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- The parents of a young woman killed in the second fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max plane said they have to keep campaigning and lobbying to improve aviation safety.
- Nadia Milleron, who lost her daughter Samya Stumo, said it would be “better physically” for her to stay in bed and mourn, but “if I did that, then if there was a third crash, I would never forgive myself.”
- Milleron and her husband, Michael Stumo, have met with regulators to try and ensure that victims’ families are involved in hearings on the plane and to push for greater safety in the industry.
- They said the crashes should never have been able to happen and it was “absolutely inconceivable” that she bought “a ticket for a lethal plane that was produced by Boeing and certified by the FAA.”
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The parents of a woman killed in the second Boeing 737 Max crash said that they feel the need to keep campaigning so that similar crashes never happen again, even at the cost of properly grieving their daughter.
Nadia Milleron and Michael Stumo lost 24-year-old Samya Stumo when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet crashed on March 10, killing all 157 people on board.
It was the second crash by a Boeing 737 Max jet in less than five months, after a Lion Air plane killed 189 people in October.
“I have a choice. I could stay home and stay in my bed, which is what I feel like would be better physically for me,” Milleron told Business Insider.
“Or I can take advantage of the moment and try to alert the American people to the fact that they’re not being protected by their government in terms of safety,” she added.
- Clifford Law
“I haven’t moved on to maybe the other stages of grief because I have to keep reliving the immediacy of it in order to present that to the American people and get them to put pressure on their government for their own safety,” she said. “But I do have a choice. I could go to bed. And if I did that, then if there was a third crash, I would never forgive myself.”
Milleron and Stumo have been lobbying the US Federal Aviation Administration, the US National Transportation Safety Board, and Congress members who are looking at the safety of the plane. Their goals are to ensure that victims’ families are involved in hearings on the plane and to push for greater safety in the industry.
The pair, like many other families affected by the two crashes, are suing Boeing, alleging negligence, as well as failure to warn and civil conspiracy, accusing Boeing of putting “profits over safety.”
“I could never live with myself, that another whole group of innocent people who purchased tickets, who got on a plane and believed that there was a safety certification for that plane, if then they would also die like the 346 innocent people that have died so far because of this particular plane,” Milleron said.
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
She told Business Insider that a lack of publicity about the first crash meant that the second one was able to happen.
“The American public were not alerted. We were not alerted,” Milleron said.
“We didn’t say to our daughter, ‘Oh, be sure that you’re not flying on that flight because the plane seems very likely to be defective and it could crash again,'” she added.
Samya was working for a healthcare nonprofit when she was killed in the crash and traveling to Kenya as part of efforts to expand healthcare provision in the country.
“She was going to save a lot of lives. She was going to have a major impact in shaking up in a good way the global health field,” Stumo said.
Milleron and Stumo met with the FAA to discuss working together as the regulator prepares to consider whether the plane should be certified to fly again after a software update.
The FAA faces scrutiny from lawmakers and federal bodies over how it certified the plane to fly in the first place.
- Clifford Law
Milleron said their conversations with the FAA and the NTSB have been “substantive.”
But she said that the US public needs to be aware of the issues with the plane and the wider implications its problems have for aviation safety, given that it was certified to fly in the first place.
“We are a wealthy country. We have a huge military,” she said.
It would have been “absolutely inconceivable” to Samya “that she should purchase a ticket for a lethal plane that was produced by Boeing and certified by the FAA,” Milleron said.
“She would never even imagine that that would be true,” she added.
She said that public pressure on Boeing and the FAA was the “only way” that investigations into what went wrong would bring about real change.
Milleron said the FAA certified a “lethal” plane, rather than saying to Congress that it might need more resources.
The FAA’s process for certifying planes has come under a harsh spotlight since the crashes, particularly the system that affords manufacturers like Boeing a role in certifying their own planes.
- REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Stumo said Boeing has been “transformed into an investment company only for shareholder value” and that its arrangement with the FAA meant that the company’s employees are under more pressure to approve planes.
The FAA has defended its processes, saying that they have produced safe aircraft for decades. Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator of the FAA, said the agency would require significant extra resources to move all parts of the certification process in-house.
But Stumo said the current system led to a culture in which Boeing engineers “can only talk to Boeing management, and they can get into a groupthink, and they’re more subject to the pressures of the timelines and the budgets than they were before.”
- Scott Olson/Getty Images
He said Boeing should return to the system used previously. Under this system, Stumo said: “You had a safety culture and the safety-first people making those types of decisions and not management.”
“The safety of the planes, and as we discover more and more about Boeing, is not assured by the certification,” Milleron said.
In a statement to Business Insider earlier this month, the FAA said its “aircraft certification processes are well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs.”
It said that certifying the 737 Max took five years and “involved 110,000 hours of work on the part of FAA personnel, following the FAA’s standard certification process.”
Stumo said Boeing needed to stop focusing on defending the plane and instead tell Congress: “We have a plan.”
Milleron wrote to Peter DeFazio, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to ask if she and Stumo could testify for five minutes at a hearing on the 737 Max on June 19.
“We are Americans who trusted that our government would only certify safe aircraft,” she wrote.
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
They were ultimately not allowed to testify. Instead they sat in the front row with homemade posters that depicted the victims of both crashes.
Milleron said she has reached out to some other families who were affected by the crash, encouraging them to try to engage with the FAA, but that organizing with people from more than 30 countries has been difficult.
The family has created a scholarship alongside Thinkwell, the nonprofit that Samya worked for, which hopes to fund women who have ideas for “transformative solutions to improve healthcare around the world.” It will offer recipients up to $100,000 a year for one or two years.
They hope it will run for 50 years: “We feel that by doing that 50 times, which will be approximately the length of Samya’s career if she wasn’t cut short, that we might make a difference.”