Wiregrass Daily News Logo

Boeing Pleads Guilty to DOJ Case Stemming From 737 Max Crashes

gray and white airplane on flight near clear blue sky

NATIONAL, (WDNews) – Boeing accepted a plea deal Monday, July 8 in a case related to two 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

Prosecutors claimed that two Boeing pilots hid key information from the Federal Aviation Administration about a new automated control system on the Max. The system was implicated in both crashes, causing uncontrollable dives.

The department and Boeing made a joint filing on Sunday night, notifying the District Court that they had agreed in principle. In the next week or so, the formal agreement will be filed. The court will then set a hearing for the company to formally enter its guilty plea.

Boeing had already agreed to $2.5 billion in penalties and payouts in 2021. As part of the new deal, the company will pay an additional $487.2 million in penalties, agree to oversight by an independent monitor, spend at least $455 million to strengthen compliance and safety programs, and be placed on supervised probation for roughly three years, according to a Justice Department official.

Families of the victims, who were briefed a week ago on the general outlines of the deal, had said it did not go far enough. Paul G. Cassell, a lawyer for more than a dozen of the families, said the families had sought an admission of fault in the deaths of 346 people who were killed in the crashes, which involved Boeing’s troubled 737 Max plane in Indonesia and Ethiopia in late 2018 and early 2019. The families had hoped for stronger consequences for the company and its executives, including a trial.

The guilty plea is a severe blow to the reputation of Boeing, a company once known for the quality and safety of its commercial planes. Beyond the fatal crashes of the 737 Max jets, the company has faced a series of questions about the safety and quality of its planes. In January, a door plug on a 737 Max flown by Alaska Airlines blew out early in a flight, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the jet and further damaging Boeing’s reputation.

The settlement must now be approved by a US judge.

By pleading guilty, Boeing will avoid the spectacle of a criminal trial – something that victims’ families have been pressing for.