Prior to the recent crash of a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the plane manufacturer reportedly debated requiring additional training for the in-flight automated control system being blamed for the deadly accident, but ultimately decided against the move.
According to a recent report published by the Wall Street Journal, the debate over whether warnings and additional training for the automated system in Boeing 737 Max planes was “more intense than usual.”
The report raises questions about whether warnings and information about how to handle problems with the automated in-flight control system may have prevented the crash of Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed in the Java Sea on October 29, killing all 189 passengers and crew. An investigation has revealed that pilots battled in vain against that same automated in-flight control system before the crash, attempting to keep the plane in the air.
According to the Wall Street Journal, there was debate inside Boeing before the plane’s manual was written on what they should say about the system, and how much they should be warned about potential problems and how much training was required to handle them. However, the additional warnings, and additional requirements for simulator training, were not added.
Boeing officials have said on the record that there was nothing unusual about the process.
The revelations come just days after Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) issued a preliminary report saying that the Boeing 737 MAX was not airworthy, resulting in an eight-minute fight between the crew and the computer.
The findings appear to confirm concerns that the plane’s Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors malfunctioned, wrongly telling the automated systems that the plane was in a stall because the nose was too high.
In the aftermath of the report, officials with Lion Mentari Airlines, also known as Lion Air, have told some media outlets they feel “betrayed” by Boeing and are considering cancelling a massive 200-plane order from Boeing. The cancellation would be significant, as the airline was the first company to operate the Boeing 737 MAX and is one of Boeing’s largest customers.
Only Southwest Airlines has ordered more of the planes than Lion Air.
Lion Air Flight 610 crashed after departing from Jakarta, Indonesia airport on October 29, with 189 passengers and crew. The plane was destined for Pangkal Pinang, but crashed into the Java Sea approximately 13 minutes into the flight, around 6:30 a.m.
While no official cause has been attributed to the accident by Boeing or federal investigators in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency air worthiness directive on November 7, which advised all pilots operating a Boeing Model 737 Max that the AOA sensors may produce erroneous readings and cause the plane to abruptly dive, increasing the risk of a crash.
According to the FAA, the planes are equipped with an AOA which measures the angular difference between the direction the aircraft is moving and the pitch of the aircraft’s wing. Boeing has discovered the system can produce inaccurate measurements telling pilots the nose of the plane is too high in relation to the current of air. As a result, pilots may continue to pitch the nose downward or the automatic system may forcibly pitch the nose down.
Boeing faces a growing number of wrongful death lawsuits from relatives of passengers who died on the flight, each claiming that defective sensors caused the crash.
The lawsuits indicate that before the directive, which came as a result of the ongoing investigation into the crash, pilots were not warned about the risk of problems with the AOA sensor.