Pilots sue Boeing over 737 MAX grounding

Cheryl Sanders
October 9, 2019

In a 79-page lawsuit filed in Dallas on Monday, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents almost 10,000 pilots at the nation's largest domestic carrier, slammed Boeing for what it called negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation and nondisclosure.

SWAPA, which represents around 10,000 Southwest pilots, said it filed the lawsuit in the District Court of Dallas County, Texas. Chicago-based Boeing hopes to use pilots in a campaign to reassure travelers once regulators approve changes that the company is making to the plane.

Spokesman Peter Pedraza said Boeing believes "this lawsuit is meritless and will vigorously defend against it".

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX aircraft at Victorville, California.

More than 30,000 flights have been grounded by Southwest, which has resulted in an 8% decrease in service in 2019, and thus the $100 million in lost compensation, according to the SWAPA. Also at issue were the union's expenses to comply with a subpoena from the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into Boeing's representations to regulators who certified the plane.

"Our pilots should not be expected to take a significant and ever-expanding financial loss as a result of Boeing's negligence", Jon Weaks, the union's president, said in a statement.

Until the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, airlines and pilots hadn't been told of the existence of MCAS, which had been installed to counteract the effects of the Max's larger engines on the existing 737's airframe.

Capt. Weaks said it was critical that Boeing took whatever time was necessary to return the plane to service. Boeing sold the plane as a more fuel-efficient but otherwise lightly modified version of the 737, which has flown since the 1960s.

"These representations were false", SWAPA said.

European air safety regulators have told their United States counterpart they wants more testing on fixes to the troubled 737 Max flight-control systems before the plane is cleared to re-enter service.

Both the Lion Air crash on October 29 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 occurred after a malfunction triggered a new feature, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, to repeatedly push the planes into dives.

The lawsuit cited news accounts for many of its claims.

Southwest Airlines is the largest operator of the Max with 34 jetliners in its fleet at the time of a worldwide grounding in March following two fatal crashes that together killed 346 people.

Boeing faces dozens of lawsuits filed by passengers' families and has settled a few for undisclosed terms.

Boeing also reported four apparent order conversions in favour of the MAX in April but a major tentative deal for 200 of the jets from British Airways owner IAG, announced at the Paris Airshow in June, has yet to show up as a firm order. The jet has been pulled from Southwest's schedule through January 5.

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