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Lawyer suing Boeing over Lion Air crash was scheduled to board 737 MAX 8

A GECAS company 737 MAX 8 airplane. (Courtesy of Boeing)

Just as the news broke that the FAA has grounded the entire Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 fleet in the U.S — joining the rest of the world in grounding the planes, which number 371 globally — the attorney whose firm is suing Boeing was himself about to board a 737 MAX 8 from Las Vegas to Seattle.

An Ethiopian Airlines crash in Addis Ababa on Sunday that killed 157 was the second fatal crash for the 737 MAX within five months; last October, a Lion Air 737 MAX in Indonesia crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff.

Seattle’s Herrmann Law Group is suing the aircraft giant on behalf of 17 Indonesian families who lost loved ones in the 737 MAX crash last October.

In an interview with the Dori Monson Show on Friday, Charles Herrmann, principle attorney for the law group, explained that in the Indonesian crash, the plane’s angle of attack sensor failed, showing that the plane was too steep and thereby risking a stall when it actually was not too steep. The plane’s anti-stall system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System forced, the nose of the plane down; the pilots were not able to stop the MCAS before the plane crashed into the Java Sea.

RELATED: FAA grounds 737 MAX, Boeing maintains ‘full confidence’ in plane

The lawsuit states that the MCAS was not covered in the flight manual to “minimize the differences between the MAX and other versions of the 737 to boost sales.” This would help Boeing compete with Airbus by presenting the MAX 8 to airlines as a plane that does not require the expense of a lot of extra training for pilots, Herrmann told Dori.

With that in mind, Dori asked Herrmann on Wednesday why in the world he would have boarded a 737 MAX 8, after thoroughly researching the plane’s alleged shortcomings and the Lion Air black box data.

“It was the flight that was available, and I have labored under the impression that if pilots had been properly instructed in the first place, that if there were a malfunction, such as occurred on the Indonesian flight, Lion Air, that the pilots would know what to do and could shut the [MCAS] down and reclaim manual control of the plane,” Herrmann said.

He had told Dori previously that the FAA ordered Boeing to put the description of the system into its manuals and distribute the new manuals worldwide.

Herrmann said that he had made his Southwest reservation on the 737 MAX before last weekend’s Ethiopian crash, and that “now there obviously are some very serious questions about the safety of this aircraft.”

He firmly agreed with the decision by the FAA and Boeing to ground the planes.

“There are too many serious questions where there aren’t answers, and obviously safety — safety of the flying public and the crews, really — is paramount, ” he said. “When you had two of these occur within a matter of about [four]-and-a-half months, it’s the correct step to take to get to the bottom of the matter.”

While Herrmann feels that “it’s a bit early to really jump to firm conclusions” about how the two crashes could be linked, he does want to research not only the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the Ethiopian plane when it comes available, but also the Indonesian cockpit voice recorder, which he said has not been released.

“There’s no good reason why they are keeping that from the public,” he said. “And to me, I’m going to be doing what I can to demand that Lion Air, Boeing, the NTSB, and the equivalent authority in Indonesia release that information to the public, because it’s available.”

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