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Boeing to Face Lawsuit in a Spanish Court Over Deadly 2008 Crash of Spanair Flight That Claimed 154 Lives

Boeing to Face Lawsuit in a Spanish Court Over Deadly 2008 Crash of Spanair Flight That Claimed 154 Lives

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U.S.-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing is set to face trial in a Spanish court over the deadly 2008 crash of a Spanair plane that claimed the lives of 154 people onboard.

Following years of appeals and legal arguments, the lawsuit brought by the families of passengers who died in the tragedy is now slated to be heard in January 2024.

One of the deadliest airliner crashes ever witnessed on Spanish soil, Spanair flight 5022 departed from Madrid Barajas Airport on August 20, 2008, bound for Gran Canaria but the plane crashed just a short time after takeoff. Miraculously, 18 of those onboard survived.

The cause of the accident was mainly attributed to pilot error because the crew failed to deploy the flaps and slats in preparation for takeoff. The flaps and slats are crucial to provide extra lift during takeoff, and without them deployed, the aircraft was unable to climb as expected.

By the time the pilots had realized their mistake, it was already too late and the plane impacted the ground just three seconds after takeoff.

An investigation by a group of aviation law firms, however, revealed that pilot error wasn’t the sole cause of the accident and that an important safety system designed to prevent these types of accidents may not have been working.

The aircraft involved in the accident was a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, which was acquired by Boeing in 1997. The MD-82 had a takeoff warning system (TOWS) installed, which should have alerted the pilots to the fact that the flaps and slats weren’t deployed, but accident investigators concluded that the system didn’t emit an alarm as designed.

Lawyers representing the families of the victims of Flight 5022 claim McDonnell Douglas was aware of the faulty TOWS system as early as 1993, but neither it nor Boeing did anything to correct the issue.

“Boeing has shown a history of ignoring or ‘hiding’ reports of faulty equipment and poor design, which has led to multiple investigations into Boeing’s corporate culture,” commented Jay Jackson, director of communications for Brent Coon & Associates, which has pursued the case in both the US and Spanish courts.

“Most recently, the attention has been on the infamously dangerous design and engineering problems with the Boeing flagship 737,” Jackson continued.

Lawyers argue that a simple software update of the cockpit alert system would have fixed the issue. In fact, a software patch had been installed on a small number of affected aircraft, but the Spanair plane, along with many other MD-82s hadn’t been retrofitted with the updated software.

Although Spanair filed for bankruptcy in 2011, some of the victim’s families have continued to pursue a claim against Boeing for its alleged involvement in the crash of Flight 5022. Boeing successfully fought to have jurisdiction for the lawsuit moved from the United States to Spain where legal proceedings have been stuck for more than a decade.

“We have been fighting the good fight for these victims and their families for well over a decade,” commented Brent Coon on Tuesday.

“It has been extraordinarily frustrating to see Boeing spit the hook on being held accountable for so long, and to succeed in convincing our own judiciary that the victims would get a swift and fair trial in Spain.”

Coon says the Spanish courts simply aren’t accustomed to dealing with such complex litigation, which has further delayed proceedings. He fears Boeing deliberately pursued appeal after appeal to “wear down” the victim’s families.

Lawyers are hoping the Spanish courts will apply U.S. law as to liability and damages, although no decision has yet been reached on this aspect of the trial.

View Comment (1)
  • With all the troubles and scrutiny that Boeing has undergone as a result of their 737 Max fiasco – not to mention the lack of safety culture and their corporate devotion to the “bottom line” – you would think that Boeing would bring some closure to these families who have suffered and agonized over the loss of their loved ones – going on 15+ years now – and still no resolution. Its about the money and not about accepting responsibility and accountability for these tragic losses. The problems could have been fixed – Boeing just never took the time. Really SAD.

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