Rebecca Ratcliffe, Bangkok – An Indonesian family whose relatives died onboard the Sriwijaya Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea have filed legal action against Boeing, alleging that the aircraft was "defective and unreasonably dangerous".
The Sriwijaya flight SJ-182 plummeted within minutes of taking off from Jakarta's main airport earlier this month, with 62 people on board.
Wisner Law Firm, which is representing the family of three victims, said it filed a lawsuit against Boeing last week at circuit court of Cook county in Illinois, where the company's headquarters are based.
The lawsuit alleges that the Boeing 737-500 aircraft was defective in one or more ways, including possible faults in the autothrottle system, which controls engine power automatically, or the flight control system.
Court documents also alleged possible corrosion on "the engine bleed-air fifth stage check valve... causing it to become stuck in the open position during flight, resulting in an uncontrollable compressor stall".
A preliminary report into the crash by the Indonesian authorities is expected early in February.
Investigators have managed to recover and read the plane's flight data recorder, but are still searching for the cockpit voice recorder, which will allow them to listen to conversations between the pilots.
Nurcayho Utomo, of Indonesia's transportation safety committee, said earlier this month that a problem with the Boeing 737-500's autothrottle system was reported after a flight a few days earlier. Officials are probing whether this contributed to the disaster. Planes are allowed to fly with an autothrottle system that is not working because pilots can control it manually instead, according to Utomo.
The aircraft did not have the same cockpit software that contributed to the two fatal crashes of Boeing's 737 MAX in Indonesia and Ethiopia. A total of 346 people were killed in the crashes, which occurred in the space of just six months.
Boeing was fined $2.5bn by the US justice department after being charged with fraud and conspiracy in connection with two crashes, and faces separate litigation brought by families of those killed. The company reported a net loss of $11.9bn (#8.7bn) for 2020, the largest in its history.
Wisner said that only one family from the Sriwijaya Air crash had filed a case against Boeing, but that the legal firm was in contact with other people whose relatives died.
Boeing said in a statement: "Our thoughts are with the Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182 crew, passengers and their families. Boeing technical experts are assisting with the investigation and we continue to offer any support needed during this difficult time."