Boeing pleads guilty to fraud to avoid court on 2 fatal Max crashes

Washington, July 8, (dpa/GNA) – US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, has pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government, to avoid a court case concerning two fatal crashes involving the 737 Max aircraft, according to a document from the US Department of Justice for a court in Texas.

The deal, which was agreed late Sunday evening, means the company must pay a multi-million-dollar fine, and will also be monitored by a government watchdog.

The accidents in October 2018 and March 2019, claimed the lives of 346 people.

At the time, Boeing avoided prosecution by promising to implement a compliance and ethics programme. The company also paid a fine of $243.6 million.

The Department of Justice decided in May, that Boeing was in breach of the conditions of the deal, at the time.

New investigation after the dramatic incident in January, when a fuselage fragment of a virtually new Boeing aircraft broke off during a climb. Nobody was injured in the incident, but it was only due to luck that the seats next to the hole in the fuselage were not occupied at the time.

The 2018 and 2019 crashes were caused by aircraft software, that was supposed to support pilots, but interfered with the controls more than expected.

It steered the aircraft towards the ground, but the pilots of the two aircraft were ultimately unable to turn them back to level flight.

Aircraft of this type were not allowed to fly for almost two years, until the error in the software was rectified.

Boeing, was subsequently accused of fraud in criminal proceedings because employees of the aircraft manufacturer, had declared special training for the software to be unnecessary, when the type was certified by US authorities.

Court documents published late on Sunday show Boeing, must invest at least $455 million in compliance and safety programmes following the guilty plea.

It must also make a further penalty payment of $243.6 million.

The agreement only becomes valid, once it has been approved by the court in Texas, where the case is being heard.

Survivors demand harsher penalties.

Crash victims’ families sharply criticized the prospect of a new agreement with Boeing, and demanded a billion-dollar fine.

They are due to meet the Boeing board of directors.

Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun apologized to the relatives a few weeks ago, and underlined that the company bore responsibility for the crashes.