A little more than a year ago, on July 6, 2013, Asiana Flight 214, a Boeing 777 on a scheduled passenger flight from Seoul, South Korea, crashed while attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport. Three people were killed and 181 were injured in the accident and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire.
Criminal misconduct on the part of the Boeing Company prior to the events of July 6, 2013, played a significant role in the preventable accident and is in large part to blame for the crash of Asiana Flight 214. On the strength of testimony presented during investigation and from evidence provided by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in their recently released Accident Report, murder charges have this week been filed in the Supreme Court of Washington State against the Boeing Company and certain of its senior officials, concerning the death of the three passengers who perished.
While the NTSB found pilot error to be the probable cause of the accident, investigators also concluded that inconsistencies in the B777 autothrottle system and inadequacies in describing those inconsistencies to pilots in Boeing's flight and training manuals were strong contributory causes.
The murder charges filed against the Boeing Company this week declare that Boeing officials were warned by three different industry specialists of the imminent dangers posed by existing anomalies in the autothrottle system of their Boeing 777 aircraft and/or, posed by suppressing pertinent flight safety issues. Those sources include a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test pilot, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and a retired Senior Boeing Instructor Pilot.
FAA test pilot Eugene Arnold discovered the B777 autothrottle anomalies while testing a similar system on Boeing's new B787 aircraft. The European Aviation Safety Agency, having been informed by the FAA of the anomalies, warned Boeing that inconsistencies in flight automation had in the past been a strong contributor to aviation accidents. Boeing callously disregarded the FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency's warnings and stated that the B777 autothrottle had been certified and had no problems in service, and had "met the requirements for what was intended for the system". Although Boeing added an explanatory caution note to the B787 Airplane Flight Manual, according to the NTSB Accident Report no such note was added to the B777 Airplane Flight Manual.
At about the same time, a retired Senior Instructor Pilot for the Boeing Company, Captain Anthony Keyter, warned of the dangers to public safety posed by Boeing's ongoing corporate culture of suppressing crucial flight safety information in favor of its own commercial interests. An historic case cited by Captain Keyter was the demise of Air India Flight IX-812 during 2010, in which 158 people died and 8 were injured when the Boeing Company suppressed vital safety warnings pertinent to that flight.
The hazardous autothrottle scenario which caught the FAA Test Pilot by surprise later caught the Asiana 214 aircrew unaware and led to the accident of Asiana 214. The occurrence sadly demonstrated that, despite Boeing's protestations, the anomalies/ inconsistencies in the B777 autothrottle were indeed a problem in service. The NTSB recommended in their Asiana 214 Accident Report that a 'special certification design review' be convened to evaluate the potentially unsafe design features in the B777 auto flight system.
The murder charges filed against Boeing in the Washington State Supreme Court this week aver that the unsafe design features and failure to adequately inform B777 pilots of the inconsistencies in the auto flight system constitute willful neglect by the Boeing Company, since the problems and the dangers were known to Boeing. The murder charges assert that the unsafe design features and failure to clearly warn of the known dangers contributed in a major way to the accident of Asiana 214.
While the aircrew of Asiana 214 are held responsible for operational error, the criminal complaint filed in the Washington State Supreme Court holds Boeing criminally culpable for willfully suppressing the vital information and warnings on the B777 autothrottle anomalies which, if rectified or trained for, would have averted the accident. The charges declare that Boeing's callous lack of concern created grave danger which led directly to the death and injuries suffered on Asiana Flight 214.
The Revised Code of Washington, statute RCW9A.32.030, states in relevant parts: "(1) A person is guilty of murder in the first degree when: ... (b) Under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life, he or she engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to any person, and thereby causes the death of a person;...".
The criminal complaint filed against the Boeing Company and certain of its officials states that Boeing's extreme indifference to human life violates the Revised Code of Washington and constitutes murder concerning the three fatalities; and constitutes attempted murder concerning the 181 who were injured.
Anthony P. Keyter
Retired Senior Instructor Pilot for the Boeing Company.