Boeing will plead guilty in the US investigation into the fatal 737 MAX crashes, a Justice Department official said.

Boeing has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud to resolve the Justice Department's investigation into two fatal 737 MAX crashes, a US government official said.

Accepting the deal will allow Boeing to avoid a criminal prosecution.

The plea, which requires the approval of a federal judge, will brand the aircraft manufacturer as a convicted criminal.

243 MILLION DOLLAR FINE

Boeing will also pay a fine of $243.6 million, a Justice Department official said.

The agreed penalty will be Boeing's second fine of $ 243.6 million related to fatal accidents, bringing the entire fine to the maximum allowable level.

The company previously paid this fine as part of a $2.5 billion settlement in 2021.

346 PEOPLE WERE KILLED

Boeing was accused of a 737 MAX crash that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia over a five-month period in 2018 and 2019. 

The aerospace giant faced criminal prosecution after the Justice Department found in May that the company had violated a 2021 agreement on fatal accidents.

On June 30, the Justice Department offered Boeing a plea deal and gave the company until the end of the week to accept it or face trial on charges of conspiring to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration in connection with a key software feature linked to fatal accidents.

ADMITTED TO MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS

Boeing pleads guilty to knowingly making false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it had extended a key software feature used on the MAX to operate at low speeds.

The new software required less intensive training for pilots, saving Boeing money.

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is a software feature designed to automatically push the nose of the aircraft down in certain conditions.

It was linked to two accidents that led the FAA to ground the aircraft for 20 months, an action that cost Boeing $20 billion, which the government removed in November 2020.

As part of the settlement, Boeing's board of directors will meet with relatives of those killed in the MAX crashes, the official said.

ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT ON SETTLEMENT TERMS

On the other hand, Boeing announced that it had reached an agreement in principle with the Justice Department on the terms of the settlement.

Lawyers for some of the families of the victims of the two MAX crashes said they will exercise their right to challenge the settlement.

"The families intend to argue that the plea agreement with Boeing gives Boeing concessions that other criminal defendants will never receive and fails to hold Boeing accountable for the deaths of 346 people," the lawyers said in a separate court filing.

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The Justice Department filing said the agreement did not protect any executives, but that charges against individuals were unlikely because of the statute of limitations.

A former Boeing chief technical pilot was indicted in connection with the Boeing fraud settlement but was acquitted by a jury in 2022.

Editor: David Goodman