Canadians who channeled their grief into trying to keep Boeing 737 Max aircrafts grounded after losing loved ones in a deadly crash fear American regulators have made a mistake in allowing the planes to fly again.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration cleared the planes for flight early Wednesday, 20 months after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 went down near Addis Ababa, killing all 157 on board — including 18 Canadians. That happened less than five months after another Max flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea.
News that the planes would fly again came as a shock to Paul Njoroge of Toronto, whose wife, three daughters and mother-in-law died in the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash.
“They don’t care about the families of the victims,” he said. “They don’t care about humanity. All they care about is making money.”
Njoroge has been lobbying for aviation safety since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, and especially for greater transparency from Boeing and the FAA.
“At the time when I booked the tickets for my family, I was uninformed that the 737 Max had issues,” he said.
“The 737 Max has design flaws — engineering design flaws,” Njoroge added.
Officials have said the size and placement of the engines in the aircraft tilts the plane nose-up.
Boeing had devised anti-stall software to compensate for that, but malfunctioning sensors in the planes that crashed prevented pilots from regaining control when the aircraft’s nose was pushed downward in flight.
The FAA said Wednesday that U.S. airlines will be able to fly the Max once Boeing updates critical software and computers on each plane, and pilots receive training in flight simulators.
But it’s not enough for Njoroge.
“Them just fixing the MCAS — which is the system that caused the planes to lower the nose down and eventually dive into the ground — just fixing that system does not make the plane safe to fly,” he said.
It was similarly disappointing for Chris Moore, also from Toronto.
“It does sting, because we’re once again reminded that this plane is going to be back in the air — and it’s the plane that killed my daughter, Danielle, and 156 others,” he said.
“So it does hurt, you know, and we feel that the plane is still not fully safe to fly.”
His 24-year-old daughter Danielle Moore was on her way to the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi when the airliner went down on.
Chris Moore said that for his wife, every day feels like March 10, 2019, but that holding Boeing to account is how he grieves — even if it means he hasn’t gone through the “human level of bereavement.” He has helped organize protests against Boeing and met with the federal transportation minister to push for aviation safety.
“The only way that I can feel some type of comfort is knowing that I am doing work that Danielle would be doing if she was not on that plane,” he said.
“She stood for justice.”
Moore said that above all, he hopes consumers are able to educate themselves about the flaws in the Boeing 737 Max 8 design.
A lengthy investigation by the U.S. Congress prompted criticism of the FAA for setting lax standards in approving the aircraft to fly and of Boeing executives, who Congress said compromised safety to maximize profits.
The scrutiny led to the resignation of Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenberg, who stepped down in December 2019.