Ralph Nader seeks "big" passenger rights group after Boeing crashes

New York (AFP) –


Ralph Nader, the US consumer protection advocate who lost a relative in the crash of a Boeing passenger jet in Ethiopia, called Friday for an organization to defend passengers' rights.

Nader's 23-year-old great niece, an aid worker, was aboard the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max that crashed on March 10 just southeast of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew.

It was the second such Boeing plane to crash after takeoff in just five months, following a previous accident in Indonesia. In all, 346 people died in the two crashes.

Nader, a longstanding crusader for consumer rights who in the 1960s battled the auto industry to put seat belts in cars, said he was working to shed light on the close ties between Boeing and US regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The FAA is too cozy with Boeing and it's gone to an absurd length, where Boeing picks its own inspectors, the FAA doesn't even pick its own inspectors," he said, noting that a warning system to alert pilots to the technical fault believed to have caused both crashes was not fitted as standard.

"They're there in the factory and they're pointing out different parts and one Boeing employee says, 'Oh I think this meets the standard,' the other one says, 'I as a representative of the US government endorse it,' and then the FAA rubber stamps it," Nader told CNBC news.

"That's not regulation, that's the fox in charge of the chicken coop," he added.

"We really need a big aviation consumer organization in this country," said Nader, who ran for president as an independent in 2000.

The accidents on Lion Air in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines have raised major concerns about the safety certification of the 737 Max 8 model.

Facing budget cuts and difficulties finding staff qualified to inspect the highly advanced technologies of the new 737 Max, the FAA entrusted a large part of the certification process for the plane to Boeing employees.

In addition, the agency has offices in Boeing plants, including the one in Reston, in the western state of Washington, where the 737 Max is built.

It nevertheless insisted Sunday that the certification process had taken place within regulations.

The US Department of Transportation has launched an inquiry into the certification procedure.