Aviation

Boeing to front big lawsuit from disgruntled pilots over 737 MAX, as American extends cancellations

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

In the face of further push-backs by big airlines on 737 MAX flights, Boeing faces a lawsuit totalling more than $360 million.

Almost 3,000 pilots from 12 international airlines have reportedly joined a class action led by an Australian law firm against Boeing, citing a lack of training given for the 737 MAX, as well as a lack of information regarding the jet’s implicated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

The Australian reported Brisbane-based International Aerospace Law and Policy Group (IALPG), together with US firm PMJ PLLC, has filed a consolidated action on behalf of the pilots in the US District Court in Illinois.

The firms are also fighting to maintain confidentiality for their clients.

The action reportedly seeks to recover claims estimated to be worth “as much as $368 million” in lost income and damages as a result of the 737 MAX grounding since March, after the second of two fatal crashes involving the jet.

Major airlines – including United, Southwest and American, who recently announced it will extend cancellations of flights on the 737 MAX through 3 December – have been pushing back their target dates for returning the jet to their fleets since March.

American said its latest cancellation will see approximately 140 flights cancelled per day.

American reaffirmed it remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with the airline’s union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year.

CNBC noted that shares of Boeing fell 2.7 per cent on Tuesday after it was reported the 737 MAX may not return to service in time for holiday travel. Boeing is targeting approval for the fixes and pilot training by October.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in late June it had asked Boeing to make further changes to its MCAS software, after discovering an issue that would account for “a potential source of uncommanded stabilizer motion”, further pushing back the regulator’s timeline.

Boeing chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg told investors on a conference call in July that he remains confident the grounded 737 MAX will return to service by October this year.

In August, the FAA said it would invite Boeing 737 MAX pilots from around the world to participate in simulator tests as part of the re-certification process of the jet, but said it had not yet specified a “firm schedule” for the tests, according to Reuters.

This came as Reuters separately reported that Boeing would resume production on the jet at a rate of 52 aircraft per month as of February 2020, to 57 jets per month in June.

However, the FAA, which is currently working alongside Boeing, has consistently said that it is not operating on a “strict timeline” for the return to service of the jet.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) director-general Alexandre de Juniac is worried there is a global discrepancy between regulators to approving the 737 MAX.

“With the 737 MAX we are a bit worried … because we don’t see the normal unanimity among international regulators that should be the case,” de Juniac told reporters ahead of a summit in Chicago, as reported by Reuters.

We see a discrepancy that’s detrimental to the industry,” he said, urging regulators to make any changes to the single certification process “collectively.”

In a statement obtained by Reuters, the FAA said it has a “transparent and collaborative relationship” with other civil aviation authorities.

It also noted “each government will make its own decision to return the aircraft to service based on a thorough safety assessment.”

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