Six personal-injury lawsuits have been filed against Boeing by Asiana passengers who allege the aircraft manufacturer failed to install a low-airspeed warning system in some of its airplane models, including the 777 that crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport July 6.
The lawsuits, which were filed in Boeing’s home state of Illinois, claim that the company knew of several previous incidents on Boeing airplanes in which a low-speed warning failed to alert pilots, but neglected to address the problem in its 777 models.
The Asiana 214 crash killed two teenage girls. A third teenage girl was thrown from the plane during the crash but was killed when a responding fire truck ran over her. An additional 182 of the airplane’s 307 passengers and crew were injured, several of them critically.
Although the investigation is ongoing and the precise causes of the crash have not been identified, officials have said that flight 214 approached the runway at a perilously low altitude and low airspeed. The pilots attempted to pull out of the landing for a go-round, but the action came too late and the airplane clipped a seawall before it hurtled down the runway in flames and broke apart.
“Despite its knowledge of the prevalence of low-airspeed incidents leading to numerous air crashes, Boeing did not reconfigure the 777 aircraft, including the subject aircraft, with an aural low-airspeed alert that includes voice callouts,” one of the complaints filed Tuesday stated.
The lawsuit cites an incident that occurred near Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 2009 in which a Boeing 737 operated by Turkish Airlines crashed, killing nine people and injuring 117. That incident prompted Boeing to install low-airspeed warnings on all of its 737s.
For nearly a decade, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has urged airplane manufacturers to install audible alerts warning pilots that they are flying too slowly, but Boeing has not always heeded the advice, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has failed to require them despite three deadly crashes involving low speed in recent years.
Plaintiffs claim that the Boeing 777 used by Asiana was also “defective and unreasonably dangerous” because it contained faulty flight-control and auto-throttle systems, among other mechanical errors.
Thirty passengers from the Asiana flight took legal action against Boeing in July, seeking to preserve evidence that could be critical to understanding potential mechanical causes of the crash.
In August, injured passengers from the Asiana flight filed three lawsuits against Boeing, also alleging its 777 possessed defects that exacerbated the crash, including inadequate seat restraints, faulty auto-throttle control systems, and ineffective low-speed warnings.