Ralph Nader, the noted consumer rights advocate, called for a recall and consumer boycott of the Boeing jet grounded by regulators across the globe after two deadly crashes.
His niece, 24-year-old Samya Stumo, was among the 157 victims of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash last month, less than six months after a flight on the same aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed in Indonesia.
“Those planes should never fly again,” said Nader, speaking by phone at a news conference after Stumo’s family filed a lawsuit against Chicago-based Boeing, one of its suppliers and Ethiopian Airlines. The family also filed a claim against the Federal Aviation Administration.
Stumo’s family’s lawsuit is one of several filed by relatives of passengers killed in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes. All those families have “such huge holes” because of the aircraft’s problems, said Nadia Milleron, Stumo’s mother, who said she had met others who lost loved ones in Ethiopia.
“As someone who’s lost the dearest person in my life, I want her death not to be in vain. I don’t want anybody else to die,” she said at the news conference in Chicago.
Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed” helped bring about a series of auto safety laws, including the creation the federal agency that became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees the auto industry. He later turned his attention to various consumer protection efforts related to food, drug and workplace safety and clean air and water.
On Thursday, he took aim at Boeing, blaming the crashes on design problems that he argued were the result of the company’s focus on getting the plane on the market quickly to compete with its rival manufacturer Airbus.
He also criticized the relationship between Boeing and the federal agency tasked with overseeing aviation industry safety.
“If we don’t end the cozy relationship between the patsy FAA…and the Boeing company, 5,000 of these fatally flawed planes will be in the air all over the world with millions of passengers,” Nader said.
Boeing said Thursday it is reviewing a preliminary report on last month’s crash from Ethiopian authorities that said the same anti-stall system that came under scrutiny in the Lion Air crash was activated on the Ethiopian Airlines flight.
Most accidents are the result of a chain of events, but when that system is activated in error, it adds to “what is already a high-workload environment,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a video released by the company on Thursday.
“It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it, and we know how to do it,” he said.
Boeing said it is still working with the FAA and regulatory agencies to develop and certify a software update designed to keep the system from being activated unintentionally, along with additional training for pilots.
Nader said he doesn’t think the software fix is enough to make the plane safe since it can’t predict all potential problems with a plane that is “prone to stall.”
While Boeing has worked to show it is taking steps to address safety concerns, the FAA is planning changes to its oversight of airplane development, which delegates some authority for certifying new aircraft to their manufacturers, the Associated Press reported.