Aviation

Boeing: Judge orders pilots suing manufacturer over 737 MAX to reveal their names

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Pilots suing Boeing over lost wages have been given an ultimatum: reveal their names or withdraw the case.

The 5,000 pilots from 16 airlines worldwide are seeking more than $360 million in damages in a class-action lawsuit against Boeing, amounts associated with what they described as “lost wages”, reduced flying time, and financial and other losses due to the ongoing grounding of the 737 MAX.

Represented by International Aerospace Law and Policy Group (IALPG), an Australian law firm, and the Chicago-based PMJ PLLC, the pilots have sought to maintain anonymity in order not to put their employment or future employment at risk, The Australian reported.

But although their identities have been provided to Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer reportedly filed a motion requiring compliance with federal rule of civil procedure.

On Friday, US District Court judge Steven Seeger granted the motion, and reportedly gave the pilots until 28 January to “step into the light and sue in the open, or not at all”.

Boeing forecasts return to service

The 737 MAX, Boeing’s best-selling model, has been grounded globally since March following the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed a combined 346 people.

In an update on the status of the return to service of the jet, Boeing said that, based on its experience to date with the certification process, it expects the ungrounding of the 737 MAX to begin in mid-2020.

“As we have emphasized, the [Federal Aviation Administration] and other global regulators will determine when the 737 MAX returns to service,” The Boeing Company said in a statement.

“However, in order to help our customers and suppliers plan their operations, we periodically provide them with our best estimate of when regulators will begin to authorize the ungrounding of the 737 MAX.”

Damning internal communications show employees deceived regulators

Boeing’s forecast comes shortly after the aircraft manufacturer received yet another blow to its reputation with the release of redacted documents sent to congressional investigators in early January.

According to over a hundred pages of internal communications, the aircraft manufacturer mocked federal laws, talked about deceiving regulators and joked about potential flaws in the 737 MAX, the New York Times reported.

A Boeing employee also called Lion Air “idiots” for asking to have its pilots receive simulator training. A Lion Air 737 MAX was later involved in a mass fatality, with 189 people killed.

An investigation by Indonesian authorities into the crash later found that Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was at fault and criticised the aircraft manufacturer for not making airlines aware of it.

In messages uncovered by the New York Times in Boeing’s released internal communications, employees and pilots were reportedly aware of software issues and other problems before both fatal crashes involving the 737 MAX.

“Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one employee said to a colleague in an exchange from 2018, before the Lion Air crash. “No,” the colleague responded.

Boeing has since declared it would recommend simulator training in addition to computer-based light training for all MAX pilots. This came despite the aircraft manufacturer long maintaining further training was not required, one of the 737 MAXs main drawcards and a key reason why Southwest Airlines made its first order of them.

To read more of Travel Weekly‘s ongoing Boeing 737 MAX coverage, click here.

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