New Delhi: Leading aircraft maker Boeing will pay USD 2.5 billion to settle a long-pending investigation with the Justice Department after its employees misled regulators about the safety of its 737 Max aircraft, which suffered two deadly crashes shortly after entering airline service. The government and the company said Thursday that the settlement includes money for the crash victims’ families, airline customers and a fine.Also Read - SpiceJet Boeing 737 Flight's Windshield Found Cracked Before Takeoff, Lands Safely At Mumbai Airport

Boeing admitted in court filings that two of its technical pilot experts deceived the FAA about a flight-control system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, that could point a plane’s nose down if sensors indicated the plane might be in danger of an aerodynamic stall that it might fall from the sky. Also Read - SpiceJet's Mumbai-Durgapur Flight Caught in Kalbaishakhi, 17 Injured During Severe Turbulence; Probe On

“Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candour,” said David Burns, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division. CEO David Calhoun said their conduct doesn’t reflect Boeing employees as a whole or the character of the company. Also Read - China Eastern Airlines Crash: One Black Box Found But In Severely Damaged Condition

Boeing began working on the Max in 2011 as an answer to a new, more fuel-efficient model from European rival Airbus. However, Boeing downplayed the significance of MCAS and didn’t mention it in airplane manuals. Most pilots didn’t know about it.

The first airlines began flying the 737 Max in mid-2017. On Oct 29, 2018, a Max operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. The FAA let the Max keep flying, and on March 10, 2019, another Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed nearly straight down into a field. In all, 346 people were killed.

On both flights, MCAS was activated by a faulty reading from a single sensor. The system repeatedly pushed the planes’ noses down, and pilots were unable to regain control.

Under the settlement announced, Boeing will pay a USD 243.6 million fine, USD 1.77 billion in compensation to airlines that were unable to use their Max jets while they were grounded, and USD 500 million into a fund for the families of passengers who were killed in the crashes.

The government will drop the criminal charge of conspiracy to defraud the US after three years if Boeing follows the terms of the settlement.

With Agency inputs