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Inquiry exposes Boeing failures over crash

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A former Bermuda bank executive whose family was killed in a plane crash last year has hit out after a US congressional investigation's report heavily criticised the aircraft's manufacturer and US regulators.

Paul Njoroge lost wife Carol, son Ryan, 7, daughter Kelli, 4, seven-month-old daughter Rubi and mother-in-law Ann Wangui Quindos Karanja when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just outside the country's capital Addis Ababa on March 10 last year.

The BBC reported yesterday that the almost 250-page report said the crash of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and an earlier crash of the same type of plane in Indonesia, were partly because of the plane-maker's unwillingness to reveal technical details.

The report blamed a “culture of concealment” at Boeing and added that the Federal Aviation Administration's regulatory regime was “fundamentally flawed”.

Mr Njoroge testified before the congressional inquiry into the Boeing crashes in July 2019.

He told the BBC yesterday that the report documented “clear dereliction of duty by Boeing and the FAA in the design and certification process of the 737 Max”.

He added: “It is, therefore, clear that, at Boeing, safety comes after cost-cutting, profit-maximisation and share-price pumpage.

“Further, the report has undoubtedly cast the FAA as a ‘captured' regulator — the FAA is therefore an agency promoting Boeing and the industry, instead of promoting the safety of the flying public.”

The BBC said the 18-month investigation concluded that “Boeing failed in its design and development of the Max, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft”.

The report said Boeing had failed to release information about a key safety system — MCAS — designed to counter a tendency in the 737 Max to pitch upwards.

The congressional inquiry found that Boeing was at fault for “concealing the very existence of MCAS from 737 pilots”.

The BBC reported that MCAS was not in crew manuals and Boeing tried to convince regulators not to require simulator training for Max pilots, which would incur extra costs.

The MCAS system has been blamed for both crashes, which killed a total of 346 people.

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane.

The BBC said yesterday that “regulators around the world are currently putting the modified 737 Max through its paces”.

Mr Njoroge, originally from Kenya and who now lives in Canada, worked at Butterfield Bank at the time of the crash.

The family, who lived in Hamilton, Ontario, were on their way home to Kenya when they died.

Mr Njoroge was expected to join them later.

The family had planned to apply for permanent residency in Canada and were house-hunting, as Mr Njoroge was finishing with his job on the island.

It emerged after the crash that Mr Njoroge had booked the flights and had tracked the flight until it reached Ethiopia, then went to bed.

He found out about the crash when he logged on to a flight checker the next morning.

Mr Njoroge visited the crash site eight days later with father-in-law John Karanja.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation footage showed Mr Njoroge laying five white roses at a shrine set up in countryside near the impact zone while Ethiopians from the surrounding area, including schoolchildren, prayed and sang.

Mr Njoroge and Mr Karanja were filmed leaving the scene with small bags of earth from the crash site.

Residents in Bermuda queued up to sign a condolences book in the days after the crash.

Mr Njoroge thanked the people of Bermuda for their support in “testing times” in a letter sent to The Royal Gazette.

Mr Njoroge told the congressional inquiry last year that Boeing had used the “fallacy of foreign pilot error” to avoid grounding 737 Max aircraft after the October 2018 crash in Indonesia.

He added: “That decision killed my family and 152 others.”

Danielle Moore, a 24-year-old from Toronto and former summer student at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, was also killed in the crash.

Ms Moore, who took part in the Bios summer course on the ecology and evolution of reef fish in 2015, was on her way to a UN Environmental Assembly in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Many condolences: John Rankin, the Governor, with Paul Njoroge and his sister, Leah Njoroge

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Published September 18, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 18, 2020 at 1:08 pm)

Inquiry exposes Boeing failures over crash

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