Boeing Faces Justice Dept. Review Over Max 9 Incident

Boeing Faces Justice Dept. Review Over Max 9 Incident

The Justice Department is examining whether an early January incident in which part of a Boeing plane exploded mid-flight violated a 2021 agreement to settle a criminal complaint against the company, according to a person familiar with the review.

Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle charges stemming from two fatal crashes of its 737 Max 8 planes. The deal reached in the final weeks of the Trump administration was criticized at the time as being too lenient on the company.

As part of the terms, Boeing agreed to compensate the families of the crash victims and the airlines affected by the grounding. The Justice Department agreed to drop criminal charges based on the actions of two employees who withheld information from the FAA

Last month, a panel in the fuselage of a larger Max 9 exploded at 16,000 feet shortly after takeoff from Portland, Oregon, exposing passengers to deafening winds. There were no serious injuries, but the incident could have been catastrophic if it had occurred at a higher altitude a few minutes later. The panel is called a “door plug” and is designed to fill a gap created by an unused exit door.

The Justice Department review was previously reported by Bloomberg.

The January incident reignited the intense scrutiny and criticism Boeing has faced following crashes in Indonesia in late 2018 and Ethiopia in early 2019 that killed a total of 346 people. The Max 8 and Max 9 were banned from flying worldwide a few days after the second crash. Since the jetliners began flying again at the end of 2020, they have carried out several million flights worldwide.

Before the incident in January, the crisis seemed to be losing weight. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board suggested that the plane in this episode may have left the Boeing factory without the screws needed to secure the fairing. The Federal Aviation Administration immediately grounded nearly 200 Max 9 jets in the United States pending inspections. Flights on the aircraft have since resumed.

The FAA also increased inspections of the factory in Washington state where Boeing makes the Max. On Wednesday, the agency gave the company 90 days to develop a plan to improve quality control.

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement announcing the deadline. “Achieving fundamental change will require sustained effort from Boeing leadership, and we will hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understandable milestones and expectations.”

Earlier this week, a group of FAA experts released a long-awaited report on the Max crashes, finding that Boeing’s safety culture was still lacking despite improvements in recent years.

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2024-02-29 01:54:36