Relatives are demanding clarity and believe they should be consulted on when or if the 737 Max flies again
On 10 March, 24-year-old Samya Stumo was on her way to start a healthcare job in Kenya when, along with 156 other passengers on an Ethiopian Airlines-operated Boeing 737 Max 8, she died as the plane took a high-speed dive into countryside outside Addis Ababa.
Now her parents, Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron, together with her great-uncle Ralph Nader, have become the most vocal relatives to demand a say on when or if the fastest-selling plane in Boeings history should fly again.
For four months since the tragedy, Stumo and Milleron say they have been thwarted in their quest for clarity from Boeing, the companys political representatives in Washington and regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration.
The couple recently filed a 50-page negligence lawsuit against Boeing, Ethiopian Airlines and Rosemount Aerospace, the makers of the sensor that informed the Maxs controversial MCAS anti-stall system at the center of investigations into the Ethiopian tragedy and the Lion Air Max crash last October.
We just dont want there to be a third crash, Michael Stumo told the Guardian. Nothing was done after the first Lion Air crash. Something has to be done now after the second.
The drip of information about the rush development of the Max 8, the shortcomings and ferocity of its anti-stall technology, and the degree to which regulators permitted Boeing to certify the plane and its systems, have left Samya Stumos parents with little reason for confidence.
We have a fear that the un-grounding process is being rushed and improperly influenced by a concern for Boeings profits more than for safety, Stumo said.
In previous air crashes, families have had months to grieve before engaging in the process of investigation and public hearings. In this case, there was no time wasted. FAA officials have indicated the Max 8 could be back in service by the end of the year, though officially airlines have been told to keep the plane off their schedules only until 3 September.
We felt only economic interests were being represented. So we felt an obligation to get involved quicker than we might want to, Stumo said.
While the family is leaving the technical negligence arguments about the plane and its software systems to their lawyers, their narrative is straightforward. The MCAS software grabbed control of the plane, overpowered the pilots and ran this plane into the ground at 500 or 600mph, Stumo said.
In the days and months after the crash, the victims families communicated through WhatsApp groups. The single largest nationality of passengers lost in the Ethiopian crash was Kenyan, accounting for 47 passengers. There are currently 43 cases from the crash filed in Illinois district court, including on behalf of 10 Canadian victims, three generations of the Manant Vaidya family and the wife and three children of Kenyan Paul Njoroge.