Wed. 11:57 a.m. Man who lost family in Ethiopia crash seeks safety upgrades

In this April 29 file photo, Paul Njoroge, who lost his wife and three young children in the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines' Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, speaks at a news conference in Chicago. This morning, Njoroge was the first relative of any of the 346 passengers who died in those crashes to testify before Congress. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford, File)

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 this morning 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.

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.

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.

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.