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- Paul Njoroge lost his three children, his wife, and his mother-in-law in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash in March. It was the second of two deadly 737 Max crashes in the span of five months.
- Njoroge testified in front of a Congressional hearing on aviation safety on Wednesday.
- He described the pain he’s felt every day since his family died, and his thoughts on Boeing’s actions before and after the crash.
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"I think about their last six minutes a lot."
Since March, Paul Njoroge hasn’t been able to work, sleep without nightmares, or go about his life without thinking about the final moments that his wife, his three children, and his mother-in-law were alive.
"My wife and mum in law knew they were going to die. They had to somehow comfort the children during those final moments, knowing they were all their last. I wish I was there with them."
Njoroge, a Canadian investment professional, lost his family in March when the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane they were flying on crashed six minutes after taking off from Ethiopia, the second fatal crash involving a 737 Max in five months. Nine-month-old Rubi, four-year-old Kelli, six-year-old Ryan, their mother, Carolyne, and their grandmother, Ann, were heading to Kenya.
In the days following the crash, the aircraft was grounded worldwide, and has yet to return to service.
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While the investigations into the two crashes — Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302 — are ongoing, preliminary reports indicate that an automated system erroneously engaged and forced the plane’s nose to point down. Pilots were unable to recover.
The automated system, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, was designed to compensate for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.
Boeing has been accused of rushing the plane’s design and cutting corners in order to bring it to market more quickly, in an effort to remain competitive as rival Airbus unveiled the latest generation of its A321 aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has also come under scrutiny for certifying the plane without adequate oversight.
Njoroge testified in front of a Congressional committee on aviation safety on Wednesday, along with Michael Stumo, whose 24-year-old daughter Samya Stumo also died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Along with many other victims’ families, Njoroge has filed a lawsuit accusing Boeing of negligence.
During his testimony, Njoroge accused Boeing of distracting from the cause of the crash by raising the specter of pilot error, and the FAA of failing to properly regulate Boeing.
A root of the issue is that the 737 Max was certified as an updated version of an existing plane, rather than a new design. That distinction meant that the Max underwent less scrutiny, and pilots certifying on the plane required less training — an obvious appeal for potential airline customers. During his testimony, Njoroge demanded that the Max be certified as a new plane, requiring all associated processes and training.
"The families demand that the 737 Max 8 be fully recertified as a new plane because it is too different from the original certified plane," he said. "We demand that simulator training be required."
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