Pilots Urge Southwest Airlines Not to Buy Boeing Max

A worker walks past a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for Oman Air at Boeing’s assembly facility in Renton, Wash., on April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

DALLAS (CN) – Southwest Airlines’ pilots union slammed Boeing late Wednesday for what it calls a rush to return the grounded 737 Max to service and urged the airline to buy planes from other manufacturers.

Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, wrote in a letter to union members that Chicago-based Boeing is claiming it “may have to shut down their production line due to running out of room to store completed Max aircraft.”

“There is some concern that this is simply another tactic to push the [return to service] timeline up, force operators to resume making payments on Max aircraft, and transfer some costs, logistics and responsibilities of storing and restoring the Max to revenue services to respective operators,” Weaks wrote.

The 737 Max was grounded eight months ago after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on March of this year. Boeing announced this week that it plans to resume Max deliveries by the end of the year and to seek a return to service in January.

“Boeing will never, and should not ever, be given the benefit of the doubt again,” Weaks said. “The combination of arrogance, ignorance, and greed should and will haunt Boeing for eternity. I strongly concur with Southwest exploring obtaining a different and perhaps non-Boeing aircraft for the best interest of all our futures.”

Boeing responded that it looks forward “to working with pilots, flight attendants and our airline customers” to regain their trust.

“The Max will only be certified once regulators are completely satisfied that we have made all updates required and they determine the plane is safe to return to service,” the company said in a written statement.

The pilot’s union, abbreviated as SWAPA, sued Boeing in Dallas County District Court last month for fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference, negligence and fraudulent nondisclosure, claiming it rushed production of the Max to protect its share of the narrow-body aircraft market.

The lawsuit claims that if erroneous data is fed into the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, flight-control software “from a single angle-of-attack sensor, [it] would command the aircraft to nose-down and into an unrecoverable dive” without the pilot’s knowledge.

“Boeing abandoned sound design and engineering practices, withheld safety critical information from regulators and deliberately misled its customers, pilots and the public about the true scope of design changes to the 737 Max,” the complaint states. “Boeing’s misrepresentations caused SWAPA to believe that the 737 Max aircraft was safe, and that it was to SWAPA pilots’ economic advantage to agree to fly the 737 Max aircraft for their employer.”

Boeing filed to remove the lawsuit to Dallas federal court three days ago.

The lawsuit claims the MCAS resulted from Boeing’s decision to use newer, larger LEAP 1-B engines on the 737 Max, resulting in the engines being mounted higher and farther forward on the wind and changing the plane’s “aerodynamic center of gravity, decreased aircraft stability, created a greater pitch-up tendency at elevated angles of attack, and negatively affected the flight handling characteristics, making the 737 Max more susceptible to the catastrophic risk of stall,” according to the complaint.

Southwest’s entire airline fleet consists of different variants of the 737. It does not fly the Airbus A320, the 737’s primary competitor.

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