Two proposed class action lawsuits filed in Illinois state court look to represent more than 150 pilots qualified to fly Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX aircraft whose personal and professional lives the plaintiffs claim were significantly disrupted as the result of an allegedly “unprecedented cover up” of the planes’ known design flaws.
According to the plaintiffs, Swiss and Canadian pilots recognized respectively in the lawsuits as “Pilot Y” and “Pilot Z,” proposed class members relied on Chicago-based Boeing’s representations that the 737 MAX jetliner was safe when they chose to qualify to fly the jet. The problems with the planes, which remaingrounded indefinitelyaround the world, have caused pilots to lose out on significant wages, the lawsuits allege, adding that pilots experienced “severe emotional and mental distress” during the time when it was still thought the 737 MAX would fly despite increased awareness of the danger of the planes’ Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Problems with MCAS, the plaintiffs say, were previously concealed or otherwise not disclosed to pilots, and Boeing allegedly chose to withhold from pilots knowledge that may have stemmed any potential emergencies.
“As a result of Boeing’s decisions,” the complaints read, “[Plaintiffs] did not receive any suitable training or testing on how to handle emergencies caused by or exacerbated by the MCAS or its malfunctioning.”
Per the suits, the plaintiffs chose to file their claims under pseudonyms due to Boeing’s “substantial influence” in the commercial aviation industry and for fear of reprisal from the company.
The lawsuits explain that Boeing chose to modify its existing 737NG aircraft via the MAX program by replacing the planes’ engines with larger, more fuel-efficient CFM LEAP-1B engines. According to the cases, the larger engines had to be mounted higher and farther forward on the 737 MAX’s wings, and the jetliner’s nose gear had to be modified to provide ground clearance, among other revisions.
A risk created by the new, larger engines was the propensity for the planes to abnormally pitch upward under certain flight conditions, which could cause a jet to suffer an aerodynamic stall and crash, the complaints state. The plaintiffs allege Boeing knew the design of the 737 MAX with its new and larger engines “was in contravention of FAA regulatory standards” yet pressed on with the jetliner’s development, including the incorporation of the MCAS in an effort to prevent potential stalling. The lawsuits say that it was obvious relatively early on that the MCAS was not the answer to Boeing’s concerns, although pilots were apparently left in the dark. From the complaints:
“The MCAS, however, failed to mitigate such a risk and, at least as early as mid-2018, BOEING knew and/or should have known of that failure but did not take action thereby creating the likelihood that the MAX would crash, leading to the inevitable grounding of the MAX.
BOEING decided not to provide MAX pilots and did not provide MAX pilots, including [Plaintiffs], with information or knowledge that the MCAS was incorporated into the airplane.
BOEING decided not to provide MAX pilots and did not provide MAX pilots, including [Plaintiffs], with the ability to disengage a malfunctioning MCAS without losing their ability to control pitch with the airplane’s electric pitch trim.
BOEING decided not to inform MAX pilots and did not inform MAX pilots, including [Plaintiffs], that the MCAS would automatically force the airplane’s nose toward the ground if an angle of attack (‘AOA’) sensor ‘told’ the system that the nose of the airplane was angled too high.
BOEING decided that MAX pilots, including [Plaintiffs], should not be required and ensured that MAX pilots would not be required to undergo any MCAS training.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that Boeing has set aside$100 millionfor the families of victims of the 2018 Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashes that killed a total of 346 people.