It’s Been Another Very Bad Day for Boeing

Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Imag

The hits keep coming for Boeing.

The beleaguered aviation giant agreed to a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department in connection with two fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes. Under the deal, the company will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, pay a $487.2 million fine — the maximum criminal penalty for that charge — and be placed on probation for three years. As part of the probation terms, the company will be overseen by a government-appointed independent compliance monitor and be required to invest a minimum of $455 million in its compliance and safety programs, as well as making Boeing’s board of directors available to meet with the families of crash victims.

Boeing will not be granted immunity in any current or future federal investigations as part of the plea deal, leaving the company open to further penalties down the line. The parties have agreed to the deal in principle, but it still has to be signed off by a federal judge before its terms go into effect.

The Justice Department had charged that Boeing violated a 2021 settlement that allowed it to avoid prosecution in connection with the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019, which killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members, per the Associated Press. The 2021 deal required the company to make internal changes to its compliance and ethics program in order to prevent future fraud violations.

Paul Cassell, an attorney representing family members who lost loved ones in the crashes, criticized the deal and urged the judge to reject it. “This sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing’s conspiracy, 346 people died. Through crafty lawyering between Boeing and DOJ, the deadly consequences of Boeing’s crime are being hidden,” he said in a statement.

The bad news for Boeing — which is no stranger to negative publicity lately — didn’t stop with the guilty plea. Reuters reported Monday that the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered that 2,600 Boeing 737 aircrafts be inspected out of concern that their oxygen masks could potentially fail when deployed. The agency’s order requires that the planes’ passenger service unit oxygen generators be inspected and, if needed, repaired within 120 to 150 days.

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