Boeing executives were grilled before the U.S. Congress last week as a result of the corporate crime they committed earlier this year, when Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 crashed last October and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 fell out of the sky five months later, resulting in the deaths of 346 human beings.
Like anyone who commits a crime causing the deaths of human beings, whether purposely or accidentally through negligence, the heads of Boeing Corporation should be charged and duly convicted of murder and/or manslaughter.
Don’t just take my word for it; U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said Boeing’s design approach implied “a disturbing level of casualness and flippancy,” while calling both crashes “entirely avoidable.” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Boeing sold what he categorized as a “flying coffin.”
Boeing apparently knew there were flaws in its new airliner but overlooked them in an effort to cut corners and save money. It appears that in its efforts to compete with Airbus, which had recently designed a jet with more range, a bigger payload, and more fuel efficiency, Boeing misled regulators about its new airliner.
The aircraft builder promoted its new plane as simply an improved version of its 737 and called it the Max 737, in effect claiming it had just recast the design of its older best-selling model.
By casting its new plane as just an upgraded version of its older 737, Boeing avoided what would have been a much more rigorous and expensive reclassification and retraining process.
However, the Max 737 is a new airliner with new design features, including the problematic anti-stall software that was significantly different from the 737. The new aircraft had a hitch in its new anti-stall system that apparently the company tried to hide: It sometimes went into a dive to compensate for an imaginary problem.
“The messages [from the chief technical pilot], which were made public this month, raise serious new questions about what Boeing knew about the new system, known as MCAS, which played a role in both crashes,” reported the NY Times. When asked when he learned of the messages from Forkner, Muilenburg reportedly said: “I believe it was prior to the second crash.”
Amazingly, it has been revealed that the FAA had been delegating regulatory authority to Boeing, allowing the company to supervise itself, in an effort to save money. Other reports reveal that Boeing had a say in FAA inspectors’ salary and bonuses.
Plenty of hypocrisy to go around
Ironically, some in Congress who were guilty of pushing forward decreased FAA oversight in favor of increasing Boeing’s profitability, have now changed their tune. Congress overwhelmingly passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which made it more difficult for the government to review manufacturers’ work. The FAA warned Congress that the bill “would not be in the best interest of safety.”’
The NY Times revealed a rather prescient warning from a labor group representing agency inspectors saying that “the rules would turn the FAA into a ‘rubber stamp’ that would only be able to intervene after a plane crashed and people are killed.”
Representative Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, was quoted in the NY Times saying he celebrated the bill’s changes last year. “It would maintain safety and will help our manufacturers become much more competitive in the world market and introduce their products more quickly.”
DeFazio is now trying to have it both ways. Both he and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) are now trying to appear as the paragons of public safety.
“One thing is crystal clear,” Cantwell said recently. “If you want to be the leader in aviation manufacturing, you have to be the leader in aviation safety.”
But it was Cantwell, DeFazio and other Democrats and Republicans who led the passage of the 2018 law that gave more power to Boeing, while limiting the role of the FAA. Cantwell staffer Nick Sutter admitted that Boeing had been in close contact with the senator, saying that the senator is responsive to the needs of Washington State business,” adding, “Boeing people were in and out of the office all the time.”
The NY Times reported that “in conversations with a top aide for the senator, Matt McCarthy, Boeing lobbyists pushed for language that would compel the FAA to rely more on manufacturers, according to two people directly involved in the discussions.”
Incredibly (you can’t make this up) McCarthy now works as a lobbyist for Boeing.
The Boeing scandal not only exposed what most folks already know, that companies are primarily concerned with their bottom line. It also reveals Washington as a cesspool of opportunists whose last concern is the well-being of their constituents. But as the hearings demonstrate, they put on a good show of moral outrage on cue.
The controversy also exposes just how misguided the flag-wavers are who say America is right or wrong and who really believe that the big people, the Rich White Folks, have their best interest in mind. When profit is the motivating factor, neither the young, old, or working stiff is safe. This has been proven over and over.
The Big Pharma decision to push addictive medicines onto the U.S. market, wreaking havoc on the lives of the nation’s young people, is yet another example of what can happen in a society in which the needs of profit supersede the needs of human beings.
What kind of people would design a system like this? And just as importantly, what kind of people would put up with a system like this?
Justice, then peace.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.