Pilots Bring Lawsuit Over Boeing 737 MAX “Cover Up”

US plane maker Boeing is being sued by more than 400 pilots over what they are calling an ‘unprecedented cover up’. The pilots claim that the aircraft was ‘inherently dangerous’ and filed a class action lawsuit against Boeing on Friday 21st June.

737 MAX
Pilots are bringing a class action lawsuit against Boeing. Photo: Boeing

A group of pilots have brought a lawsuit against manufacturing giant Boeing over the disasters that befell the 737 MAX. According to Business Insider, the class action lawsuit has been filed for “financial and other losses arising from the circumstances and grounding of the MAX fleet,”. It says that the pilots’ losses are expected to be ‘in the millions of dollars’.

Pilot X

The original plaintiff, only identified as Pilot X due to “fear of reprisal from Boeing and discrimination from Boeing customers”, lodged the claim on Friday. The claim seeks damages for Pilot X and more than 400 other pilots who work for the same airline.

According to ABC news, the court documents allege that Boeing “engaged in an unprecedented cover-up of the known design flaws of the MAX, which predictably resulted in the crashes of two MAX aircraft and subsequent grounding of all MAX aircraft worldwide.”

The pilots argue that the design of the plane was flawed, and that the MCAS contained “inherently dangerous aerodynamic handling defects”. Pilot X is quoted by ABC News as saying,

“Boeing’s defective design causes the MCAS to activate based on the single input of a failed AOA sensor without cross-checking its data with another properly functioning AOA sensor.”

The pilots are demanding compensation for lost wages and mental suffering. They allege that Boeing deliberately swept the issue under the rug, and that they’ve set their own stage for the outcome. The claim will be heard in a court in Chicago, with the date for the hearing earmarked for the 21st October 2019.

Was the MCAS ‘inherently dangerous’?

The basis of the MCAS was logical. Boeing had installed larger, more fuel efficient engines on the MAX iteration of the 737. As a result, the aerodynamic balance of the aircraft shifted, making it prone to pitching upwards, increasing the risk of a stall.

To counter this, Boeing installed the MCAS software. The software uses data received from two Angle of Attack (AoA) sensors to determine if the aircraft needs to be trimmed downwards to stop a stall. The reason there are two of them is clear – if one gave a faulty reading, then a ‘disagree’ alert would light up letting pilots know there was a problem.

737 MAX
The larger engines of the MAX made it more fuel efficient, but changed its aerodynamic balance. Photo: Boeing

The problem comes in the fact that the functionality of the AoA disagree light is entirely dependent on some optional indicators. Being optional, and airlines being very cost focused, only an estimated 20% of the 737 MAX in service had these indicators fitted.

The next problem comes with Boeing’s lack of transparency. They recently admitted that they’d been aware of this issue since 2017 but didn’t tell the FAA until after the Lion Air crash in October last year. Even then, they had no plans to update the software until 2020, according to RT.

Profits before pilots

The final big issue that the pilots are trying to raise with this claim is the lack of training they experienced regarding the MCAS. They say that there was little instruction on how to handle the new anti-stall software, and that it only received a passing mention in the flight manuals.

They allege that this was not an oversight on behalf of the manufacturer. Indeed, they claim it was a deliberate act, designed to avoid the need for new simulator based training which would have slowed the MAX’s introduction to service.

Lion Air 737 MAX
The 737 MAX was ‘inherently dangerous’ claim pilots. Photo: Flickr user Bathara Sakti

Although they are asking for compensation, the plaintiffs say that the overarching aim of the case is to stop tragedies like this happening. They want to highlight the root cause of the disasters, and to stop “Boeing and other airplane manufacturers from placing corporate profits ahead of the lives of the pilots, crews, and general public they service.”

It seems these pilots are not alone in their quest to seek justice from the US plane maker. CNBC report that Southwest Airlines’ pilots union is also seeking compensation from Boeing over lost wages and legal costs. Victims’ families have also come forward to seek recompense, and numerous airlines are also seeking adjustments from Boeing.

Do you think the pilots should receive compensation for the issues regarding the MAX? Let us know in the comments.