Aviation

Investigators expected to blame Lion Air crash on 737 MAX design, US oversight

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Indonesian investigators are expected to say design and US “oversight lapses” played a role in the fatal crash of Lion Air Flight 610.

Both The Australian and The Wall Street Journal have cited claims made by “people familiar with the matter” that Indonesian authorities will determine the design and approval of the Boeing 737 MAX jet was “flawed”, according to draft conclusions.

Both news outlets have reported the determination by Indonesian authorities is expected to represent the first formal government finding that the design and US regulatory approval of the jet were flawed.

In October last year, 189 people were killed in the tragic crash of Lion Air Flight 610, which operated a Boeing 737 MAX jet.

After a second total fatality event involving the 737 MAX in March, the jet was grounded, with investigators finding an automated flight control feature, known as MCAS, was linked to both crashes.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing have been working to get the jet back in the air since then, with the manufacturer engaged in an ongoing pursuit of regulatory approval.

The FAA has stated on multiple occasions that it is not operating on a “strict timeline” for the return to service of the jet. Dennis Muilenburg, chairman, president and CEO of The Boeing Company, maintains that once the jet is approved, it will be “among the safest airplanes ever to fly”.

The reports came in lieu of the opening of the first round of the Boeing Financial Assistance Fund on Tuesday, which was set up by Boeing to offer immediate financial assistance to family members of victims of the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302 tragedies.

The two administrators of the fund, Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, announced on Tuesday that Boeing will pay the families of 346 people killed in both crashes US$144,500 ($213,242) each from a US$50 million ($73.6 million) financial assistance fund.

The fund represents the initial expenditure of a US$100 million ($147.2 million) pledge by Boeing to address family and community needs of those affected by the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 tragedies.

Having been announced in July, the fund is now accepting claims through to 31 December. Participants of the fund will not be required to waive or release the right litigate as a condition of participation.

“The recent 737 MAX tragedies weigh heavily on all of us at Boeing, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of all those on board,” Muilenburg said.

“The opening of this fund is an important step in our efforts to help affected families. We thank Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros for their important work leading this effort.”

Boeing says the additional $50 million in funds will support education and economic empowerment in impacted communities. The aircraft manufacture maintains it is developing partnerships with local governments and non-profit organisations to address “varying needs”.

In addition to this initial assistance package, Boeing has partnered with Global Impact – a non-profit organisation – to establish the One Boeing Support Fund, a separate charitable fund that gives Boeing employees and retirees a way to contribute voluntarily.

Boeing said in a statement more than US$780,000 ($1.1 million) has been raised to support affected communities to date.

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

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