With the beleaguered 737 Max 8 jet expected to return to the skies as early as September, attorneys representing more than 400 pilots say they want to ensure no more lives are lost to known design flaws.
That's why, they say, the aviators are now suing the jet's manufacturer: Boeing.
"The pilots have a voice and they want that voice to be unified to send a message to Boeing that this should never happen again," Patrick Jones, the managing partner and founder of PMJ PLLC, a Chicago-based aviation law firm, told Cheddar Tuesday. "The pilots are entrusted with the lives of their passengers to get them to point A to point B safely."
He said the pilots involved in the suit are "outraged" at Boeing. The pilot who initiated the lawsuit, known as "Pilot X," has chosen to keep their identity and the airline they fly for anonymous.
Jones, along with Joseph Wheeler, the principal and legal practice director of the Australia-based International Aerospace Law & Policy Group, is representing the pilots in the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that Boeing "engaged in an unprecedented cover-up of the known design flaws of the MAX, which predictably resulted in the crashes of two MAX aircraft and subsequent grounding of all MAX aircraft worldwide."
In addition to suffering lost wages and economic damages — some pilots certified to fly the 737 Max have been unable to work because of the jet's grounding — the complaint says airline employees experienced "severe emotional and mental stress when they were effectively forced to fly the MAX [...] and required to place their own life and the lives of their crew and passengers in danger."
"Pilots are technical professionals who are used to emergency situations, and they're the ones who are the last line of defense," Wheeler said. "They need to know their aircraft inside out. And when there became a media-related skepticism about the quality of information that pilots had about the aircraft they fly, that really got pilots thinking. That really messed with their stability, and their standard of knowledge. And it made them think, 'we need to do something about that.'"
"The pilots that come to us? They think: 'it could have been me,'" Wheeler added.
Boeing would not comment on the pilots' complaint.
The company also wouldn't say how many lawsuits it now faces because of the crashes, though that number could be at least 35, according to Yahoo Finance.
The 737 Max jet model has been grounded since March following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa. Just five months before, Lion Air Flight 610 from Jakarta fell to the sea just as it began its ascent.
346 people died in the two crashes.
"[Pilots] want to send that message out there just as much as their families [of the deceased passengers] do," said Jones. "It's their lives on the line, as well as their professional careers, and also the trust that their passengers have in them."
Just last week, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on the status of the Boeing 737 Max.
Those who testified included representatives of Airlines for America, the Allied Pilots Association, and the 'Miracle on the Hudson' captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberg. Boeing was not present.
Meanwhile, the aerospace manufacturer has developed updated software and pilot training that it says should help the 737 MAX fly again, and is waiting on the Federal Aviation Administration's approval.