Lawsuits now in the works against the Boeing company and Malaysia Airlines over the presumed crash of MH370 aim to unearth key documents that could provide vital information about the jet, including maintenance practices, key avionics systems, and the contents of the cargo hold, say according to lawyers following the crash investigation.
None of this data may ultimately have any connection with the disappearance of the 777-200 jetliner nearly three weeks ago. But as in any accident investigation, the aircraft itself and those behind the wheel will be put under the microscope both in the official investigation and in any civil suits that might materialize. Among other things, the suit seeks to learn who last inspected the plane and what, if any, recent repairs had been made.
News of the prospective suit by the in Chicago, on behalf of one of the 227 passengers aboard the doomed flight, came on the heels of the Malaysia government's declaration on Monday that the plane had plunged into the Indian Ocean with no survivors. The timing of both announcements drew criticism. As of yet, not a single piece of debris has been positively identified as coming from the jet—multiple countries are tracking detritus in the Indian Ocean right now, trying to make that confirmation. But sources say that declaring the plane a "hull loss" is a necessary first step in the massive insurance claims that will follow.
Absent that physical evidence, and with the limited information coming from official sources, lawyers will inevitably seek to fill the void. Not surprisingly, the pending lawsuit is from the same firm that represents a large number of passengers on the Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco last summer. Boeing was also named as a defendant in that case, which many aviation experts believed was due to pilot error. The lawsuit alleges the pilots got didn't get adequate warning about low airspeed, which led to the botched landing, due to improperly installed or defective equipment. "Boeing was aware that its low airspeed warning system was inadequate," that suit claims.
Boeing has declined to comment on the latest lawsuit. And, as in all air crashes involving one of its jets, the manufacturer refrains from making public statements so that all information can come from one source, usually the government agency in charge. This new suit against Boeing and Malaysia Airlines probably will follow a similar trajectory. Among the avenues to be explored:
• Lithium batteries: A shipment of 450 pounds of lithium batteries was in the cargo hold of MH370. Similar batteries have been implicated in other onboard fires, including a fatal crash of a cargo plane.
• Electrical wiring: The fire aboard an Egyptair 777 in 2011, which completely trashed the cockpit, was blamed on faulty wiring, but the cause was never fully explained.
• Training of the airline crew: There were 2 pilots and 10 flight attendants on board.
• Other cargo: Malaysian authorities reportedly have not released the full cargo manifest for Flight 370.
Meanwhile, observers close to the situation grew increasingly pessimistic about the odds of finding the aircraft at the bottom of the ocean any time soon, although new images released Thursday from a Thai satellite showed more debris in the search zone. But other similar sightings in the past week have yielded no results, and the search has been called off twice this week due to bad weather.