Ethiopian ET302 crash victims’ families to Biden and Buttigieg: “Replace FAA Management”

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Families meet today with DOT and FAA leadership

More than 900 family members and friends from across the world who lost loved ones in the March 2019 crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jet (Flight ET302) in Ethiopia have signed a letter demanding that President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg replace FAA Administrator Steven Dickson, Safety Director Ali Bahrami and other top leadership at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The demand was delivered to the Department of Transportation (DOT) today in a meeting between top DOT officials and several ET302 victims’ family members from France, Ireland, Canada and the U.S. The families expressed disappointment that the administration has not yet changed the existing dysfunctional, pro-industry management team at FAA and that this must be done to restore confidence in the agency.  The morning meeting lasted well over an hour.

Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron of Massachusetts who lost their daughter Samya Rose Stumo, Chris Moore of Canada who lost his daughter Danielle, Ike Riffel of California who lost his two sons Melvin and Bennett, Javier DeLuis of Massachusetts who lost his sister Graziella and others from Ireland and France – participated in the video meeting.

It is astounding that the current leadership is still in place several months after the Biden administration took over,” said Chris Moore. “Congressional committees said the FAA took an adversarial position with them. Internal FAA surveys show the management is to pro-industry, giving short shrift to engineering safety.”

A new team must replace Administrator Steve Dickson, Ali Bahrami (Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety); Earl Lawrence (Executive director, Aircraft Certification Service) and Mike Romanowski (Policy and Innovation Division Director, Aircraft Certification Service,” said the 900-plus signatories in the letter.

We find it difficult to believe that Ali Bahrami is still the FAA Safety Director,” said Nadia Milleron. “FAA staff have complained that he is too protective of Boeing, he claimed to have no knowledge of the FAA risk assessment projecting 15 more crashes after the JT610 crash, and he told my son and me that FAA did everything right.  Obviously, they did not.”

In the follow-up to the letter signed by hundreds of families and friends, these victims’ family members asked that “top officials should be replaced because they have lost the confidence of [Flight ET302] families and friends, Congress, the flying public, FAA engineers and international regulators.  We are surprised and disappointed that they are not among the holdovers from the prior administration that have been replaced.”

Ike Riffel said, “I am still in disbelief that with all the red flags that this plane ever got certified in the first place. In a rush to get it done, Boeing and the FAA hid and ignored many safety issues that I believe would have prevented both the JT610 AND ET302 tragedies. The FAA is ultimately responsible for the certification of these aeroplanes and they failed us miserably. Boeing and FAA played a game of Russian roulette with the flying public and we all lost. My sons and 344 more people would have been alive today had the FAA done its job. The same FAA management that oversaw the certification of the 737 MAX is still in place today. How can this be? These guys failed the public so badly, and they haven’t shown that they are willing to change. We need change before a third preventable crash.

Javier de Luis, brother of Graziella de Luis, an American citizen employed by the United Nations who was killed on-board the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash two years ago, told the government officials, “I’m here because my sole concern since this crash has been to do whatever I can to prevent it from happening again.  I approach this with what is perhaps a unique perspective:  I am an aerospace engineer with over 30 years’ experience designing and flying complex aerospace systems.  I hold multiple advanced degrees from MIT, including a masters and PhD from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a masters from the Sloan School of Management.  I am currently a lecturer at the Institute but I spent most of my career in industry. I am therefore very familiar not only with the technology but also with the regulatory environment in which the aerospace community operates, all of which failed and allowed this tragedy to happen.  With that background I want to say this: This is unquestionably the worst civil aviation crisis in the history of this country, whether measured by lives lost in the two crashes or by economic impact.  The fact that the people who were in charge leading up to and during these crashes and that have gone on the record multiple times in their belief that “nothing went wrong, everything is fine, accidents happen, that we should just move on” – the fact that they are still in there is simply incomprehensible.  It is not just a matter of accountability.  Realistically, the chances are zero that the current FAA management will suddenly change their views or alter their behaviour.  So, therefore, the thing that needs to be changed instead is the current FAA management.

We appreciate the meeting with DOT leadership today,” said Michael Stumo. “But we will not stop until we have new management at FAA. For too many years, they have ignored problems and independent reports showing safety and organizational problems. My daughter Samya died because of their laziness and their cosiness with industry. They make false promises of transparency while refusing to disclose any documents that we requested about the recertification of the MAX. If President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg are serious about aviation safety, they need to appoint a new team that we and the world are able to trust.”

I trust that the Biden Administration will do the right thing for the families here and for the entire flying public,” said Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner of Clifford Law Offices of Chicago, internationally renowned aviation attorney and Lead Counsel of the litigation involving the crash of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.  “These families are to be commended for doing everything they can to avoid a third crash.

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