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Boeing to pay €2 billion to settle criminal conspiracy charge over 737 Max

The aircraft suffered two deadly crashes shortly after entering service.pre

Image: Seattle Aviation Images/PA

BOEING IS TO pay 2.5 billion dollars (€2.03bn) to settle a criminal conspiracy charge for misleading regulators about the safety of its 737 Max aircraft, which suffered two deadly crashes shortly after entering service.

The US Justice Department said that Boeing agreed to the settlement that includes money for the crash victims’ families, airline customers and a criminal fine.

Prosecutors said Boeing employees concealed important information about the plane from the Federal Aviation Administration, then covered up their actions.

“The misleading statements, half-truths, and omissions communicated by Boeing employees to the FAA impeded the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the flying public,” said Erin Nealy Cox, the US attorney in Dallas.

“Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candour,” said David Burns, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Boeing began working on the Max in 2011 as an answer to a new, more fuel-efficient model from European rival Airbus.

Boeing admitted in court filings that two of its technical pilot experts deceived the FAA about a flight-control system called the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that could point a plane’s nose down if sensors indicated the plane might be in danger of an aerodynamic stall — that it might fall from the sky.

Boeing downplayed the significance of MCAS and did not mention it in airplane manuals. Most pilots did not know about it.

The first airlines began flying the 737 Max in mid-2017.

On 29 October 2018, a Max operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea.

The FAA let the Max keep flying, and on 10 March 2019, another Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed nearly straight down into a field. In all, 346 people were killed.

On both flights, MCAS was activated by a faulty reading from a single sensor. The system repeatedly pushed the planes’ noses down and pilots were unable to regain control.

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After the planes were grounded worldwide, Boeing changed MCAS so that it always uses two sensors, along with other changes to make the automated system less powerful and easier for pilots to override.

The FAA ordered other changes, including the rerouting of some wiring to avoid potential dangerous short-circuiting.

In November, the FAA approved Boeing’s changes, and several carriers including American Airlines have resumed using the planes.

Under the settlement announced today, Boeing will pay a 243.6 million dollars (€198m) fine, 1.77 billion dollars (€1.44bn) in compensation to airlines that were unable to use their Max jets while they were grounded, and 500 million dollars (€407m) into a fund for the families of passengers who were killed in the crashes.

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