue, the settlement sidesteps any real accountability in terms of criminal charges.”
In addition to paying $2.5 billion, Boeing will have to continue cooperating with the FAA’s fraud section for any ongoing and future investigations. It’s required to report any evidence of fraud committed by its employees or agents, as well, and to submit yearly reports to the fraud section regarding the status of its remediation efforts.