Published: Tue, May 07, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Boeing knew about 737 MAX problems before Indonesia crash

After media leaks pointed to Boeing's dodgy behaviour after the Lion Air disaster last October, new reports have suggested that the aviation giant was not forthcoming about its new plane's faulty alert system with airlines.

It is not clear whether having the warning light would have prevented either the Lion Air crash or the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max near Addis Ababa. Boeing did not originally reveal the warning only operated properly on planes flown by airlines that had purchased an optional AOA indicator. A software update will also give airlines the ability to activate the light on previously delivered planes.

Boeing revisited the issue in December 2018 by convening a Safety Review Board (SRB) to determine for the second time whether the absence of the AOA Disagree alert would amount to a safety issue, according to the company.

Boeing said it was issuing a display system software update "to implement the AOA Disagree alert as a standard, standalone feature before the MAX returns to service".

The manufacturer's own experts reviewed the issue and "determined that the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation", according to the Boeing statement.

"Senior company leadership was not involved in the review and first became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident".

The Trump administration grounded all 737 Max jets worldwide, creating financial and logistical problems for three major U.S. airlines, while Boeing continues working to fix the problem.

The 737 Max, the fastest-selling plane in Boeing's history, has been grounded around the world for nearly eight weeks. Boeing says it discussed the indicator problem at that point with the Federal Aviation Administration - a year after the company knew about the problem. "The pilots may not have known the system even existed and engaged in a futile struggle to regain control of the aircraft".

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The FAA put the bulk of blame on Boeing's shoulders, saying, "Boeing's timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion".

Ms King described both features as "supplemental" and "advisory" to other information provided to pilots during flights.

Boeing is also developing a software upgrade and changes to pilot training that must be approved by global regulators before the jets can fly again.

Boeing did not tell airlines or the FAA about this decision.

Boeing hopes to win approval from the FAA and foreign regulators to get the Max flying again before summer is over.

Tajer said the American pilots were told in the meeting that on the flight deck of their 737 MAXs, the AOA disagree light would have lit up on the ground and so, because that's a "no-go item", the plane wouldn't even have taken off.

The US aircraft manufacturer said that it has taken on $1 billion in additional costs due to the worldwide grounding of its global 737 MAX fleet following the second deadly crash.

Boeing previously acknowledged that an alert system that was supposed to be a standard feature in the fleet "was not operable on all airplanes".

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