Families of Lion Air crash victims criticise Boeing over alert issue

Families of Lion Air crash victims criticise Boeing over alert issue

Boeing is facing new scrutiny over when it informed US regulators and airlines of a software glitch with the beleaguered Boeing 737 Max jet, one the Chicago-based manufacturer first learned of months after deliveries began and a year before the first fatal crash involving the jet.

The warning light is significant because it warned of a malfunction in one of the jet's Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors, a fault that began the sequence of events that led to both the Lion Air crash in October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March.

The company's recent statement on the AOA (which stands for an angle of attack) Disagree alert on 737 MAX planes has revealed that Boeing's engineers found out in 2017 that the plane's display system software did not meet requirements, just several months after the manufacturer started delivering the jets in question.

This feature was meant to be standard to all planes but Boeing inadvertently only made it available for airlines that purchased an optional indicator. The system alerts pilots to faulty airflow readings.

An American Airlines spokesperson said the carrier had both the AOA Disagree alert and indicator on all 737 jets since the first delivery in 1999.

Boeing's statement makes it evident that despite knowing the flaw, Boeing's engineers chose to go slow with the logic that "the existing functionality was acceptable until the alert and the indicator could be delinked in the next planned display system software update".

"S$3 enior company leadership was not involved in the review and first became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident", Boeing said in its statement.

More news: Michael Owen mistakenly predicts a Barcelona v Liverpool Champions League final

737 Max planes have been grounded globally for more than a month after two crashes within six months killed a total of 346 people.

In October, a Boeing Max 737 Indonesian airliner crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. FAA employees determined that it presented a low risk, the spokesperson said in a statement, reported KTLA-5, before noting that "Boeing's timely or earlier communication with (airlines) would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion". The alert was supposed to flash when two angle-of-attack vanes sent conflicting data about the relation of the plane's nose to the oncoming air stream.

Neither the Lion Air aircraft nor the Ethiopian Airlines jet had the feature. "At that time, Boeing informed the FAA that Boeing engineers had identified the software issue in 2017 and had determined per Boeing's standard process that the issue did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation". The company then convened another safety review, which concluded once again that the absence of the alert was not a safety issue.

The Ethiopian pilots, who after the previous crash would have been keenly aware of MCAS, seem to have realized that system was the problem reasonably quickly and tried to follow Boeing's recommended checklist of procedures to handle it, though they still were not able to control the plane. Engineers initially believed the alert was standard in all 737 Max aircraft.

It believed the issue could be resolved in a later system update.

The 737 Max has been grounded around the world for nearly eight weeks.

Related Articles