Jury Awards Zunum $81 Million In Boeing Suit


A federal court jury has awarded failed electric aircraft startup Zunum $81 million in a suit against Boeing, finding the aerospace giant stole Zunum’s technology and then conspired to put it out of business. The Seattle Times is reporting the jury also found that Boeing’s actions were “willful and malicious,” and that gives the judge in the case the option to triple the award. Boeing told the court it initially invested in Zunum but determined it was a market that wouldn’t be viable. It said it would appeal the verdict.

Boeing and JetBlue invested a total of $1.3 million in Zunum and the State of Washington chipped in another $282,000 based on Zunum’s design for a nine-seat hybrid electric aircraft. The company never did build an aircraft and Boeing said it lost its investment. But Zunum alleged that Boeing launched a “targeted and coordinated campaign” to steal its design to build its own electric plane. It also alleged that Boeing interfered with Zunum’s attempt to attract other investors.

Boeing did build what it called a “conceptual mockup” that it used to determine that electric aviation is not viable. As for Zunum, it said the company failed on its own. “An ambitious startup’s reach exceeded its grasp, and investors fled,” the Times quoted Boeing’s court filing as saying. “What preliminarily looked like an interesting investment prospect that promised a new hybrid electric or electric aircraft turned into a loss for Boeing.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. This is what happens when the small fry try to play with the big fry.
    And things go off the rails fast.
    Just love the way Boeing stated in the litigation that ” electric power was not viable .”
    That after $1.3 million dollars plus another $ 282,000 dollars plopped in Boeing’s lap from the State of Washington as well.

    Write the check, Boeing.

  2. It might be noted that the conceptual mockup not only has a perfect safety record, but has flown almost as often as the Starliner..

  3. Boeing has to invest in some of these “green” aviation technology boondoggles for public relations and political reasons, and those reasons only. Boeing employs engineers who understand first principle laws of physics and that battery powered transport planes are a pipe dream. LiIon batteries have 150 TIMES less energy per pound than fuel, so the battery needed to power a 737 size aircraft would weight 6,750,000 lbs!

    Boeing knew this going in and basically “invested” for political cover, hopefully they don’t have to pay out on this because they could use that money to improve QC at their plants.

    • I calculate lithium is more like 30 times heavier than Jet A. But that is sufficient to kill the viability of battery powered airliners. By the way, this energy density disparity is why electric cars weigh 2000 pounds more that an equivalent gas powered car. That means deadlier car crashes and more people frozen to death in winter traffic jams.

    • I doubt we’ll ever see battery powered airliners. What we will see is hydrogen powered conventional turbine engines, SAF powered hybrid electric airplanes & hydrogen fuel-cells driving electric motors.

  4. THIS is why most people feel that ‘The Law’ and bureaucracies have failed us … esp. in light of recent events. Unless Zunum patented their airplane or some technology and can clearly show that Boeing stole or copied it this is a frivolous lawsuit. What ‘special’ idea or technology might they have invented that Boeing stole? The idea of a hybrid powered airplane has been around a long time. Further, Boeing and Washington invest $1.5M and the company is later awarded $81M … WTH !!! Is THAT equivalency?

    Those of you piling on Boeing (I do it, too) will be humming a different tune when you have a minor traffic accident and it results in a major financial loss to you when the ambulance chasing lawyers do the same to you. So far as I am concerned, this type of lawsuit and frivolous ‘award’ are ruining this country.

  5. Bombardier built a better small airliner; the C Series.
    Boeing tried to destroy Bombardier by getting Boeings tame Congressmen to put punitive tariffs on the aircraft.
    Boeing did some other underhanded things as well; as it has done to other competition.
    The C Series posed a threat to the (more lipstick on an old pig) 737 family at Boeing.
    So; the C Series ended up as the Airbus 220, and is making good money for those who operate it.
    Boeing worked with a British company DeHavilland, which was developing the DH 121 Trident. DeHavilland shared all their engineering with Boeing, Boeing went away, developed the 727 and sold it in competition with the Trident.
    Given Boeings long history of corporate skullduggery, one suspects that Boeing did more or less what Zunum claims.

    • So it’s kinda like when WalMart puts Mom-n-Pop stores outta business, eh ? Should they be allowed to sue, as well? This kind of corporate flesh eating has been going on since the beginning. Let he with the biggest hammer win …

  6. When will we see the Mea Culpa from the aviation press that fawned all over these stupid battery-powered Rube Goldbergs, and even insulted those of us who predicted their failure? It does not hurt to apologize and admit you were wrong, greenees.