The U.S. Department of Justice may be looking into how the Boeing 737 MAX came into operation and is forcing the airlines and their unions to help. According to reports, at least three airlines and their pilot’s unions have received subpoenas to turn over documents regarding the grounded aircraft.
A criminal probe could be in the works for Boeing, after a second round of subpoenas have been sent regarding the grounded 737 MAX airframes. Bloomberg reports American Airlines Group, Southwest Airlines Co. and United Continental Holdings – the parent companies of their respective airlines – have all received grand jury subpoenas for information about the aircraft.
But the airlines are not the only ones being asked for information. The pilot’s unions for all three airlines have also reportedly received subpoenas. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association all received similar requests around the aircraft.
While federal grand juries are secret, it is believed that the information request revolves around how the Boeing 737 MAX was developed and integrated into airlines. The investigation comes after the next generation airframe experienced two fatal accidents within months, both revolving around the MCAS system. Whistleblowers inside the company claim the required safety features were sold as an upgrade on some aircraft, and claim the South Carolina plant is “plagued by shoddy production.”
In May 2019, Boeing admitted that they were aware the newly delivered 737 MAX aircraft had “display system software [that] did not meet the AOA disagree alert requirements.” However, the Chicago-based manufacturer also “determined that the absence of the AOA disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation.”
A subsequent investigation is targeted at the Federal Aviation Administration, focusing on how the 737 MAX was determined to be airworthy. Additionally, investigators are probing how the MCAS system was certified for service.
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