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Meet Nadia Milleron: Her Daughter Was Killed in 2019 Boeing Crash, Now She’s Running for Congress

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Boeing CEO David Calhoun appeared before a Senate committee on Tuesday to face questions about the aerospace giant’s safety record, just hours after the release of a damning report on Boeing’s business practices. Released by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the report found that the company lost track of hundreds of substandard aircraft parts, eliminated quality inspectors and put manufacturing workers in charge of signing off on their own work. We speak with Nadia Milleron, an aviation safety advocate, whose daughter Samya Stumo was killed on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019 when a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet crashed due to the plane’s malfunctioning software that put the plane into a nosedive. She attended Tuesday’s hearing and is also running for Congress in Massachusetts. “Why is Dave Calhoun paid $32 million? He’s paid that money to cut costs. That’s what he’s good at. He’s not good at production. He’s not an engineer. He’s paid to strip-mine the company,” says Milleron, who signed a letter along with other families of Boeing crash victims calling on the Justice Department to consider criminal prosecutions against company leadership. “They need to clean house.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Boeing CEO David Calhoun appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Tuesday to face questioning about how the aerospace giant is responding to safety concerns amidst ongoing investigations by authorities. Just hours before Calhoun’s testimony, the Senate subcommittee released a damning report on Boeing based on a number of whistleblower complaints and previously undisclosed government findings which found Boeing lost track of hundreds of substandard aircraft parts, eliminated quality inspectors and put manufacturing workers in charge of signing off on their own work.

Boeing has been under scrutiny for years amidst a series of high-profile incidents, beginning with the crashes of 737 MAX jets in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019 that left all 346 people on board dead.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Calhoun began by turning to the families of victims of the two crashes who were in attendance and issuing an apology.

DAVID CALHOUN: Before I begin my opening remarks, I would like to speak directly to those who lost loved ones on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. I would like to apologize on behalf of all of our Boeing associates spread throughout the world, past and present, for your losses. They’re gut-wrenching. And I apologize for the grief that we have caused. And I want you to know we are totally committed, in their memory, to work and focus on safety for as long — as long — as we’re employed by Boeing. Again, I’m sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: During Tuesday’s hearing, the Boeing CEO came under fire for the company’s lapses in safe manufacturing procedures, violations of safety regulations, retaliation against whistleblowers. This is the chair of the Senate subcommittee, Connecticut Democrat, Senator Richard Blumenthal.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: What we’ve seen since from whistleblowers is that, in fact, the manufacturing issues, the retaliation against whistleblowers, nonconforming parts, quality inspections skipped, and issues concealed from the FAA, evidence hidden, all have continued. And there is mounting evidence that the deferred prosecution agreement, concluded in 2021 with the United States Department of Justice, has been violated. In fact, there is near-overwhelming evidence, in my view as a former prosecutor, that prosecution should be pursued. When you were named as Boeing’s chief executive, Mr. Calhoun, we were told that you were the right person to correct course, and you committed to, quote, “strengthen Boeing’s safety culture and rebuild trust with our customers, regulators, suppliers and the flying public.”

AMY GOODMAN: Tuesday’s hearing marked the Boeing CEO’s first appearance before Congress since an in-flight door panel blowout aboard a 737 MAX jet in January, which did not substantially injure anyone but brought new legal and political scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the families of victims of the two 737 MAX crashes sent a letter to the Justice Department Wednesday seeking aggressive prosecution of Boeing and criminal prosecution of its then-corporate leadership, as well as the imposition of a $24 billion fine.

We’re joined right now by Nadia Milleron, aviation safety advocate, whose daughter Samya Rose Stumo was killed along with 156 others when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 MAX, crashed in 2019. Nadia Milleron attended the hearing on Tuesday. She’s one of the signatories of the letter to the Justice Department. And she’s now running for Congress in the 1st District of Massachusetts as an independent. Nadia Milleron joins us from Sheffield, from her home.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Nadia. You were there holding up, together with your husband, the picture of Samya, your daughter, who died in that Ethiopian Boeing flight. Can you respond to, first, the CEO turning around to all of you and apologizing?

NADIA MILLERON: Yes. He actually walked down the line of us and apologized to each person. He looked at me in the eye, and so I looked at him back, and I said, “How can you apologize? Are you also sorry for the deaths of innocent people that your bombs are causing in Rafah?” And at that point, he just turned away from me. So, if you are really sorry, if you really are not wanting to profit from death, then you would respond. You would stick it out. You would look at the person. Another mother started crying when he apologized to her. Again, when she started crying, he just turned away, walked away from her. So, that is a rehearsed apology.

And he is benefiting from all kinds of death. So, he’s gotten bonuses for killing all of our family members. He has a 40 — I think they estimate it as 42% increase in his salary, causing during — causing the Alaska blowout. So, it’s on his watch that that happened. So, he’s very disingenuous. He kept saying, “I’ve only been here since 2020.” Yes, he’s only been the CEO since 2020, but he’s been involved in all these decisions. He’s been on the board. He’s been integrally involved in keeping the MAX flying during his tenure at Boeing. So it’s disingenuous to talk about 2020. He can’t, you know, stick it out and really listen to us highlighting what he is doing: earning money from the death of innocents. So, I just want to paint an entire picture of a character that appeared. That hearing showed a human being and what is he about: a person who needs to be prosecuted. His company needs to be prosecuted.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you feel Boeing needs to do right now, and the revelations that keep on coming out about the lack of oversight, or people overseeing their own work, and the whistleblowers coming forward and the whistleblowers who have died?

NADIA MILLERON: So, John Barnett, who they say died by suicide, his whole family was there at the hearing, and they were holding pictures of John. So, John Barnett was a person who was very skilled in Boeing, and he was moved from Seattle to South Carolina to make sure that they did the work properly. And in South Carolina, the people harassed him and harassed him, just because he wanted the planes to be safe and he wanted the work to be done correctly. They harassed him for seven years. When the CEO, Dave Calhoun, was asked by the Senate panel what happened to the person who harassed all these whistleblowers, what happened to those supervisors, he said he didn’t know. But most of them are in their jobs, and most of them have gotten promoted. So, you know, the fact that he said he didn’t know, it’s completely disingenuous.

The culture of Boeing is to reward — well, so, just let’s step back a second. Why is Dave Calhoun paid $32 million? He’s paid that money to cut costs. That’s what he’s good at. So, he’s not good at production. He’s not an engineer. He’s paid to strip-mine the company. And that’s what he’s doing. So, he promotes people — the company promotes people. The culture of the company is to short their product, which is opposite to success of the company.

What we would like them to do is make good products. And I think this letter that we just sent the Justice Department is absolutely a brilliant solution, because Boeing is motivated by money. And so, if they have a fine hanging over their head and an outside monitor, we believe that this is a way that they would actually change their behavior. So, Boeing has metrics. They had metrics in 2015. And Richard Blumenthal, the senator, he pointed this out during the hearing, and he showed a chart. So, in 2015, when they were fined — and they were fined many times. And for Boeing, fines are just the cost of doing business. And also, they used insurance to cover deaths. So that’s also a cost of doing business. So, they are not — they don’t feel any pain from deaths or these problems that are coming up. So, what we are proposing to the Justice Department is that there’s an outside monitor and that this huge fine be over Boeing’s head and that the outside monitor makes sure there’s compliance. And then, because the fine is going to the government, so it doesn’t actually benefit anybody, so what we want is behavior change on the part of Boeing and that they actually comply with their own metrics. So, in 2015, they said, “We’re going to do this and this and this.” And then, in 2024, they said the same thing: “We’re going” — and they cut and paste the words. So, it’s the same metrics that they’re saying they’re going to comply with, but they didn’t do anything between 2015 and 2024. It’s the same metrics that they have that they’re not complying with. So, that’s what we want. We want them to produce safe planes. It’s pretty simple.

AMY GOODMAN: A new whistleblower, a Boeing quality assurance investigator, Sam Mohawk, recently reported the systemic disregard of potentially defective parts at the 737 factory. Can you talk about what this means?

NADIA MILLERON: It’s just part of the same problem, where people are not focused on production. You know, they need a CEO who knows how to — who knows about manufacturing, who cares about manufacturing, and who can attend to the details. They need to clean house. They need to clean house in terms of their leadership, because their leadership is not producing their good product that they used to produce. So, they need — you know, I can’t believe — I think it was one of the senators who told Dave Calhoun that he should resign. He should resign for the health of his company. He’s destroying the company. So, this [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: Nadia Milleron, are you calling for criminal prosecutions? Talk about — of the company and of individuals?

NADIA MILLERON: Yes, we’re definitely calling for criminal prosecutions of Muilenburg, because there’s a lot of evidence that he participated —

AMY GOODMAN: Who was the CEO at the time.

NADIA MILLERON: Yes, yes, yes. So, there’s a lot — there’s plenty of evidence to prosecute him. And I personally think that Dave Calhoun should also be prosecuted. But the Justice Department is saying they don’t have sufficient evidence right now to prosecute him. But I think it is there.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your decision to go a step further, to actually run for Congress, and why you’re taking on Richard Neal, one of the most powerful men in Congress, formerly head of the Ways and Means Committee, in the 2020 filing, the largest recipient of corporate PAC money in Congress.

NADIA MILLERON: Yeah. So, Richard Neal was nonresponsive to us in our efforts to get aviation safety. That bill passed bipartisan. It passed unanimously in a divided Congress and under the Trump administration. So that was a tremendous achievement. And we had to walk all over Congress and go to every single office and talk to every single person. And while I was doing that, I was also grieving, so I was crying. But we were tremendously effective. Everybody flies, so it’s an issue that everybody can agree on. But Richard Neal didn’t help us. And then I found out that he doesn’t help a lot of his constituents. And so, it’s really important.

These issues are systemic in our society. You know, we’re not attending to — for example, just look at this confluence of events. You know, Boeing is bombing — participating in bombing in Palestine. And then, they don’t sell any MAX planes last month, and so who buys all the MAX planes? Israel. But we’re actually — it’s our tax dollars that are actually paying for all of this. So, we’re paying — we’re giving all this money for foreign aid to a country that already has complete healthcare for all their people and housing. And those are things we need. Our people — our tax money needs to be here. We have so much suffering going on in our country and in our district.

And so, Richard Neal is participating in all of this. He’s pro-genocide. He’s throwing more and more money at this situation. And I’m against it. So I would spend that money here at home. And that’s what our constituents need, and that’s what they want. We have a shortage of doctors in our district. People are suffering from extreme health problems because they can’t be seen. So, Richard Neal is not in touch with the district. He doesn’t meet with people. He’s responding to funders. And he has $3.4 million to run this race, but only $28,000 from individuals.

So I have to appeal to individual people. So, I’m running. I need to somehow get to $1 million to compete with his $3.4 million. And I have to tell people to go to NadiaForCongress.com. So, I have to appeal to individuals for that, for that kind of funding.

AMY GOODMAN: Nadia Milleron, I want to thank you for being with us, aviation safety advocate, after her daughter Samya Rose Stumo was killed along with 156 others when the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 MAX, crashed in 2019, right after another Boeing MAX flight crashed in Indonesia. Nadia Milleron is running for Congress in the 1st District of Massachusetts, speaking to us from her home in Sheffield, Massachusetts.

Next up, how the Pentagon ran a secret anti-vax campaign to undermine China during the pandemic. We’ll speak with the investigative reporter who broke the story. Back in 20 seconds.

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Pentagon Ran a Secret Anti-Vax Campaign to Undermine China at the Height of the Pandemic: Reuters

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