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Boeing announces $100 million fund for families of 737 Max crash victims

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The fund won’t interfere with any lawsuits already filed by families, the company says

Boeing Test Flights Continue For MAX Planes Before Shipment To Customers Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Boeing is starting a $100 million fund for the families and communities of the people who died in the two 737 Max crashes since last October. The company says it will partner with local governments and nonprofit organizations, and that the funds will “support education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, community programs, and economic development in impacted communities.”

The $100 million in funding will be made available over “multiple years,” says Boeing, which generated $101 billion in revenue last year. The company says it will release more information in the “near future.” Boeing also says its employees will be able to make donations to the fund, which the company will match through December 31st, 2019.

“We at Boeing are sorry for the tragic loss of lives in both of these accidents and these lives lost will continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and on our minds for years to come. The families and loved ones of those on board have our deepest sympathies, and we hope this initial outreach can help bring them comfort,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

The announcement of the fund comes a few days after regulators discovered another problem in the 737 Max’s flight software that will take additional time to fix. The new flaw is different from the one that doomed the deadly Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights and killed 346 people. Some US Airlines have already pushed back their timelines for the reintegration of the 737 Max into their fleets and canceled thousands more flights as a result. Muilenberg acknowledged on Twitter Wednesday that it will take Boeing additional time to fix the newly discovered problem.

The two fatal crashes, which came just five months apart from each other, were largely the result of a piece of software that was designed to help stop Boeing’s newer 737 Max plane from stalling. But in an effort to save time and money, the company didn’t properly disclose the software to airlines or their pilots. The software also made calculations by taking readings from a single external sensor on the 737 Max, and there was apparently no way for it to know if those sensors were damaged or feeding accurate information about the plane’s flight path. As a result, the pilots in both crashes wound up fighting a system they didn’t know was engaged.

A spokesperson for Boeing says that the $100 million pledge is “independent of the lawsuits filed by the families and loved ones of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610,” and is not meant to stop any legal proceedings.

“We’ve been assessing a variety of ways to assist the families and communities impacted and determined that this is a constructive step that we can take now,” the spokesperson says. “As the investigations continue, Boeing is cooperating fully with the investigating authorities. We won’t comment on individual lawsuits directly.”