Several family members who lost loved ones in the crash of a Boeing 737 Max on March 10, 2019, in Ethiopia will be attending a hearing Wednesday of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in Washington, D.C., and are requesting the opportunity to testify.
Michael Stumo, father of Samya Rose Stumo, of Massachusetts, and Canadians Paul Njoroge, who lost his wife, three young children and mother in law, and Chris Moore who lost his daughter, as well as several other family members from around the world sent individual letters last week to Committee Chair U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) as part of this Committee’s first hearing on the matter. Their intent was to raise an awareness of the families’ concerns as the Senate considers new legislation regarding the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The Committee has scheduled FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson to testify while Wicker introduced a new bill last week, The Aviation Safety Bill. The bill would, according to Wicker, “improve aviation safety by codifying recommendations from a number of reviews and investigations related to the 737 MAX crashes.”
The bill, however, continues to be revised as a bipartisan measure, and proposes to reform how the FAA certifies new aircraft in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people in five months. Until the crashes, Boeing was self-certifying its own new aircraft with minimal FAA input. The bill grants new power to the FAA to hire or remove Boeing employees conducting FAA certification tasks and allows the agency to appoint safety advisers.
The bill, expected to be released prior to the Wednesday hearing, also would require regular audits and would authorize $150 million over 10 years for new FAA training and for the hiring of specialized personnel to develop technical standards for new aviation technologies. The bill also would require the FAA to create a new safety reporting system for employees to anonymously report concerns in the manufacture and engineering of aircraft.
“The revisions are an improvement from Chairman Wicker’s disappointing first draft,” Stumo said. “But there are still no provisions to prevent FAA from allowing Boeing to cut corners and self-certify critical safety systems that, when they fail, kill passengers. There should also be a time limit on aircraft type certificates so manufacturers are forced to do full upgrades of new aircraft periodically. The 737 series is a 1960’s plane and the MAX has old systems that do not otherwise comply with FAA safety rules.”
Stumo went on to say, “Boeing executives may bow their heads and apologize in public but behind the scenes the company is trying to avoid paying for its recklessness. Its lawyers are asserting that the FAA approval of the deadly MAX 8 pre-empts the claims of 346 families. Astoundingly, the FAA lawyers have supported Boeing’s claim. Congress must make clear that Boeing and FAA cannot cause even more harm to passengers by first approving a dangerous aircraft and then preventing victim compensation.”
Stumo, Njoroge and other family members who lost loved ones in that tragic crash in Ethiopia have met with numerous elected and appointed government officials over the past year including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
Moore said the revised bill is a start but that many things still are necessary for aircraft certified in the U.S. to be safe. “In a nutshell, the bill still lacks teeth. It needs to address the process and criteria of addressing any major accident or incident – especially a hull loss – and needs to include more accountability. Accountability must include professional misconduct whereby loss of license could be at stake even of individuals who participate in misconduct. The certification process still allows the manufacturer to oversee the designee, but we have seen that Boeing’s accountability is more to its shareholders than to its passengers. The designee must have to report to the FAA.” Moore said.
Njoroge wrote the Committee, “I and scores of families of ET302 victims have met with several US lawmakers, the FAA, and other policymakers in effort to promote aviation safety. So that no other family would go through this agonizing pain of unreasonably losing their loved ones. Despite all our efforts, I am always overwhelmed by emotions when I see Boeing and the FAA refusing to take responsibility over the death of my wife, my children, and my mum-in-law, and 341 others. FAA believes that their operating framework is a gold-standard even in the face of this 737 Max crisis. In separate meetings with both former Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell, and the current Administrator Steve Dickson, the FAA finds no gaps in its delegation framework. No employee has been disciplined by neither Boeing nor the FAA.”
All 157 people on board, including Stumo’s 24-year old daughter Samya Rose Stumo, Danielle Moore, age 24, and Carolyne Karanja, wife of Paul Njoroge, and his three young children Ryan, Kellie and Rubi, age six months, the youngest on the plane, perished in the crash shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on Flight ET302. Another MAX 737 crashed shortly after takeoff in October, 2018, into the Java Sea, killing everyone on board. The MAX 737 has been grounded worldwide since March 2019, but the plane manufacturer continues to work to revise the plane to recertify it to be airworthy.
Stumo, Njoroge and Moore along with 65 other families who lost loved ones on that aircraft, are represented by Clifford Law Offices in Chicago. Founder and senior partner Robert A. Clifford has been appointed Lead Counsel in the consolidated litigation in federal district court in Chicago.
For further information, please contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).