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FAA issues airworthiness directive after Indonesia plane crash

08 November, 2018, 12:42 | Author: Lawrence Cooper
  • Indonesia to probe Lion Air after deadly plane crash

The Lion Air 737 Max 8 jetliner plunged into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff from Jakarta airport, nosing downward so suddenly that it may have hit speeds of 600 miles an hour before slamming into the water.

Boeing Co said in a statement that it had alerted pilots to the issue. "Whenever appropriate, Boeing, as part of its usual processes, issues bulletins or makes recommendations regarding the operation of its aircraft".

"The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has indicated that Lion Air flight 610 experienced erroneous input from one of its AOA (Angle of Attack) sensors", said a statement released by Boeing on Wednesday.

Even if an angle of attack sensor on a jet is faulty, there's generally a backup system in place for the critical component, and pilots are trained to handle a plane safely if those sensors fail, airline safety experts said.

The FAA said the "erroneous inputs can potentially make the horizontal stabilisers repeatedly pitch the nose of the airplane downward, making the aircraft hard to control".

This affects almost 250 aircraft flown by U.S. airlines like Southwest, American and United, the FAA said.

"Boeing issued an Operations Manual Bulletin (OMB) directing operators to existing flight crew procedures to address circumstances where there is erroneous input from an AOA sensor". "The big picture is the system keeps getting safer and safer, and it's still the safest form of transportation ever designed by humans", he said.

After safety officials from Basarnas, Indonesia's national search and rescue agency, retrieved the aircraft's flight data recorder (FDR), a review of the data by Boeing and Indonesian safety investigators pointed to the plausible cause of the crash.

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On that October 28 flight, from Bali to Jakarta, the pilot's and copilot's sensors disagreed by about 20 degrees.

The Boeing 737 Max has three such blade-shaped sensors. In those cases, the plane's nose is automatically pointed down to reduce chances of stalling. "And yes, we now have seven Max 9's in operation. there are no plans to alter our 737 Max operations".

The Boeing 737 MAX is a more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's popular single-aisle jet.

The glitch had been repeatedly serviced and Lion Air's technical team declared the plane to be airworthy.

Indonesian accident investigators said on Monday that an airspeed indicator on the crashed jet was damaged for its last four flights, but USA authorities responded cautiously to suggestions of fleet-wide checks.

Divers have recovered one of the two "black boxes" - the flight data recorder - but are still looking for the cockpit voice recorder, in the hope it will shed more light on the cause of the accident.

The aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia says that since the bulletin doesn't reflect poorly on the 737 Max's design, Boeing's business is unlikely to be harmed by the news.

The Angle of Attack sensor, shown to reporters at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday, was manufactured by Minnesota-based Rosemount Aerospace Inc.

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