‘Too soon’ to allow Boeing 737 MAX to fly again, say families of Lion Air crash victims

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 Max plane is parked in a parking lot at Boeing Field in this aerial photo over Seattle

By Augustinus Beo Da Costa and Bernadette Christina

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Some of the relatives of the victims of a fatal accident of the Boeing (NYSE 🙂 737 MAX in Indonesia criticized the decision of the US aviation authorities to allow the planes to return to the skies, saying that the move it comes too soon.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted a Boeing 737 MAX flight ban on Wednesday imposed after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people in five months in 2018 and 2019.

Two years after the plane operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air sank in the Java Sea, killing all 189 on board, the tragedy remains stark.

“The US authorities should not have lifted the grounding order so quickly,” said Aris Sugiono, who lost his sister and brother-in-law in the accident. “They must consider the feelings of the victim’s families.”

In the past, global air regulators immediately followed the guidance of the FAA, which for decades has been credited with pioneering aviation safety. But many are now wary of appearing to be following the FAA line after the US agency was accused of lax oversight.

“It’s too early,” agreed Anton Sahadi, who had two young relatives on board the doomed flight. “It was not just the Lion Air flight, but also the victims in Ethiopia … The families of the victims have not yet recovered 100%.”

The families of the accident victims in Ethiopia said in a statement that they felt “great disappointment and renewed pain” after the FAA’s decision to return the plane to service.

“Our family was broken,” said Naoise Ryan, whose husband of 39 years died aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

In Indonesia, some of the aggrieved family members said that authorization had been granted faster than compensation.

“Why has the flight permit been granted while the affairs of the victims’ family have not been fully resolved?” asked Latief Nurbana, an official who lost his 24-year-old son.

He said compensation payments and settlements with Boeing’s Community Investment Fund (BCIF) were still unresolved.

The BCIF website said that the distribution of funds to provide philanthropic support to communities affected by the accidents will be completed by January 15, 2021.

A Boeing spokeswoman and Lion Air spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In both crashes, a stall prevention system known as MCAS, activated by faulty data from a single airflow sensor, repeatedly and forcefully pushed through the nose of the plane as the pilots struggled to regain control.

Adita Irawati, a spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Transport, said Indonesia would allow the Boeing 737 MAX to fly once the FAA issues airworthiness directives.

Ground and simulator training for pilots would be included in that process, and the timing would depend on meeting the requirements, Irawati said.

Sahadi, a grieving relative, said earnings shouldn’t drive the urge to get back on the air.

“This means that they do not prioritize safety, considering that there have been fatal mistakes that led to these two airlines having terrible accidents,” Sahadi said.