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Czech airline Smartwings sues Boeing over MAX

written by Adam Thorn | June 25, 2021
Boeing 737 MAX (Boeing)

Czech airline Smartwings is to sue Boeing for damaging its business as a result of the ongoing problems with the 737 MAX.

The business is seeking compensation for financial losses incurred, the return of one of its MAX and refund of payments on that aircraft and advance payments on others.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Boeing has refused to comment.

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The MAX was grounded for years following two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people, while Boeing itself was fined US$2.5 billion in January for deceiving FAA safety officials who initially cleared the aircraft to fly.

Smartwings ordered eight MAXs directly from Boeing and agreed a deal to lease an additional 31. It took delivery of its first in January 2018 and took six more leased aircraft from Boeing’s Renton assembly plant in Washington.

The airline is now alleging that Boeing undertook a “cheap and hastily implemented Band-Aid” in addressing software issues rather than more expensive aerodynamic changes to the airframe.

It also claims Boeing failed to conduct a full safety evaluation of the crucial Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, that was central to the subsequent investigation.

In January, the US Department of Justice accused series of senior figures at Boeing of “fraudulent and deceptive conduct”, “concealing material information” and “engaging in an effort to cover up their deception”.

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Boeing entered into a “deferred prosecution agreement” with the US Department of Justice related to a conspiracy to defraud the FAA’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with its initial evaluation of  737 MAX.

Under the terms of the deal, Boeing were ordered to pay US$2.5 billion, composed of a penalty of US$243.6 million, compensation payments to MAX airline customers of US$1.77 billion, and the establishment of a US$500 million fund for crash-victim beneficiaries.

The Department of Justice said Boeing admitted to deceiving FAA safety officials about the crucial Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software system that is better known as the stall-prevention system at the heart of the two crashes.

“Because of their deception, a key document published by the FAA AEG lacked information about MCAS, and in turn, airplane manuals and pilot-training materials for US-based airlines lacked information about MCAS,” said the Department of Justice in a statement.

Boeing chief executive David Calhoun said, “I firmly believe that entering into this resolution is the right thing for us to do – a step that appropriately acknowledges how we fell short of our values and expectations.

Earlier this week, World of Aviation reported the US Justice Department opened the US$500 million compensation fund for the families of the victims who died in the two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

According to Washington lawyers Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros, eligible families will receive almost $1.45 million and will be paid according to claim forms. The families have until 15 October to submit their claims.

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