Boeing Company announced Wednesday that it has set aside 100 million U.S. dollars to address family and community needs of those affected by two deadly air crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia last October and this March.
Boeing said the funds are an initial investment to be paid over multiple years to support education, hardship and living expenses of the families of the victims who were killed in the "tragic accidents" of Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
The two air crashes, both involving Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, killed a combined 346 people and led to the global grounding of 737 Max aircraft since March.
"We at Boeing are sorry for the tragic loss of lives in both of these accidents and these lives lost will continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and on our minds for years to come," said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO.
He expressed "deepest sympathies" for the families of those victims, hoping the funds will "help bring them comfort."
The victims' families will not have to waive any rights in accepting the money, which is being given independent of any lawsuits, said Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers, quoted by The Seattle Times.
Muilenburg reaffirmed in a tweet Wednesday that the safety of Boeing aircraft and the crew and passengers who fly on them is Boeing's "highest priority."
The company will work with local governments and nonprofit organizations to deploy the money over the upcoming years, but it did not explain any details about how the money will be used or apportioned.
Boeing said its employees are encouraged to make charitable donations to support the families affected by the accidents, and the company will "match these employee donations through Dec. 31, 2019."
The U.S. top aircraft manufacturer has been grilled in recent months over the safety of its 737 airplanes as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is pressuring Boeing to update and improve a flight control software that was partially blamed for the two air crashes in five months.
Critics have blamed Boeing for rushing to build the 737 MAX aircraft and failing to fully disclose potential problems with the 737 MAX flight control software, also known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was intended to mimic pitching behavior in low-speed and high angle of attack flight.
Although investigators have not determined an official cause of the two fatal crashes, they found clues to a common link in the flight control software that might have read erroneous signals from the aircraft's sensors, which eventually triggered uncontrollable stall that caused both accidents.
Over the past months, Boeing has been working on an upgrade to the MCAS anti-stall mechanism and trying to fix other problems, in an effort to bring 737 MAX jets back to commercial operation as soon as possible. Enditem