Boeing withheld info on model of plane involved in Indonesia crash

Irving Hamilton
November 13, 2018

Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told Bloomberg, "We don't like that we weren't notified".

Dennis Tajer, a 737 captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association at American Airlines, said the union's members were also concerned. American, the world's largest airline, has outstanding orders for 85 of the planes.

"This is not about silos and layers of bureaucracy, this is about knowing your airplane", Tajer said. "This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen", it said.

In a parallel move, the newspaper quoted an unnamed high-profile Boeing representative as saying that the company had made a decision to leave out some details about the new models of aircraft so as to not feed pilots with excessive information. "It makes us question, 'Is that everything, guys?' I would hope there are no more surprises out there". "The bottom line here is the 737 MAX is safe and safety is a core value for us... we ensure that airplanes are safe".

Investigating experts are still looking into the matter, trying to find out whether this was the case in last month's accident, when the Lion Air flight en route from Jakarta dove into the Java Sea on October 29.

The directive warned pilots that a computer on the Boeing 737 MAX could lead to the plane being forced to descend sharply for up to 10 seconds even in manual flight, leading to potential difficulties in controlling the plane.

Boeing and the FAA said in the directives that an existing procedure could have halted the dive.

According to a fresh report in The Wall Street Journal, Boeing appeared to have withheld information about suspected malfunctions with a new flight-control feature, which are believed to have played a role in the deadly Indonesian Lion Air jet crash.

Investigators said the jet experienced problems on its last four flights - including, crucially, the flight that crashed, according to Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT). Preliminary findings suggested there were problems with the air speed indicator on the past three flights before the crash.

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While the design of the Max has been under a spotlight since the accident, other factors in the crash could eclipse it in importance.

Even though this problem was - according to investigators - not covered in the operating manual, pilots did have access to a checklist created to turn off errant systems when the plane started nosing downwards at the wrong time, said Soejono, a Lion Air instructor who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Are 200+ new Boeing 737s plagued with glitch that led to crash in Indonesia?

Known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, it was added "to compensate for some unique aircraft handling characteristics", according to a bulletin sent by Southwest's flight operations division to its pilots on November 10.

Top: normal flight air flows. It essentially tricked the system into ordering a sharp dive.

Indonesian authorities confirmed last Wednesday that the angle of attack (AOA) sensor was replaced after a flight from Manado, in North Sulawesi, to Denpasar, Bali, on October 28.

The failure of an air safety system is exceedingly rare but not unheard of for new aircraft.

Pilots could stop this automated response by pressing two buttons if the system behaved unexpectedly, but questions have been raised about how well prepared they were for such an automatic reaction and how much time they had to respond.

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