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WSJ: Federal Prosecutors Probe Development Of Boeing 737 Max Aircraft

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The U.S. Department of Transportation or DOT is scrutinizing the development of Boeing 737 Max jetliners that were involved in two fatal crashes in five months, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. Shares of Boeing are declining more than 2 percent in the regular trading session following the report.

According to the WSJ report, the DOT inquiry was launched after a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Indonesia's Lion Air went down in the Java Sea in October 2018 and killed 189 people, just minutes after departing Jakarta.

Recently, on March 10, another 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.

The WSJ reported that the DOT inquiry is focused on a flight safety system that is suspected of having played a role in the Lion Air crash.

The WSJ also reported that a grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued a broad subpoena on March 11 to at least one person involved in the development of the 737 MAX.

The subpoena, reportedly with a prosecutor from the Justice Department's criminal division listed as a contact, has sought relevant documents such as correspondence, emails and other messages to be handed over later in March.

However, the WSJ also reported that it was not clear whether the Justice Department's probe is related to the probe by the DOT.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said that flight data from the Ethiopian Airlines disaster over a week ago suggested "clear similarities" with the Lion Air crash of Indonesia last October.

"Clear similarities were noted between Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which would be the subject of further study during the investigation," Dagmawit said.

In both cases, flight tracking data showed the aircraft's altitude had fluctuated sharply, as the planes seemed to experience erratic climbs and descents.

Many countries around the world grounded their Boeing 737 Max jets soon after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Last week, Boeing said that for the past several months and in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight crash, it has has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX aircraft.

The company said it has been working closely with the FAA on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks.

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