Boeing warns airlines about equipment failure after Indonesia crash

Sergio Conner
November 8, 2018

This latest incident came just over a week after a Lion Air plane crashed into the Java Sea on October 29, killing everyone on board, prompting the Indonesian Transport Ministry to conduct a special investigation into the airline.

Boeing said in a statement received at China's largest air show in Zhuhai that its bulletin to airlines underscored "existing flight crew procedures" created to address circumstances where information coming into the cockpit from the sensors was wrong.

The FAA has issued a new airworthiness directive (AD) on the Boeing 737 MAX after Lion Air flight JT610 crash investigators found the aircraft's angle of attack (AOA) sensors are capable of generating erroneous inputs, potentially making the aircraft hard for pilots to control.

This measures at what angle an aircraft is flying and air is passing over the wings.

Signs appear to point to an instrument failure in the brand-new Boeing 737 Max, specifically the angle-of-attack sensor, which is critical to determining the amount of lift generated by the wings.

Boeing has issued a warning to airlines using the company's 737 MAX that some models may issue "erroneous data" to pilots that could cause the plane to nosedive.

"We don't know what the crew knew and didn't know yet", Cox said.

Boeing has sent 219 737 MAX jets to customers globally, with 4,564 orders for jets yet to be delivered.

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Such an issue arose in 2016 at Rostov-on-Don Airport in Russia when a FlyDubai 737-800 nosed over and slammed into the runway at a steep angle, according to an interim report by Russian investigators.

"Whenever appropriate, Boeing, as part of its usual processes, issues bulletins or makes recommendations regarding the operation of its aircraft".

Indonesian authorities have downloaded information from the flight data recorder that showed a cockpit indicator on the Lion Air jet was damaged for its last four flights.

The bulletin from Boeing will say that erroneous readings from the jet's flight-monitoring system can cause the planes to "abruptly dive", the newspapaer reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar fight the company's plans.

The plane is the latest generation of Boeing's workhorse narrowbody aircraft, with more than 200 delivered since it entered service previous year and a total of 4,700 orders placed by airlines around the world. Pilots flying with an AOA sensor generating erroneous inputs to the system can experience the inability to engage the aircraft's autopilot system, among other problems.

Indonesia's search and rescue agency has extended the search until Sunday. About 15 minutes into the flight, which took off from Jakarta, the plane plunged into the sea.

The crash was the first time one of the airplanes went down.

Meanwhile, the search operation to recover the passengers, crew and the airplane's cockpit voice recorder is ongoing.

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