Boeing and its subcontractors outsourced the development of some of its 737 MAX software to low-paid workers, according to a bombshell report.
In an article published Thursday, Bloomberg claimed the American company ‘increasingly relied on temporary workers making as little as $9 an hour to develop and test software, often from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace – notably India.’
Boeing 737 MAX planes have been grounded since mid-March after two crashes that killed 346 people, with preliminary accident reports pointing to software that erroneously pointed the planes’ noses down and overpowered pilots’ efforts to regain control.
In October of last year, Lion Air Flight 160 crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.
In March, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 came down in the desert, with all 157 people on board killed instantly. The plane, a 737 MAX, was only four months old at the time of the accident.
According to Bloomberg, the MAX software was ‘developed at a time Boeing was laying off experienced engineers and pressing suppliers to cut costs’.
The publication claims that engineers employed with two Indian-based companies, HCL Technologies Ltd. and Cyient Ld., helped work on the development of the software.
HCL has an office in Seattle, and its engineers, some of whom were recent graduates, were contacted to Boeing’s offices nearby, Bloomberg claims.
Boeing says they did not rely on engineers from HCL and Cyient for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, software technology which has been linked to the two fatal crashes.
Further, the company claims they have been working with suppliers and partners from around the world, and that contracting outside workers is not a new development.
They stated ‘Our primary focus is on always ensuring that our products and services are safe, of the highest quality and comply with all applicable regulations.’
Meanwhile, Boeing says it expects to finish work on updated flight-control software for the 737 MAX in September, a sign that the troubled jet likely won’t be flying until late this year.
As Boeing engineers continue working on the plane’s software, company lawyers pushed Thursday to settle lawsuits brought by the families of dozens of passengers killed in both of the deadly air disasters.
Boeing and the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims agreed to mediation that could lead to early settlements.
However, the families of some Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers are resisting such an act.
‘There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it to prevent this kind of disaster from occurring again,’ said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who filed lawsuits on behalf of nearly two dozen victims of the Ethiopian crash.