Boeing Kept Pilots in the Dark About Hazards of 737 Model's Feature

Darnell Taylor
November 14, 2018

Indonesian investigators said on Monday (Oct 12) more training was needed for Boeing 737 MAX pilots after discovering the situation believed to have faced the crew of a doomed Lion Air jet was not contained in the aircraft's flight manual.

The deliveries data came a day after Bloomberg News reported that USA pilot unions said they hadn't been notified or properly trained on a new safety system for the Max.

A stall is a risky situation where the lift from an aircraft's wings no longer is enough to counter the weight of the plane, causing it to lose control and fall.

Few details have been released about the underlying causes of the Lion Air crash October 29 in the sea near Jakarta, but Indonesian investigators say that an erroneous sensor prompted the plane's computers to push the aircraft into a steep dive.

But if that nose-down command is triggered by faulty sensor readings - as suspected in the Lion Air crash - pilots can struggle to control the plane and it can go into a dive and perhaps crash.

In a parallel move, the newspaper quoted an unnamed high-profile Boeing representative as saying that the company had chose to leave out some details about the new models of aircraft so as to not feed pilots with excessive information.

Weaks said he is satisfied that "we have been given, finally, the correct information".

Boeing Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Tuesday that the Chicago-based company remains confident the MAX is a safe airplane.

Pilots say it is important that they have the power to manually override automated systems.

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The FAA and Boeing are also evaluating the need for other upgrades, "including operating procedures and training", the regulator said in the statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency directive last week to airlines, telling them to update cockpit manuals to include instructions for how pilots can adjust flight controls under certain conditions.

Because the Max 8 is a reworking of the 737, pilots do not need to undergo extensive specialised training in order to fly the latest model.

Boeing reportedly warned airlines about the newly introduced feature and risks it hypothetically carries in a safety bulletin issued days after the tragedy, which points to the fact that pilots couldn't have been aware of the new computer mechanism and risks connected with flight control at the moment of the crash, shortly before and even immediately after it.

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea, minutes after taking off from the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital.

Boeing and regulators have underscored the steps pilot can take to disable the pitch-trim system, as it's known, in bulletins to 737 Max operators over the past week.

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.

Shares of Boeing Co. ended Tuesday down $7.52, or 2.1 percent, at $349.51 after falling to $342.04 earlier in the day.

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