On Boeing FAA Christianity Sin and Society

On the second anniversary of the crash of Boeing 737 MAX in Ethiopia, killing all 157 aboard, it was clear to those attending a memorial at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. that the crash was preventable and those 157 would be with us today but for Boeing’s criminal actions and a beholden FAA management.

That point was driven home last month by FAA safety engineer Joe Jacobsen.

As first reported in the Seattle Times, Jacobsen wrote a five page letter to the parents of Samya Stumo, who died that day two years ago in Ethiopia, and made clear that had he and the other top FAA engineers in the Seattle office been brought into the loop, lives would have been saved.

Samya’s mother, Nadia Milleron told the Associated Press yesterday that it took her hours to read Jacobsen’s letter, which prints out at five pages – she kept stopping, pacing the room, thinking about her daughter.

“It’s just really hard to read these things,” Milleron said. “You wish you could reach back in time and change it so Samya could be alive and the other people could be alive.”

Earlier in the day Nadia Milleron, Michael Stumo, Samya’s father, and Tor Stumo, Samya’s brother, met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and told him that at least four FAA managers must be replaced – FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, FAA Aircraft Certification Service Executive Director Earl Lawrence, FAA Policy & Innovation Division Director of Aircraft Certification Service Michael Romanowski, and FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami. 

“Secretary Buttigieg was very receptive and gave us more time than promised,” Michael Stumo said following the meeting.  “He promised to provide answers to all of our questions about the plane itself and what the FAA knew between the crashes.  He was very concerned about the assertions that management was an impediment to safety. Secretary Buttigieg said he was dedicated to getting us answers.”

“We are very hopeful that he sees that in order to make his term as DOT Secretary successful, it is in his interests to substantially improve the FAA and its management and culture,” Stumo said.  “It was a very fruitful and candid conversation. We hope he is taking the information regarding the latent defects in the plane seriously as well as the management failures at the FAA so that there is no third crash. Only a new leadership can restore trust in the FAA.”

Later in the day, families and friends of those who lost loved ones in the March 10 Boeing 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia attended a  memorial vigil in front of the FAA to mark the two-year anniversary of the crash.  

They held signs reading – Fire Dickson, Hire Sully and – 346 Dead, No One Held Accountable.

The luminaria vigil at the FAA included the names of each of the 157 people who died in the Boeing crash in Ethiopia written on the white lit containers.  

Friends and family of the victims held photos of passengers who died in that preventable crash and wore health protection masks reading Axe the Max.

Earlier in the day, Nadia Milleron and her son stood in front of Boeing’s offices near the Pentagon to remind executives of their accountability in the deaths of 346 people.   

They held signs reading – Profits Over Passengers. 

Passengers on the plane that crashed in Ethiopia were from 35 countries.  

Chris and Clariss Moore of Toronto, Canada, lost their 24-year-old daughter Danielle on the plane.  They commemorated the day by creating a greater public awareness of the tragedy, standing in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto.   

Earlier in the month, the Moores met with Canadian Transport officials to discuss the continuing problems surrounding the MAX that has been ungrounded in Canada.  A petition has been created to ban the unsafe Boeing 737 MAX plane in Canada.

“My dad’s absence will never not hurt.  It’s hard to exist in a world where he doesn’t,” said Zipporah Kuria of the UK who lost her father in the crash. “ Life just doesn’t mean what it used to, but we are trying to give dad a living legacy to give his life meaning. The earth keeps orbiting and for Boeing it’s business as usual, but for my family and 156 other families, everything has stood still – in grief, hopelessness and disappointment.  Knowing the 737 Boeing MAX keeps flying feels like we’ve paid the highest price for a bill that wasn’t ours.  I wonder did Boeing or the FAA even take a moment to recognize and reflect on the lives that didn’t need to be lost at their peril and on their watch, or was it just another day on the calendar?”

Relatives of families of the MAX crash in Ethiopia are calling for Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun, his predecessor Dennis Muilenburg and other current and former employees to be deposed under the consolidated lawsuits that have been filed in federal district court in Chicago.  

Robert A. Clifford, lead counsel of the litigation representing 72 families, reports that a trial date is soon to be set for 2022 in the matter before U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso in Chicago.  

Discovery continues with millions of pages of documents being reviewed and depositions of many parties being taken, including top Boeing executives.

Families have been insisting on a full recertification, examining all systems of the latest 737 that has not been recertified for more than 50 years and that has undergone numerous changes including placing the newly sized engines further forward on the wings.  

“The families’ fight for information is really on behalf of the public in an effort to make the flying safer for everyone because it is too late for their loved ones,” Clifford said.  “This is one of the most selfless acts I have ever seen in my career as an aviation attorney.  They are taking their grief and trying to do something constructive so that their loved ones’ deaths will not be in vain.  Although the route they choose is very public, they have put their private suffering aside to try to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else.”

The first Boeing MAX plane crashed into the Java Sea about nine minutes after taking off from Indonesia on October 29, 2018, killing all 189 on board. The plane was not grounded worldwide until 157 more lives were lost when a second 737 MAX crashed about six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, headed for Kenya.

“So, why am I telling you all of this?” Jacobsen asked in his letter to Nadia Milleron and Michael Stumo.

“I’m a Christian, and in early 2020, I began to fast, pray, and read the Bible for a few hours every Friday. This was new for me, but after beginning that process, I came to Isaiah 57 on one Friday. After reading Isaiah 57:1, my thoughts went to healing the families of the 737 MAX crashes. I wrote it down: The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”

“I kept reading, and came to Isaiah 57:17, which drew my thoughts to Boeing leadership culture: I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways.”

“After that, I began to pray for you and the other families on a continual basis,” Jacobsen wrote.

“Let me take a moment to defend my many colleagues who work at Boeing,” Jacobsen wrote. “As with any large organization, there are a few bad apples. However, everyone else is working hard and doing the best they can do. They are trying every day to design and build a safe product. That said, if the top leadership overemphasizes profit and stock price above everything else, the company safety culture will inevitably suffer.”

The criminal case against Boeing needs to be re-opened. 

Boeing sought to do away with it, shopping for a U.S. Attorney’s office – Ft. Worth, Texas, as it turns out – to cut a sweetheart deal – what Columbia Law Professor John Coffee calls the worst deferred prosecution agreement he had seen.

A deferred prosecution agreement without a deep investigation concluded that  “the misconduct was neither pervasive across the organization, nor undertaken by a large number of employees, nor facilitated by senior mismanagement.”

How did the prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Ft. Worth know this?

“Not only was there no independent study by a reputable outside law firm, but when you look where the money went, only $500 million out of $2.65 billion went to victims,” Coffee said. “$1.77 billion went to airline companies. Airline companies can take care of themselves. They had commercial rights. This was imported into this settlement to inflate the amount of the settlement.” 

In the corporate crime classic Sin and Society: An Analysis of Latter Day Iniquity, (Houghton Mifflin, 1907), Edward Alsworth Ross saw it coming.

“Fine the corporation, and, if sinning is lucrative, it heeds the fine no more than a flea-bite,” Ross writes. “Never will the brake of the law grip these slippery wheels until prison doors yawn for the convicted officers of lawless corporations.”

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