MIAMI — In a legal move so far unheard of in the aviation world and in a case expected to be heard in a Chicago courtroom in October, a group of pilots have filed a class action lawsuit against U.S. plane manufacturing giant Boeing for “putting profits ahead of public safety.”
According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Association (ABC News), Boeing attempted to expedite the shipment of the 737 MAX jets to its customers, starting in 2017, in an effort to have them incorporated quickly as possible into “revenue-generating routes” while deliberately overlooking an imperative safety design flaw.
The suit alleges that the company knowingly deceived and neglected to advise pilots of a working Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system onboard the new jets, in an attempt to save airlines from potential cost overruns and time spent on extra and sometimes-lengthy simulator training for pilots.
According to the ABC report, court documents reveal that Boeing is accused of “engaging in an unprecedented cover-up of the known design flaws of the 737 MAX, which predictably resulted in the crashes of two 737 MAX aircraft and subsequent grounding of all 737 MAX aircraft worldwide,” leading to the petitioners seeking countless damages including lost wages and mental distress among “other economic and non-economic damages.”
The crux of the case rests on the faulty MCAS software being half-heartedly installed by Boeing to counteract the larger, more efficient engines built for the 737 MAX jets but on a standard Boeing 737 fuselage.
With no software update scheduled until 2020, and relying on two, rather than three sensors to properly detect a dangerous Angle of Attack (AOA), which prompts the software to quickly spring into action and the aircraft to automatically correct itself.
Problem is, no overt mention of the hidden software was made by Boeing other than a quick glossed-over acknowledgment in the glossary-of-terms section of the 737 MAX’s manual.
Making matters worse, a secondary backup option, which consisted of a cockpit-indicator to advise pilots of possible mismatched AOA readings, was not a standard, factory-grade mechanism and only implemented if the consumer opted-in and paid extra for the added safety feature.
Unbeknownst to pilots of two fatal air crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, no recourse was available when blind-sighted mid-air once the MCAS system activated and forced the aircraft to nosedive downward leading to devastating consequences resulting in the loss of 346 lives.
So Boeing now faces a two-pronged technical legality issue. First, the MCAS system not being made transparent via literature or otherwise; and second, insufficient or poorly designed sensors that ultimately failed in detecting an aircraft’s actual AOA reading.
The original plaintiff, known only as Pilot X, filed the statement of claim Friday for themselves and some 400 colleagues who work for the same airline and “has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal from Boeing and discrimination from Boeing customers.”