Boeing accused of withholding info about Lion Air crash plane

Boeing has been accused of failing to warn airlines about potential hazards of a new in-flight control system on its 737 MAX jets that may have contributed to the deadly Lion Air crash in Indonesia.

The Wall Street Journal reported there were concerns about the automated stall-prevention system on the American jet maker’s MAX 8 and MAX 9 models, which was designed to stop flight crew mistakenly raising the nose of the plane dangerously high.

But it was about a week after all 189 people on board were killed in the Lion Air crash that Boeing warned airlines of a potential fault in the new feature, which, under “unusual conditions, can push (the plane’s nose) down unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can’t pull it back up”.

That could result in a “steep dive or crash — even if pilots are manually flying the jetliner and don’t expect flight-control computers to kick in,” the report said.

Investigators examine engine parts from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610. Picture: Bay Ismoyo/AFPSource:AFP

Safety experts involved in the investigation said US aviation officials and airline pilots hadn’t been told the new system had been added to the 737 MAX aircraft.

Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the US Allied Pilots Association, said pilots should have been trained to work with the new technology.

“It’s pretty asinine for them to put a system on an aeroplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the aeroplane, especially when it deals with flight controls,” he told the Journal. “Why weren’t they trained on it?”

In a statement, Boeing said it was “confident in the safety of the 737 MAX”.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by SilkAir.Source:News Corp Australia

“We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” the company said.

Lion Air’s months-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed into the sea off Jakarta minutes after taking off for the Indonesian destination of Pangkal Pinang on October 29.

Authorities are still desperately searching for the plane’s cockpit recorder to help understand what went wrong.

The Lion Air crash was the first involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a more fuel-efficient update of best-selling Boeing’s 737.

Rescuers retrieve part of the landing gears of the crashed Lion Air jet. Picture: AP/Fauzy ChaniagoSource:AP

Virgin Australia is waiting for the outcome of flight JT610’s investigation to see if any changes need to be made to its order of 30 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, which are due for delivery in November 2019 and will replace its existing 737-700/800 planes.

The airline is understood to be monitoring the outcome of an investigation by Indonesian authorities into the Lion Air crash to see if any recommendations are made for changes to the aircraft.

Preliminary flight data suggests passengers on doomed flight 610 experienced sickening drops in altitude in the 13 minutes they were in the air before the plane plummeted with rapid speed into the Java Sea.

Indonesian police officers guard wreckage recovered from the crash site. Picture: Ed Wray/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The same jet had a difficult take off on another flight the day before the fatal crash, with passengers hearing “weird sounds” and feeling like they were on a “rollercoaster” as the aircraft struggled to ascend.

Authorities have downloaded flight data from one of the black boxes of fatal flight 610 but are still looking for the cockpit voice recorder, which authorities say will be critical in understanding the cause of the crash.

“From the black box data, we know about 70 to 80 per cent of what happened but to 100 per cent understand the cause of the accident … we need be able to know the conversation that took place in the plane’s cockpit,” the head of Indonesia’s transportation safety committee, Soearjanto Tjahjono, said on the weekend.

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