Boeing faces criminal prosecution over 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people

Olha Bereziuk

The U.S. Justice Department said Boeing breached obligations under a 2021 agreement that shielded the planemaker from criminal prosecution in connection with the 2018 and 2019 crashes of two 737 MAX planes that killed 346 people.

Reuters writes about it.

In 2021, Boeing paid more than $2.5 billion to settle an investigation into possible withholding of information from the Federal Aviation Administration about the operation of its 737 MAX aircraft. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay compensation to victimsʼ relatives and review its compliance practices.

However, according to the Department of Justice, the US aircraft manufacturer failed to develop and implement a compliance and ethics program aimed at preventing and detecting fraud violations in its operations.

The decision exposes Boeing to potential criminal prosecution for the 2018 and 2019 disasters, which could result in significant fines and further damage to its reputation.

For now, Justice Department officials plan to review the steps taken by the plane maker to analyze and correct the violations before deciding on next steps.

The US Department of Justice has given Boeing until June 13 to respond and intends to make a decision on whether the company should be subject to criminal prosecution by July 7.

Boeing confirmed that it received notice from the Department of Justice about the violation of the agreement, but the company believes that it complied.

What is wrong with Boeing planes

The incident with the plane door

On January 5, 2024, Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 (flight 1282) landed at the Portland airport (Washington state) 35 minutes after takeoff. During the flight, the emergency exit door blew off. There were 171 passengers and six crew members in the plane at that time. After that, Alaska Airlines brought all of its 65 MAX 9s for inspection, and Boeing 737 MAX 9 airliners were grounded worldwide. It was later reported that the plane had received a warning a few days before the incident. On January 8, United Airlines said it found "loose" bolts on the MAX 9 during an inspection.

More incidents with Boeing 737 Max

For the first time, such a plane crashed in Indonesia in October 2018. In March 2019, the same liner crashed in Ethiopia. As a result of these two plane crashes, 346 people died. After discovering the problems, Boeing updated the aircraftʼs software and developed a new pilot training program. These changes have been approved by regulators around the world, including in the US, EU and Canada. And already in 2020, Boeing 737 MAX began to return to commercial flights.

However, in April 2021, Boeing 737 MAX aircraft again had potential problems with electricity. In December 2023, the Boeing aircraft company contacted its customers and reported on the detected malfunction in the 737 MAX aircraft.

Incidents with Boeing 737-800

In April, in the USA, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane had to return to the Denver International Airport after almost 30 minutes of flight, because the engine hood flew off and hit the flap. People were not injured.

In March, also in the USA, the outer panel of the Boeing 737-800 passenger plane, located at the junction of the lower part of the fuselage and the wing next to the landing gear, fell off.

The Boeing 787 incident

During a flight from Sydney to Auckland on March 12, at least 50 people were injured when a LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 suddenly lost altitude.

"The plane just fell. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced in any form of mild turbulence. People were thrown from their seats, they hit the ceiling, they were thrown down the aisles," said passenger Brian Jokat.