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Man who lost family in Boeing crash makes emotional plea on Capitol Hill

Families of Boeing crash victims to testify

A man whose three children, wife and mother-in-law were killed when a Boeing 737 Max jet crashed in Ethiopia accused the company of wrongful conduct and told a U.S. House subcommittee that the process to approve aircraft must be strengthened. Paul Njoroge said Wednesday that Boeing was left to police itself and allowed to sell the Max without recertifying it as a new aircraft.

He says leadership of the Federal Aviation Administration should change so safety engineers are in charge and called on Congress to increase its budget. Pilots, Njoroge said, should be trained on simulators to handle the Max's flight control software that can point the plane's nose down to avoid an aerodynamic stall.

Congress Boeing Plane
Rep. Angela Craig, D-Minn., center, talks with Paul Njoroge, right, as Michael Stumo, left, looks on before the start of a House Transportation subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, on aviation safety. Njoroge lost his wife and three young children on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Stumo lost his daughter on the same flight. The plane was a Boeing 737 MAX. Susan Walsh / AP

Boeing is proposing computer training rather than simulators as reworks the software and it tries to return the plane to the air. The Max has been grounded worldwide since shortly after one of the jets operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed in March and it's unclear when they will be allowed to fly again.

The company has repeatedly apologized in public to families of the passengers.

Njoroge's family died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash shortly after takeoff from Addis Abbaba. A preliminary report on the crash found that the crew struggled to control the plane as the flight control software continued to point the nose down. After six minutes in the air, the plane slammed into the ground.

Njoroge told the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee that he thinks about those six minutes often, and how his wife and mother-in-law had to know the plane was going down.

"They had to somehow comfort the children during those final moments, knowing they would all be lost," he said.

Njoroge says he's so grief-stricken that he hasn't been able to bring himself to go back to his family's Canada home. 

"My family died because of Boeing's negligence, arrogance, management." Njoroge said previously. "What I call management dysfunction and lack of internal oversight within Boeing."  

Michael Stumo, who lost a child on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, told legislators that the committee should end the FAA's policy of allowing designated aircraft manufacturer employees to do safety inspections of airplanes. He says the FAA should return to a system where the inspectors are paid by the FAA but report jointly to the agency and the company.

"The families need to be involved in the process," Stumo said before the hearing. Minutes after Flight 302 took off this March with his daughter Samya on board, the plane crashed, killing all 157 people on the plane.

"Two pilots don't have the strength to overcome what the plane is doing to try and ram it in the ground, in this case at 500 miles an hour," he said, "where our daughter's body parts got mixed with other people's body parts and plane parts and mixed with the dirt."

With that structure "the safety culture could put a stop to things if something looked wrong," he said.

Sam Graves, R-Mo, the highest-ranking Republican on the committee, told Njoroge that the process to "unground" the Max will not resemble the process under which the plane was originally approved.

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